Wednesday, March 3, 2010

About Reader's Workshop: What if . . .

This week in Australia marks the release of a draft national curriculum. The idea is that every class in Australia will learn the same things as corresponding classes in other states. (Yes there are issues with Special Education and Gifted education there, don't get me started.)

There's a lot of debate and discussion going on about this. Some are suggesting that the curriculum, which is quite detailed (I now know I should be teaching direct and indirect speech in Grade 6) is actually all about testing. The more content and skills you require, the more testing can be done - allowing for more judging of teachers, schools and students. In fact, looking at the draft curriculum, I can definately see the connections to the national test (the test was supposed to be based on the curriculum but was written first).

Despite what the media and the politicians want to tell us, the conversations in the staff room are not about teachers moaning because they have to teach grammar (we do, and the national results back that up), or because we're resistant to change (you try three different curriculums in 5 years and tell me how you like it). Instead there's concern that we don't have the neccessary resources (I know there's not enough Australian history books in our library for 4 grades to be studying it at the one time. And I'm not brave enough to ask the librarian about Asian literature . . .) and concern that we no longer have the space to go off on learning tangents, to learn about what fascinates the students and the teachers. One of my colleagues suggested that a national curriculum should just be a core, attracting passionate teachers to fill in the spaces.

Which made me think about Reader's Workshop.

I'm pretty passionate about reading. I love discovering new characters and stories and I love learning new things. I hope I pass that passion on to my students, through finding out what they like and recommending books to them. I want them to love reading too.

The new curriculum doesn't mention loving reading. Under 'Engaging with Texts' in Grade 6 the aim is: Use evidence from literary texts to develop arguments that support or refute opinions on aspects of literary texts. Students are also supposed to begin to 'judge an author's style'. Nothing about getting lost in the pages of a thriller that makes you keep reading, or laughing over a Morris Gleitzman book. Nothing about keeping the book on your bedside table, or sneaking a read whenever you can because you just want to know what happens next. There's no passion in the National Curriculum.

So I wonder, what if . . . What if there were just three requirements for the reading part of the national curriculum? Teach the students to read. Teach them to love reading. Teach them something you're passionate about.

What if a teacher could reach their class through a study of comics and graphic novels (not the worthy and acceptable texts the government is looking for)? What if another teacher taught with humerous poems, or encyclopaedias, or short stories? What if students were allowed to take their time to let the words run down their spine, and then had time to read, rather than twisting and contorting to reach all aspects of the curriculum?

Let me know your what ifs in the comments!

Read more about Reader's Workshop here


Unknown said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

Reader's Workshop Tools - resources you can access and use to help you with reader's workshop

Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

Book letters - in-depth reviews of one particular book

Reader's Workshop Links - Short links lists to help you find more information
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