• Balanced Literacy,  Common Core,  Reading Instruction,  Teacher Training,  Three Cueing System

    The Three-Cueing System Grows Up

    In a post written back in March, Valerie Mitchell posed the question of why teachers of native English speakers are increasingly adopting classroom activities designed for ESL students. As she pointed out, the fixation on scaffolds in the form of “visuals, vocabulary aids, graphic organizers, etc.” does not make much sense. For native speakers, the point of English class is (presumably) to help them express increasingly complex ideas in more sophisticated ways, not to teach them basic vocabulary in a language they have been surrounded by since birth.   I had no idea that this was such a widespread phenomenon until I read her piece, but once it was called to…

  • Uncategorized

    Some Advice for Parents Looking for a “Good” School District

    While searching online for something or other involving early reading instruction recently, I happened to come across what is perhaps the master list of Balanced Literacy strategies for decoding:  In addition to its ridiculous length (apparently more is always better), it seesawed so outrageously between the dangerously ineffective (“look at the picture”) and the absurd (how exactly are children supposed to “read fluently” if they don’t know what the words say?) that I couldn’t resist posting it on Twitter, where someone responded by asking “What is this, a manual for how to create reading problems?” Close, I said, but actually it’s from the Wayland, MA, public schools—Wayland being one of…

  • Uncategorized

    Reading in The Age of COVID

    Unprecedented. That’s a word we hear a lot these days. Unprecedented times? I think we can all agree the times are unprecedented. Before this year I can’t recall ever having heard the word used so copiously. I fell victim to the virus, or so I’m told by the amazing medical professionals at my local ER, and was laid up for eight weeks in one room. I would rate the experience somewhere between Christopher Nolan’s Doodlebug and Five’s journey through the Apocalypse on The Umbrella Academy (both of which I reviewed during quarantine).The scenario of students infecting their teachers with the virus that everyone is talking about? I lived it. Before…

  • Ed School,  Reading Wars,  Uncategorized,  Whole Language

    The Detachment of Literacy from Reading

    In a 2017 interview with Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter, the cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg (author of Language at the Speech of Sight) described the transition from discussions of “reading” to ones of “literacy” in education circles over the last few decades. I think that by now, the use of the latter term is now taken entirely for granted, but it’s not a minor point at all—it’s actually quite major, and it highlights the gap between public perception of the issues at play and the reality of them.  I suspect that when most people hear the term “literacy,” they understand it as a synonym for “reading,” in the sense that a…

  • Phonics,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Wars

    The Misunderstanding that Sparked the Reading Wars

    I just finished reading Anthony Pedriana’s Leaving Johnny Behind, an enormously important and under-appreciated book that I discovered by chance, thanks to a post on Facebook. (Social media certainly does serve a purpose other than being a black hole of procrastination from time to time!) The author is a retired teacher and principal who, quite by chance, found himself at the center of the reading wars: in an attempt to boost the reading performance of a class that was falling behind, Pedriana went against everything he had been taught and permitted one of the teachers in his school to implement a scripted reading program for a single short lesson each day.…

  • Uncategorized

    Parent-Shaming and the Print-Rich Environment

    Notes from a bookseller’s daughter Books were an integral part of my childhood. Not just because my family valued reading, but also because my dad managed bookstores. Some of my earliest memories are of my little brother and me running up and down the stacks after closing hours giggling and screaming. Of course, not everyone giggled at the sight of books, my mom often grumbled about his penchant for filling the house with them, but the book tsunami was unstoppable! To sum it up, I never wanted for books and could easily challenge you to find another person who had more of a print-rich environment than the bookseller’s daughter. Eventually,…