Reading and writing. It is said that they go hand in hand, that great readers are great writers. I love to read – ask my husband. I have books piled next to my bed. Amazon Prime – best thing EVER other than the Kindle White. (Although I am old school – I like the feel of the book!) If only we had a Barnes and Noble around the corner….
I have been doing very informal walk through’s ofnmy 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers to watch the “Independent Instructional Reading” block we incorporated in our school this year. So you wonder, what is that? Based on Jennifer Serravallo’s work, the Independent Instructional Reading (IIR) block is based on a premise that if we ever want our children to be good readers, they need to build their stamina and be provided with long stretches of time to read. Ms. Serravallo is on to something! We have been through many initiatives in my 16 years as a principal, but I haven’t encountered the level of ownership of learning that my students are starting embrace as well as the passion for reading. Our students, along with their teachers, are talking and writing about what they read. They are setting goals, taking their Independent Reading Assessment extremely serious, as well as developing comprehension and writing skills.
This is not a “cookbook” method. This is hard work for every teacher. Teachers need to know their craft. They need to know how to model the process of thinking by structuring questioning skills. They need to help with the organization of student writing journals. They need to model how to “stop and jot”, how to take notes and journal on their reading. Very important, teachers need to know the books so they can have discussion as well as know how to help their students choose just right books.
But, like any program or “method”, it will always be about the teacher, not the program. The teacher will always be the first line of the instruction and it will be about their craft and their pedagogy, their craft, their knowledge, and what they bring to the table. And, they need a principal behind them to support the structure. I have to say though, the conversations, the readings, and the professional development by Lea Mercantini Leibowitz, who is helping with professional development and coaching sure has changed the thinking of deep reading, writing and thinking and how we approach the teaching of English Language Arts to a different level in our school – all for the better!