Teaching reading: Who’s an expert?

Dive right into reading without much “pre-reading” prep. Ask students questions about the text, not about their personal experiences or feelings.  Education consultant David Coleman, architect of Common Core reading standards, wants instruction to stress close reading of complex texts, writes Kathleen Porter-Magee on Fordham’s Common Core Watch.

Reading strategies should not be taught as “an end unto themselves,” Coleman believes.

Reading strategies should work in the service of reading comprehension . . . and assist students in building knowledge and insight from specific texts. . . . Additionally, care should be taken that introducing broad themes and questions in advance of reading does not prompt overly general conversations rather than focusing reading on the specific ideas and details, drawing evidence from the text, and gleaning meaning and knowledge from it.

Coleman also advocates re-reading complex texts for deeper understanding.

To that end, Coleman suggests spending three days on the Gettysburg Address—a three paragraph speech. And he thinks Letter from a Birmingham Jail should take six days.

Frankly, that sounds boring.

Teachers reject Coleman’s ideas because he has no classroom teaching experience, notes Porter-Magee.  But perhaps an outsider is needed.

In fact, research suggests that a fresh perspective is exactly what’s needed to solve seemingly impossible problems. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights growing evidence that “big breakthroughs often depend on the naive daring of outsiders,” not the conventional wisdom of the best and brightest in the field.

Did classroom teachers develop the current method of teaching reading? Or did it come from an earlier generation of experts?

Even more important, is Coleman right?

About Joanne