12 Sep It’s Monday! A Powerful New Book to Lift Our Teaching to a New Level
In my 19, almost 20 years of parenting, I have learned a lot of lessons. But one that has stayed with me through the years is the advice a doctor gave me, “You know,” she said, “When we fix something for someone or solve his problem we sometimes rob that person of building his own problem-solving skills. She calls it “missing a problem-solving opportunity.” Even though I struggle with this, I now analyze parenting situations through a “problem-solving opportunity lens.” This new lens helps me pause and think about the possible learning opportunities that hide inside a specific situation before I jump into problem-solving mode.
When Clare and I read Who’s Doing the Work? by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris I was reminded of the “problem-solving opportunity lens” this doctor taught me. The authors urge us to scrutinize our lessons through the “lens of student independence/dependence.” They say, “…if we want students to use strategies independently, we must question the ways our “scaffolding” may get in the way.” What an important concept! We must think about how the learning experiences we design and the language we use will empower students. We want students to not only feel empowered to use strategies as they read, but to also know when, why and how to employ them independently.
To begin thinking about lesson design through the lens of student independence/dependence, the first chapter focuses on a topic near and dear to our hearts – formative assessment. Jan and Kim use a simple, yet powerful graphic (check out the free online version of this book at Stenhouse), to help us watch closely to understand a child’s reading process; to identify each student’s strengths; and determine possible next steps. The authors want us to remember that if we want students to do “more of the work” then it is our job to learn everything we can about them as readers and writers.
The subsequent chapters are filled with specific ideas about key instructional literacy practices (read aloud, shared reading and guided reading) to help us reflect on own instruction and make specific and palpable changes so that students are “doing more of the work.” We love the way each chapter gives a crystal clear picture of what “next generation” read-aloud, shared reading and guided reading look like. They share what’s tricky about the specific instructional practice, common misconceptions, cautionary tales and snapshots from K-6 classrooms. This structure makes it easy to think through subtle, yet significant, changes we can make to our teaching practices to build students’ independence.
So if you are looking for a book to help you reflect and refine your own practices, this is the book we recommend. It is a book we believe will help move current teaching practices to a “higher notch.” We know we will be sharing this book with teachers in our partnership schools and we will come back to this text again and again to reflect on our own teaching practices to think about “Who’s Doing the Work.”
Tammy and Clare