Every year after CCIRA, or actually every time I go to a conference or hear a speaker, I promise myself that I am going to summarize each session, so that I can think about the content some more, and so that my friends who didn't get to go can have access to the information. I envision some big, gigantic, high quality task that people will really love and use. And then because I am a perfectionist and a procrastinator, it never happens. I decided this year, then, that I am going to simply post the notes, or at least a cleaned up version of the notes, of each session I attended, or maybe just my favorite sessions.
Richard Allington, yes, the Richard Allington who is in the IRA Hall of Fame, and who has long been one of my favorite thinkers and speakers, opened the conference on Thursday morning. Allington talked about the components of an ideal literacy program. He said that in such a program, every day every child will:
- Read something they have self-selected
- Read something accurately
- Read something they understand
- Write something that is meaningful
- Talk to peers about their reading and writing
- Listen to an adult read aloud
o Adults typically read texts they choose, not texts that were assigned
o When will kids learn to how to choose books if we always choose for them?
o Access to large and multi-level classroom libraries are critical
o All classrooms K-12 need libraries of 500 to 1000 titles in order to provide easy access to lots of books.
o In far too many schools, there is no budget for building classroom libraries.
o There usually is a budget for workbooks, photocopying and computers, none of which have evidence of improving kids' reading abilities
Read something accurately and smoothly.
o High success reading is essential to developing oral reading fluency
o If kid can’t read the book, we have them in the wrong book
Read something they understand
o If you are reading and you don’t understand, you are not reading, you are just barking at print.
o Barking at print produces no reading growth
o Understanding is different from remembering.
o Recall of textual information is easier than understanding text information
o Do our reading lessons assess recall or understanding????
· Write about something meaningful to them
o Worksheets are not writing
o Writing involves composing (thus the term composition), or creating a text
o Few of us can write well on topics we don’t care about or know very little about
o When we write in the real world, we write about things we know and care about
o Why has so much school writing been about topics we don’t care about or know about?
· Kids need time to talk to peers about their reading and writing
o In the real world, we talk about what we are reading and writing
o In school we turn in our papers and get a grade
o Research shows the power of conversation with peers. Kids that got to talk to their neighbor scored substantially higher Mystrand (2005)
o Even a small amount of literate conversation, ten minutes a day, improves standardized test comprehension outcomes
· Listens to a fluent adult read aloud
Kids should hear 4-5 books a day, 20-25 books a week, 100 books a month)
o Read aloud develops:
§ World knowledge
§ Sense of story
§ Awareness of genres
§ How many teachers are making sure every kid leaves the classroom every day with at least one book they can read?
§ Only 1 out of 24 fifth grade teachers regularly do read alouds
o Where to find the time for these components
§ Eliminate worksheets
§ Replace worksheet time with:
· Literate conversations
· Read aloud
· Self selected reading
· Self selected writing
I came away from Allington's keynote really convicted of two things. First, I need to trust myself that I really do know what I am doing when I devote time to reading and writing and talking and thinking. I need to remember that the decisions I am making for kids really are based in sound, educational practice. And second, I need to shut up and let kids talk more!