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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teach the children well -- without wasting time on hokum


Mixing wishful thinking with actual teaching is failing children, writes Greg Ashman, a school principal in Australia, on Filling the Pail. It's not "nuanced" or "balanced." It's foolish.

I claim I can teach the child to read by surrounding them with books and reading to them.
. . . I say it will form part of a ‘balanced’ approach that will also include other things. I’m a bit vague about what those other things are but you learn than I intend to also give limited instruction in letter-sound relationships.
. . . A child cannot do basic mathematics.
I claim I can teach the child mathematics by surrounding them with rich, authentic and relevant problems to solve.
. . . I say it will form part of a ‘structured’ approach that will also include other things. I’m a bit vague about what those other things are but you learn than I intend to provide a little explicit teaching once the child has struggled with a problem for a while.

Those who argue for explicitly teaching children are mocked as simple-minded for believing learning doesn't happen by magic, Ashman writes. They're told to prove that experimental methods don't work.


That's backwards, he argues. "We can point to evidence for explicit teaching, but we can also point to logic and common experience. Every day, humans explain concepts to each other. It is our superpower."


Many states have replaced "balanced literacy" with research-based reading instruction, but California has no comprehensive literacy policy, writes John Fensterwald on EdSource. "California fourth graders trail the nation in reading, and half of its third graders, including two-thirds of Black students and 61% of Latino students, do not read at grade level."

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