Effectively teaching reading skills

Great recent blog post from Grant Wiggins who (again) argues against using formulaic “strategies” for teaching reading. He argues that the very word “strategy” is used in a sloppy way too often. We’d get better results from teaching the student to choose whatever techniques, strategies, tactics or skills would dissect the reading most effectively. Read more for the details here.

Are you registered for the Writing Matters conference? There’s still time!

Hello everyone!

The Writing Matters conference is fast approaching! A conference sponsored by Seven Valleys Writing Project, this conference will have workshops, seminars and other presentations to assist CNY teachers learn about teaching writing in their classrooms.

We’ll have merchandise for sale as well as an assortment of teaching writing books for sale!

We are still looking for presentors and attendees. But hurry, because registration will close tomorrow!

So, hurry and sign up now for the Writing Matters conference, March 8th, at SUNY Cortland!  


Empty the schools and meet online

So I just returned from Philadelphia where my eldest was investigating a college.  At a rest area that sold everything American, I found a lonely kiosk that held brochures (“See the Dry Underground Lake” and “Wine Country Catfish Boil and Quilting Bee”).  One quiet slot held a brochure for “A Tuition-Free K-12 Cyber School.”  That’s right, this is a charter school where you can do the whole school thing from home.  Normal schools have a number of disadvantages, I learned.  They include:

• Expense/Scores Disconnect
• Ideological Curricula (?)
• Safety/Bullying Concerns
• Highly Politicized/Polarized
• School Districts (?)
• Lack of Parental Control
• Lack of Parental Involvement (?)
• One-Size-Fits All Mindset 

Now, this raises some interesting questions.  Apparently the “Cyber School” is cheaper (avoiding the “Expense/Scores Disconnect”) and allows you to avoid things: ideology, bullies, politics, school districts, other students, parents, and standardization.  People of different races, with accents, and those ideas you find frightful — all gone.  ”Turns out / You can make the earth absolutely clean” writes James Wright in his poem “Redwings.”  I think he was being ironic about how cool that is.

I never thought of “school districts” as a problem.  And it seems strange to avoid “uninvolved parents” by eliminating parents altogether.  But we know which non-present parents we don’t have to non-suffer from any longer.

This is of course the natural progression of things.  This PA system has actual teachers on computers at the other end, each of which has an unspecified number of classes.  This is indeed cheaper.  Imagine 200 students per teacher, essays scored by machine, and multiple choice readings.  You could “learn” a lot this way.  In some cases, it would probably be more effective than actually attending classes with other kids and real-time teachers.  But by eliminating all the risks, you end up with a kid who has no idea engage with other people — and people are risky.  I suppose you could have a unit on “working with people,” but something tells me it wouldn’t be the same.  

Learn at your own pace: no mentors to inspire you, no models, no peers slowing you down (or rushing you to finish).  Think of the taxes we could cut!

And it’s not a joke.  It’s actually here.