I had the privilege of studying with Don Graves at the University of New Hampshire in the mid 1990's. Don was not easily impressed by fancy theory, big words, or glitzy packaging. He would listen closely (his abilities in this area could probably rival Patrick Allen's) and then simply ask, "What's it for?" That question, "What's it for?" has guided my practice for the last fifteen years.
In these chapters, Patrick quotes Don, asking that same question, "What's it for?" Patrick suggests, "Perhaps we could build something grand and long lasting-- independent and engaged readers who walk away from conferences with the strategies and tools to help them become confident, effective, and deep readers" (p. 156).
If you were to ask me about my one walk-away from this week (aside from 'you need a mint'), this would be definitely be it. If every child who walked out of my class could be an INDEPENDENT, ENGAGED reader, who had the strategies and tools to become CONFIDENT, EFFECTIVE, and DEEP readers, I would absolutely feel that I had done my job. I'm going to post this goal right next to Don's question, which has hung over my desk for many years.
Some other thoughts that really struck me:
- Conferences are an elegant example of how assessment can actually become one with instruction (Daniels and Bizar, 2005, p. 230, as quoted in Allen, p. 171). So often it feels like we assess and assess and assess, but don't use the data to really think about what kids need.
- We need to get back to the business of knowing children, of knowing readers. If we want children to remember, understand, extend meaning, and make their reading experiences memorable, they have to be in a classroom where there is time for that to happen (p. 181). Amen, amen, and amen!
- I confer with a "difficult" student the same way I do with any other student; perhaps a bit more patiently, but with hope nonetheless (p. 184). As the mom of two very different, but very "difficult" students, I can't even tell you how often I wish there was a little more "hope" involved in conversations about my sons.
- Why teach a strategy if you're not going to give students time to practice, learn and apply it in their own reading? (p. 188). Andrea Butler, who was one of the first literacy gurus I ever heard or read always said that American kids were the most taught and less practiced kids in the world. Kids don't get good at stuff if they don't have time to work with it. A line from a poem that has stuck with me for many years, "It takes a lot of slow to grow." And the more kids struggle, the more time and practice they need. Unfortunately, it's often those kids, who are so busy jumping from interventionist to interventionist to interventionist, that they have almost no time to practice.
And now, because I am at Kinko's, and because the meter is running, I will end.
Laura is hosting the cyber conversation at Camp Read A Lot. I look forward to reading what everyone else has to say.