I’ve been a busy thinking about reading and writing this past week. It started with running a workshop in Clark County, Nevada and wrapped up with a visit to reading for the Love of It in Toronto.

As a Canadian, I had to learn a lot about the Common Core Standards while planning for the Vegas workshop. From what I can tell it is one the more reasonable curriculum documents I have seen. I really like that:

  • it seems to focus on a reasonable number of expectations at each grade level that I feel like I could cover within a year
  • the expectations spiral nicely from one grade to the next by building upon previous understanding
  • there is a concerted effort to balance the focus on both fiction as well as non-fiction reading and writing
  • there is an emphasis on the use of a variety of resources that are well-written and engaging

While running the workshop I hope that our participants gained a better understanding of what IB believes about the teaching and learning of reading and writing. Namely, keep it balanced and keep it inquiry-based. In terms of balance, all those skills mentioned in the Common Core are great but select resources and design learning engagements for students that allow teachers to:

  • be a model for students to show how good readers read and how good writers write
  • teach the skills, strategies, elements and mechanics of reading and writing while developing an understanding of the different structures and language features of various text forms
  • provide time to use reading and writing as tools for learning other content as well as for verbal interactions between students and between students and teachers

In each case, it is hoped that teachers would do this in an inquiry-based manner. That is, students are given the opportunity and support to construct their own meaning. In a very simplistic way, this just means that they are provided with or find examples to prove or disprove a point, assumption or answer a question, do activities in which they can determine commonalities or find differences and have discussions to correct any misconceptions.

One video that we used during the workshop was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk: The Danger of the Single Story.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg&w=560&h=315]
I think that it is always important to remember the power of our classroom resources and to always ask “Whose voice is missing?” from the texts that we choose.