Teaching Reading and Writing Skills

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  LCarter 4 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #4535


    As I become more familiar with the new standards, I’m finding that the standards appear to have taken a step back from teaching reading and writing as a strong connection to classroom instructional goals. The standards strongly connect with inquiry and research – but, seem to not necessarily explicitly state that we are responsible for teaching reading or writing. This concerns me a bit. I liked how our crosswalks connected rather explicitly to the Common Core Standards, and I’m not sure that I see the same strong connections written in our new standards. On page 13, for example, it states, “4. Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.” Our role, “supports, supplements and elevates learners’ literacy experiences by guiding them and involving them in motivational reading initiatives – Uses story and personal narrative to engage learners; and has up-to-date technology and digital and print materials….” We take the lead in organizing and promoting literacy projects and events that encourage lifelong learners and readers”…. Is that it?! Please, please forgive me but this is exactly how NOT to be seen as a teacher in the building. What has happened to our skills and benchmarks? For example – 2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings. Or, 4.1.2 – Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading. – and especially all the corresponding benchmarks that really got down to the basics of teaching the standards? I’m worried. Is there more coming that will flesh out the standards with much more detail and stronger connections to teaching – especially in a way that will help us connect to classroom instruction?

  • #4542

    Marcia Mardis

    Greetings LCarter!

    Thanks so much for this post. You have really interesting and provoking thoughts here.

    I want to start by saying that the standards are not a curriculum; that is, we leave it to the experts on the ground (like you) to operationalize the standards in concert with the priorities in your school. It seems like you see lots of places in which reading could fit–let me assure you, that if you feel like it fits there, then it does! You are welcome to structure activities and goals from a reading perspective.

    In addition, do know that if you have the NSLS volume (and it sounds like you do), in the introduction, you’ll find the Common Belief (kept from the Standards for the 21st Century Learner) that states:

    4. Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.
    Through the school library, the school librarian:
    • supports, supplements, and elevates learners’ literacy experience by guiding them and involving them in motivational reading initiatives;
    • uses story and personal narrative to engage learners; and
    • has up-to-date technology, and digital and print materials that include curated open educational resources.
    School librarians’ skills in the selection and evaluation of resources are critical in providing learners, staff, and families with open, unrestricted access to a high-quality collection of reading materials in multiple formats that reflect readers’ personal interests and academic needs. School librarians take a leadership role in organizing and promoting literacy projects and events that encourage learners to become lifelong learners and readers (AASL 2016e).

    We also included it in this common belief:
    3. Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.
    Our work proceeded from the assumption that the purpose of learners’ education is to empower learners to pursue academic and personal success, whether in inquiry, advanced study, emotionally and intellectually rewarding professional work, or community-readiness. Education is a process of continuous improvement, and exists within and beyond the school building and school day. The school library is an expansive learning environment in which fostering learners’ personal interests and curricular mastery prepares them for success. The school library is centered on using a variety of engaging and relevant resources to locate and evaluate information, provide digital learning opportunities, and develop a culture of reading. To ensure equitable learning opportunities, effective school libraries include high-quality, openly licensed digital and print resources, technology tools, and robust broadband access (AASL 2016b).

    We felt that it was really important to include reading, and not leave it out at the expense of researching! Reading is so very important! Rather, reading as a standalone activity belongs to a variety of stakeholders in schools, so our emphasis is more on reading as an embedded skill as well as an activity pursued for personal growth. This is perhaps the main difference from the Standards for the 21st Century Learner to the NSLS–we speak of reading as an embedded means of personal growth, just to ensure that it is seen as purposeful to all members of the school community and not cast as a separate instructional activity (e.g., teaching phonics).

    To this latter end, you’ll find material relating to reading for pleasure in the Explore Shared Foundation.

    Learner Competencies in Depth

    A. Think: Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by:
    • Reading widely and deeply in multiple formats and write and create for a variety of purposes.

    Learners’ curiosity is piqued when they are given opportunities to exercise choice as they read widely and deeply in multiple formats and write for a variety of purposes. This reading and writing for personal growth can be structured during class time with the support of the school librarian, based on discipline-specific topics or through exploration of the collection and physical space that fosters open-ended curiosity stimulated by personal interests. Learners need to easily access digital resources remotely 24–7 and physically in the learning space at time of need. After reflecting on their own knowledge assumptions and misconceptions, learners are able to formulate authentic questions to guide their exploration of information resources to find answers and create new knowledge.

    And, of course the school librarian competencies and school library alignments mirror the learner competencies.

    I hope this info answers your question! If not, let’s keep talking!

    All the best,

  • #4544

    Ellen McNair

    Thanks, Marcia! I appreciate your insights on this topic and a comprehensive look at reading in the new standards. I was thinking of another aspect as well. The Shared Foundations afford the opportunity – in fact, the latitude – for creative implementation of reading and writing goals. Librarians are using these competencies to align to their good work and to school/district initiatives. It would be really interesting to hear how librarians are lining up their strong practices with initiatives and how everyone is communicating with administrators and faculty!

  • #4560


    Thank you for your responses.

    I agree that the school librarian has a wide variety of roles. The new standards will help us create a program, provide resources to the school community, but teaching our valuable content “information literacy” is missing. Teaching the process, akin to learning how to read, or write is what is sorely missing from the new standards. The widespread dissemination of school libraries and the loss of school librarians is tied to budget constraints and the impression that school librarians are not teachers. These standards reinforce that, unfortunately. So many principals say, “Why do you have to COLLABORATE to write instruction? Can’t you write on your own, teachers don’t have time to sit down with you!” What I loved about our old standards was all the strong connections to teaching, and how those standards connected to classroom instruction. I know that this is not a curriculum, but it is the basis for one. To encourage school boards to provide more money for school libraries we need to show our worth for designing instruction that meets instructional goals – our own strong content and the content of the school. I worry that our standards/goals cannot sound obscure like: supports, supplements, and elevates learners’ literacy experience by guiding them and involving them in motivational reading initiatives, OR uses story and personal narrative to engage learners OR empower learners to pursue academic and personal success….again, please forgive me but to the outside educator, or worse school administrator/board member – where are the standards? It wasn’t until I could show my worth as a teacher that any school I worked in began to value me as a school librarian. They just do not understand our role, and these goals sound much more like that of a public librarian. More and more I have seen content curriculum using in classroom or digital sources/libraries to support their projects and embedded research projects, less time is allowed for what may appear to be meaningless time spent in the library pursuing personal interests. Teachers don’t come to us unless it is written in the curriculum. There just isn’t time in an assessment driven school environment for what may be perceived as “fluff”. I just had a school based librarian tell me that the old standards were too hard to understand – it seems we went in the exact opposite direction – this is far, far to open ended and the meaning seems lost. I’m sorry that I may sound discouraged, but I am. If we are going to walk the walk in schools; we have to talk the talk and share in their assessment concerns as true instructional partners. I hope more is coming that draws those strong connections.
    Thank you for all you have done. I’m sure it was a massive undertaking.

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