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SwissTeacher2 SwissTeacher2 is offline
 
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Contradictory Research and Beliefs in Education
Old 04-23-2016, 12:00 PM
 
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This could go on the busy board but I'm stressing out over this so I thought I would put it here You all tend to have such great insight so I'm asking for it now. I am currently reading "The Reading Zone" by Nancie Atwell and I agree with free choice reading time and then I get to the part where she says that teaching comprehension strategies is basically crap and takes readers away from natural reading (aka reading that takes you to the "zone") and that these things naturally occur if the book is a "just right" fit. I don't know that I agree or disagree with her sentiment and I cannot say for sure if my students have benefit from being taught comprehension strategies other than possibly them understanding what SHOULD be going on up there as they read. (amiga13, I know you're a big proponent of comprehension strategies so I would like to hear your thoughts on this)

Anyway, this is just an example of something I've struggled with. My question is not so much about whether you believe teaching comprehension strategies is effective or ineffective but more so how do YOU as an educator form your beliefs about teaching when there are conflicting opinions? I know one could say that research trumps opinion but from my experience, the "research" in our field can be severely flawed or lacking in substance. Do you just believe in what you feel is best and what you agree with the most? Or do you follow research from specific sources?

It also occurred to me that like any other beliefs, trying to influence the beliefs of my colleagues is a waste of time. Like me, they form beliefs about teaching and sometimes they aren't mine but who truly gets to decide what is best practice?

Sorry if this post seems like rambling but I'm just really frustrated because my thinking has been challenged and I don't know what to believe in

Thanks in advance for any responses


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Old 04-23-2016, 01:07 PM
 
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I think research is important, but you can't discount your own experiences and what you witness with your own eyes. That's how you form your good instincts if you ask me. I think in an ideal world with nothing but "just right" books, it's probably true, a kid can learn "naturally". But then we don't live in an ideal world. Sometimes we are required to do reading that's not "just right". And we need some strategies to fall back on. And some kids just need explicit instruction. It's the same way with math. Some kids just seem to absorb math skills and number sense seems intrinsic to their thinking. It would be nice if all kids got it that way. Some kids need to have the concepts spelled out.
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Old 04-23-2016, 01:53 PM
 
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What a fabulous question! I'm thinking furiously.

Generally. For me, research is advice. I'll consider it and use it as I see best. I am the only expert in my classroom. I have to consider it all, take the best from the best, and use it to help my students make progress. I am the decision-maker, the responsibility-taker, and truly I am the one who says, "The buck stops here."

Specifically. It's a tough call in the case you cite. Comprehension strategies (and attending research) can be like the chicken-egg argument. For me (and many researchers) comprehension strategies are simply a breakdown of what we do as we read. I revere Nancie Atwell (mostly for In the Middle) and have read The Reading Zone. I choose to interpret her remarks to mean that proficient readers perform comprehension strategies without consciously thinking of them and she doesn't want readers stopping constantly to record their thinking. I agree with that. But I don't think Nancie Atwell would deny that her proficient readers question and infer; I tell myself she knows they use comprehension strategies and she might even approve of teachers like me who help kids use comprehension strategies to read more proficiently.
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Old 04-23-2016, 02:45 PM
 
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I use data to decide which comprehension strategies to teach. I give the Independent Reading Assessment by Jennifer Sarravallo. It breaks the questions into four strands: plot and setting, character, vocabulary and figurative language, and theme and ideas. I only teach strategies for the areas that they need according to the assessment.

A consultant explained it to us this way. We read without thinking about reading. We automatically use strategies when we come to unfamiliar vocabulary, for example. As teachers, we are guiding students to the use of the strategies so they can have automaticity as readers. But we only need to guide them on the strategies that they are not using yet.

I think there is a place for just reading for the enjoyment of it. My kids have books in their bags: one they just read, one they are reading now, one on deck, and one for "stolen moments." If they finish their science early and I need 10 minutes to help the stragglers, the rest take out their stolen moments book (usually nonfiction, picture book, poetry, or a magazine) and they enjoy by themselves or with a friend.
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Old 04-23-2016, 02:50 PM
 
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Thank you both for your responses

apple annie - I agree that a teacher's experience is important in deciding what is best. Perhaps one size really doesn't fit all?

amiga - your response makes me feel much better and less guilty that I spent the past few months focusing on comprehension strategies. The way that I taught my students was more in an effort for them to be reflective about their reading and cognizant of what should be happening as they read and what it means if it is not happening. I'm very big on my students knowing how and why things work. I guess we just have to use our best judgment and hope that we are doing the best for our students? (and evolve if need be)


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Old 04-23-2016, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
The way that I taught my students was more in an effort for them to be reflective about their reading and cognizant of what should be happening as they read and what it means if it is not happening
Yes! For me, comprehension strategies help kids connect to text, to dive in, to delve, to live the text.
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Old 04-23-2016, 08:30 PM
 
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"Yes! For me, comprehension strategies help kids connect to text, to dive in, to delve, to live the text."

I LOVE the way you said this. As a retired first grade teacher you perfectly expressed what I tried to do.

Thank you.
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Old 04-24-2016, 01:39 AM
 
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Theses are great replies!

And I agree with balance in comprehension strategies. It's important to introduce techniques to kids who might not think of them on their own, but I also think they need time to read without having to do all that if they don't need to. A big thing is getting the kids to notice the difference between reading for fun and reading for information (and of course, the magic, ever-expanding line when it's both!)

As for forming opinions, I do like to have a lot of information to work with, so I definitely read a lot about education, but I think I take it as a starting point and still weigh my personal experiencs more heavily. After all, it's the individual kids we're teaching, not the hypothetical conglomerate of all the kids in a study.
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Did you get to the part where...
Old 04-24-2016, 08:32 AM
 
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...she says that if a kid refuses to read after she contacts parents, the kid is removed from the school? Ha, it's her school so I guess she can do what she wants. Nancie Attwell seems great, but is living in a bubble. I did get some amazing book lists from her. However, our school has reading time twice a week and most kids either are disruptive and just stare at the same page.

I read all of those books and none of the ideas have worked with the kids I have this year. I have some kids reading nothing who won't even bring a book to class. I've basically tried everything I could: I have a huge library in my room with nf, magazines, comic books, etc. I even have some borderline appropriate books to lure in reluctant readers...However, some kids are just so resistant to reading that they won't even listen to a read aloud. I have one 7th grader who will plug his eyes when we read aloud. Wonder what the book whisperer or Nancie would do with him?

Do you read "Readacide" by Kelly Gallagher? He is also against over teaching and reading strategies, etc. However, I bought a later book by him and it has all types of reading strategies in it? I was perplexed because he never mentions Readacide. After that, I thought, I'm teaching some reading strategies and trying to encourage everyone to read. I no longer believe that I can make every single kid a rabid reader anymore. I have tried and failed. Let one of these experts try with some of my kids who can barely make it through a school day.
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