Reconsidering Reading – A Book Review:
Doug Lemov and his colleagues from Uncommon Schools look at reading instruction of best practices in his latest book Reading Reconsidered. Our school has examined and utilized Doug Lemov’s book Teach Like a Champion and have found many of the teaching techniques found in that book to go hand in hand with our school’s educational philosophy. So I was eager to pick up this book over Winter Break and Mr. Lemov did not disappoint. Starting with the premise that reading is an integral part in all learning, Lemov credits most teachers as being “good teachers” of reading. However, he shares various tools for teachers to adapt and apply in their instruction to add “…a little more rigor, challenge, and engagement to student learning.”
Lemov wants each teacher to ask:
How can rigor, challenge, and engagement be added so students can excel?
How can colleagues collaborate to foster exceptional reading?
Our school shares Lemov’s goals in student enjoyment in learning and in developing lifelong learning skills. And just like our core knowledge curriculum provides a broad foundation so students can see connections in the world to reason, analyze, think critically, and question themselves and others, quality reading instruction that is “reconsidered” strengthens student performance so they are better readers, writers, thinkers, and debaters capable of these same skills.
Our reading instruction (reading development and fluency, unabridged classical literature, literary analysis, grammar, and composition) focuses on the same components (although they are coined differently) in Part I of Lemov’s book. His components include the use of harder texts, closely reading text rigorously and intentionally, reading nonfiction effectively, and writing more productively in direct response to texts. Part II discusses fundamentals of reading: approaches to reading, vocabulary instruction, reading systems, and intellectual autonomy.
Some key points shared in the book are worth further thought/discussion as to the current implementation at our school:
What students choose to read matters (quality plays, poems, short stories, articles, essays, excerpts, and books etc.) as much as how they read
Schools need to decide on an internal canon of school-wide text to be read at each grade level as well as recognized literary terminology and definitions to use in discussion and analysis
Students need to read in a variety of ways (silently, out loud, and being read to) and often throughout the day
Every teacher needs to teach a robust vocabulary, more than memorizing definitions or synonyms – it is the combination of direct teaching of nuances, multi-meaning words, connotations, situations where the word is applied, and subtleties and implicit teaching (teaching words via strategies to be used when unfamiliar words are encountered) along with giving many opportunities to practice the words for mastery of both meaning and usage
For reading to be productive, it needs to be interactive – students engage with the text by underlining, marking up key points, summarizing to focus and instill interest, bring understanding, and build quality discussion and written responses
Teaching writing helps students read more effectively – writing is not simply an end product; it is a tool for critical thinking and developing ideas
There is great value to discussion – the teacher sets the stage for maximum synergy and utilizes techniques of modeling, charting in discussion, and sentence starters, parameters, and prompts
Frameworks* help students to analyze text and eventually to apply and adapt on their own to help make sense of text, foster systematic thinking, and distinguish significant details (*story elements and genre, imagery/literary devices/figurative language, character based, knowledge based – using additional text of primary/secondary sources or non-fiction to build background information – and intertextual of comparing aspects like setting, purpose, author’s viewpoint, literary devices, technical vocabulary of different texts)
Reconsidering Reading is to relook at the significance of reading. It is to re-examine the selection of tools in teaching so all students can become exceptional readers and successful lifelong learners.
As other schools begin to reconsider reading, Classical School will continue to lead in this area through consistent implementation of Direction Instruction reading followed by a specified cannon of literature delivered by master teachers dedicated to the real and attainable ideal of engaging, rigorous instruction.