• Balanced Literacy,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Wars

    How Love Became a Weapon in the Reading Wars

    When I read almost any article about education, I cannot help but be struck by the language that is used—and not used—to discuss the goals of schooling. Teachers, for example, are almost invariably described as teaching students to love reading, or to get excited about reading—not to actually read, or to read well, or to become more reflective or thoughtful readers. The emphasis is squarely on the emotion surrounding reading rather than on the act of reading itself, or on the intellectual development it entails.   It seems to me that this has become such an accepted way to speak about education that its presumable implication—that obviously, yes, loving to read…

  • Balanced Literacy,  Lucy Calkins,  Reading Instruction,  Reading Workshop,  Three Cueing System

    The Three-Cueing System and the Most Disordered Form of Reading

    As I’ve written about before, what launched me onto this whole insane journey into the seamy underbelly of American reading instruction was my observation of high-school students who seemed incapable of reading in a linear, left-right manner; whose eyes raced randomly around the passage; and who also misread, skipped, and guessed without seeming to realize that they were doing so. So even though I’ve touched on this topic before, it’s so severe and so under-recognized that I think it merits a discussion of its own. Students who read this way are not simply “struggling”—they have been taught to read according to a theory that fundamentally misconstrues what reading is, and as…

  • Balanced Literacy,  Decoding,  Ed School,  Lucy Calkins,  Phonics,  Reading Instruction,  Three Cueing System

    Why Running Records and Leveled Readers Don’t Mix with Phonics

    Last winter, Lucy Calkins (via the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, or TCRWP) issued a rebuttal to the Achieve, Inc.-sponsored report asserting that her Units of Study fails to provide the sort of instruction that would result in all children learning to read—particularly those who do not already arrive in school with strong language skills. Entitled “A Defense of Balanced Literacy” it is, in keeping with Calkins’s previous major statement regarding phonics, a veritable masterpiece of half-truths, evasions, contradictions, misunderstandings, and distortions.  I don’t want to get pulled down into the weeds trying to offer a point-by-point analysis, but there is one major idea that I think is worth…

  • 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…