My Continuing Contact colleagues and I have been reading Marie Clay’s 2nd edition of Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals. While I was reading chapter 5: Reading continuous texts, whole stories, and information books I was struck by how important it is for Reading Recovery teachers to return to their guidebook over and over again. LLDI is not the type of book you can read one time, feel like, “I got this!” and then put it on your bookshelf to collect dust. Each time I read LLDI I:
- Gain more knowledge about the reading process
- Reflect on my interactions with students
- Think deeply about how amazing and complex the brain is
- Strengthen my ability to explain my theory of reading to others
After reading Cook, Rodes, and Lipsitz attack Reading Recovery in their article The Reading Wars and Reading Recovery: What Educators, Families, and Taxpayer should know it became even more clear to me how important it is to be able to represent Clay’s theory of reading accurately and articulately to anybody that might ask me questions. The RRCNA responded to the article with eloquence in The Truth about Reading Recovery
We have the important job of supporting our students’ development of their self-extending system. while reading, I started to wonder if I have been keeping that goal along with the meaning of a self-extending system in mind while planning lessons and teaching my students.
I think Clay’s words are best when thinking about a self-extending system.
” I think it is most helful to think of the learner who is successfully solving reading problems as building a neural network for working on written language and that network learns to extend itself.” LLDI p. 128
We can teach and instruct students all we want but ultimately:
“It is the successful processing called up by the learner that creates a self-extending stystem.” LLDI p. 128
A Reading Recovery teacher is always reflective and critical of their teaching. While reading LLDI you will not read anything that is child-blaming such as:
- The child does not know enough high-frequency words
- The child does not know their letter sounds
- The child can not pay attention
- The child has a learning disability
Clay calls on us to always reflect on our own planning, teaching, prompting, etc… When a child’s progress stalls we should consider carefully what we might be doing that could be getting in the way.
It is important for us to deeply analyze our running records and to look at our teaching actions and student responses as recorded on our lesson records. Our lesson records and running records will allow us to find evidence or the lack of evidence that our student is building a self-extending system. We want to make sure that we are not doing all of the problem-solving for the student, that we are not having to prompt too much or that we are not consistently giving very supportive prompts.
Setting our students up to solve simple tasks leads them to be able to solve more complex tasks while moving up text levels. We can do this through our thoughtfully planned book orientations and through our careful prompting.
“Give thoughtful attention to the level of help the child needs to decide when you are prompting for processing or when you should be supplying information which the learner does not have.” LLDI p.118
We need to keep in mind Clay’s scale of teacher help while reading. I have this reminder posted near my teaching/planning area.
We should reinforce, with a quick positive comment, signs of self-monitoring, attempts to self-correct, or the child using a source of information that they aren’t typically using (even when they aren’t correct).
Monitoring doesn’t always look like self-correcting. A child can show signs of monitoring through:
- A confused look
- A frown
- Verbal comments that convey uncertainty
When a child is reading we want to use prompts to call for the child to take action. We only want to prompt for an action that we know the child has under control. We have to be careful not to interrupt the child’s problem solving or the meaning of the text. Using short quick prompts that are helpful to the child will be the most useful.
When choosing a prompt we need to think about the scale of help as well as what type of information we want the child to be using and what type of processing we want to encourage.
While it is important for us to reinforce effective processing, reinforce the use of various sources of information and use prompting to help support the development of a self-extending system Clay reminds us that we also need to:
“…eliminate all unnecessary talk!”
If we are trying to minimize teacher talk and make our teaching moves effective one practice we may want to omit is asking the child to explain their problem-solving. Clay states that this should only be done occasionally because it can:
- interrupt and slow down in the head processing
- lead to too much talk which might confuse the child
To sum it all up LLDI’s chapter 5 has led me to jot down and hold myself accountable to a few goals as we move into 2018.
I would like to improve my effectiveness as a Reading Recovery teacher by:
Frequently reading and rereading Clay’s Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals in order to be reflective, keep procedures in mind, and to be articulate in explaining why I do what I do.
Always keep the ultimate goal of students developing a self-extending system in mind when analyzing, planning, and teaching in order to best follow the path that will lead my students to acceleration.
Remember the importance of reinforcing and prompting for student action keeping the scale of help in mind, but also remembering to minimize teacher talk so that I don’t interrupt problem-solving actions or the meaning of the text.