Well, I read it. I just couldn’t resist. I’d heard so much about the pacing charts and where writing might be able to squeeze in, or not. Thinking it couldn’t be as bad as all that, I just had to take a peek at it. At first it delineates reading clusters (translate: genres?) by quarter, along with spelling, vocabulary and grammar lessons for the same time period. Okay, I could live with that, I thought. Then I turned the page and there it was. August 20 – 24, read this story. For lower level readers, it could be replaced by this other one. Actually, you have two stories to read with the lower level readers from August 20 – September 14. Students on grade level read four stories and have a writing workshop about response to literature thrown in. No writing for the English Learners or any others who are not on grade level. The two stories offered for this time period are from distinct parts of the themed core reader. Evidently they were chosen because both are fiction, the genre of the month. Never mind following a theme, like the book is set up.
This seems like a scattered approach to teaching. As a teacher of English Language Development, I’ve always relied on a “big idea” or overarching theme to connect the various activities we were doing in class. To me “Fiction” is not a theme or a big idea. I think it helps English Learners to connect when there is a big idea like “Family” or “Conflict” or “Identity” to tie everything together. Is this how everyone does it? Am I out of date? Or is this the difference between direct instruction and thematic instruction? Why do we have to jump around and teach the standards in every which order? Aren’t the textbooks arranged in a certain order for a reason? I have never relied much on a textbook, because those designed for teaching English Learners never seemed adequate to me, so maybe I’m just ignorant.
I really am not being sarcastic here, although the temptation is great. I really am at a loss. I wonder how one finds time to teach out of all these workbooks, and if you really keep the kids’ attention in doing so. Is this why they don’t want to read? This makes me nervous. So, as I see it, I will teach two stories in the first three weeks of school, and all the rest of the time will be spent doing workbook activities that somehow pertain (or mostly pertain) to the stories. Will that give the kids a better grasp of the pertinent standards? How do I keep track of all the activities I’m supposed to do? Where is the time for scaffolding of background knowledge prior to reading? Oh my.