Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Reading Recovery & the Miracles of Primary Education

First off, I have to say that I am an upper grade teacher. I have spent the last nine years in fourth or fifth grade. I love the students' independence, their ability to discuss topics at such a mature level, their sense of humor, and their attention spans. However, I'm becoming fascinated more and more with the little ones. Maybe it is because I have young children. Maybe I'm reverting (I did my student teaching in K and 2). Who knows? But this new interest led me to observe a reading recovery lesson last week.

Reading recovery, to the best of my knowledge, is designed for first graders who are having difficulty with reading and/or writing. They receive one-on-one instruction every day for 12-20 weeks from a specially trained teacher. I was so impressed with the lesson I observed. I must admit that I truly believe a lot of the credit goes to the teacher, as she is amazing. However, I think the structure of reading recovery deserves praise as well. The student did word work, reading, and writing in the span of half an hour. Reading recovery teachers (at least at our school) only work with four students at a time. They each do reading recovery half a day. To the uninitiated I'm sure that sounds like nothing, but those half hours are intense. What struck me the most was that the student was not only learning strategies and skills for reading and writing. While that is a huge part of the lesson, it is not all of it. The student was being forced to be a responsible learner. The teacher reminded the child of her jobs (check the endings as you read, use your thumbs to help with that) and pushed her to make sure she was correct (what can you do to check it, is that what you expect to see, are you right). In this way the student was responsible for making sense of her reading and writing. As teachers we are often in a rush and have such a strong desire to help students that we end up giving them the answers. Or, just as bad, we only question them when they are wrong. As a result, they assume they are wrong anytime we push them to check. This first grader was questioned throughout the lesson when she was right and wrong. She had to be sure she was understanding; no one was doing it for her. This is a critical life skill.

I so enjoyed this observation I'm going back this week!

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