Before we talk philosophy, before we discuss how to teach reading, writing or speaking, give me some numbers.
How many texts are your students getting the opportunity to read in a year? How many articles, primary source documents, textbook pages, lab reports, novels, poems, and the like are a part of your curriculum every year for every kid? I’m not talking about choice books, here. I’m talking about the baseline volume of reading your kids are expected to do while in your care.
Here’s why I ask:
We are so quick to get into philosophical debates about the balance between content and skills, choice and whole class, differentiation and standardization, and we so rarely start these discussions knowing where we are as a district, school, grade- or course-level team.
So where are we? We can start with very simple numbers: in every course or subject in your school, for example,
- How many books do kids read?
- How many articles?
- How many polished pieces of writing do they produce?
- How many readable pieces of writing? (For the three types of writing, see Part III of These Five Things, All Year Long.)
- How many times does every child participate in class discussions or debates?
Let’s not even talk about text complexity or teaching strategies until we can provide answers to these kinds of questions. What opportunities are we giving to every one of our students?
Thank you to Mike Schmoker, whose work, particularly in Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, helped me to begin thinking clearly from the moment I first encountered it years ago.