Hot Literacy Debate

I'm having fun with this K-12 school design work. That's because I'm learning. I love learning new stuff. Background: Last month we wrote a 25-page proposal to create a new MATCH School. We'll find out this month if we advance to the next ground of the competition (which would mean writing a 55-page application).

In the next round, we would need to describe more specifically how we would teach little kids to read (since right now our model is only Grades 6 to 12).

There are so many juicy issues to explore.

One is the big debates is the usefulness of "reading strategies."

This blog has two videos. The first one is a 6-minute video explaining the "reading strategies" approach.

The second video, 10 minutes long, from UVa prof Dan Willingham, attacks reading strategies. He believes there is massive overuse of this approach. He says strategies do help - but just a little, short-term. He recommends no more than 10 lessons on it (not sure if he means in a year, or ever).

Instead, Willingham argues, teaching reading should be mostly teaching "content" -- topics in geography, science, history, art, or whatever.

His video is excellent. I find his argument quite persuasive. But I'm a newbie at this and I'm sure my opinions will swirl around for a while.

Reading Strategy Basics

Teaching Content Is Teaching Reading (Keep Strategies To Very Small Doses)

What is a reading strategy?

For example, one is making a "text-to-self" connection, or "text to text" connection. The idea is you try to get a kid to connect what he's reading to his life, or to another book.

If I'm reading Curious George, and George is in charge of taking a dog for a walk, maybe I write down that my friend has a dog that he walks. Or that in the TV show "Martha Speaks," the dog doesn't get walked. She kinda ambles around on her own.

Good readers make connections like that automatically. The idea is that if kids learn to explicitly make those connections, it helps. Willingham says: Yeaahhhh not really that much.