A Preview from A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle Grades
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth
Over decades of research (1977, 2002), Richard Allington has returned often to the three key conditions readers need to thrive:
time to read,
access to books they find fascinating, and
The first condition, time to read, means examining middle school schedules to make sure students get time to practice. Allington argued, and many other researchers have argued, that above all, students need time to engage in reading in order to get better at reading. Arguing for time for independent reading in schools, Donalyn Miller (2015) likens the situation of students needing to read in order to get better at reading to learning a sport or an instrument. No one ever asks the coach why his players are practicing on the field, and no one asks the music teacher why students are playing instruments during practice times. The only way to get better at doing something is to practice doing it.
Jennifer Serravallo'sThe Writing Strategies Book offers help for all steps in the writing process, and while it is intended for grades K–8, we find ourselves turning to it regularly to find new ways of thinking, refining, and sharpening our own writing. Have you made a goal of writing more over the summer? Is it somewhat daunting? overwhelming? terrifying?
A year ago, I did not think I would be ready for year two of my research. Who am I kidding, at our Heinemann Fellows meeting in Denver last December, I felt my research faltering. But after an inspiring and rejuvenating three days with my co-fellows where Ellin Keene mentored us through a deep dive into our data, I had a realization: if I was going to move my students, I needed to focus more closely on my own biases and how I enacted those biases in our classroom.
My research question—In what ways does the exploration of personal identity through reading and discourse impact students’ perceptions of themselves as stigmatized readers?—made me look long and hard at my teaching practice.
This week, institute season kicks off at The Reading and Writing Project, as thousands of educators gather at Teachers College in New York City to reflect upon, reinvigorate, and refine their teaching of writing. The workshops, lectures, keynotes, and often informal study groups they will attend will help them to hone their teaching practices so that they begin the next school year in the strongest place yet.
"Feedback has long been seen as a powerful form of teaching, though increasingly researchers are recognizing that certain types of feedback are more effective than others. It turns out, for instance, that grades and written comments on student assignments, which are the most common type of feedback, are the least effective. That's because, as Dylan Wiliam writes in Embedded Formative Assessment, " in such situations, feedback is rather like the scene in the rearview mirror rather than through the windshield. Or as Douglad Reeves once memorably observed, it's like the difference between having a medical [checkup] and a postmortem.""
These days, books have a lot of competition for kids’ attention. Video games, cell phones, tablets, and social media sites all provide tantalizing sources of entertainment for kids of all ages during their off hours. As we move into the summer months, many kids will have a lot of hours to fill. As teachers, we have a lot of power to make sure that at least some of kids’ time this summer is taken up with reading.
Reading over the summer is particularly crucial for children from lower income families, as study after study has shown. Many of these children already suffer from vast achievement gaps that they can’t afford to widen. Some research estimates that children from middle-income homes read three lines of print for everyone one line read by children from lower income homes. Children from lower income homes simply cannot afford to not read in the summer if they are to catch up.