Friday, September 16, 2011

Teaching reading--a personal history

My career in education has been a twisty road with sharp turns.  When I graduated from college in 1987, I landed a dream job teaching in a special education resource classroom.  I say "dream job" because that first year, there were three resource teachers on campus; we each had two grade levels, and my assignment was K-1.  I started off with four students and an assistant!  By the end of the year, I was up to ten in my caseload, but I was still able to truly give them the individualized attention they needed and deserved.

Fast forward four years:  my fifth year of teaching, and I was the only special education teacher on campus.  My caseload was up around sixteen students, teaching thirty-five subject-levels, and running a content mastery center with an assistant.  To call me frazzled was an understatement.  I made it through year six only because they hired a wonderful teacher to partner with me, and we became good friends in our shared classroom--and we're friends to this day.

I used many reading strategies during those years; with students receiving special education services, you find what fits!  Books on tape (a few of which I recorded!), recorded vocabulary words (does anyone remember those machines that read sentence strips embedded with recording tape?), Stevenson, multisensory (shaving cream, salt, AlphaBits cereal), read-alouds, music, magnetic letters and words, trade books, whole language, phonics, highlighting, pre-teaching, basal readers...we did a lot of literacy instruction in that room.

Then I quit teaching to be a mom.  Well, to be a mom AND a tutor, and then a mom AND a neonatal unit assistant/desk clerk.  (Told you there were sharp turns.)  And when I finally went back to education, it was as an ARD facilitator.  (For those readers outside of Texas, an ARD stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal meetings, otherwise known as IEP Team meetings in your neck of the woods.)  I enjoyed facilitating ARDs, so much so that I did that job for eleven years....until my job went away.  I was put in the district surplus pool, and rescued by my children's elementary alma mater, where I currently teach.

After seventeen years outside the classroom, I'm having to familiarize myself with the latest professional reading vocabulary.  Guided reading, reading workshop, Daily 5, read to self, independent reading, levelled readers, making connections.  Sure, a lot of it is the same:  inference, comprehension, cause and effect, fact and opinion, sequence of events, characters, plot, setting.  But even in my second year back behind the horseshoe table, I welcome any help I can get in navigating these new literacy waters.  So when I come across a website like Rachel Lamb's Reading Resources, I'll take it!  Our school is currently using the Reading Workshop model, but a lot of the strategies and skills are common.  I'm still going to try some Stevenson and Edmark programs with my students, and I'll keep learning from my colleagues, inservices, and websites to get me up to speed.  After all, as a librarian wannabee, literacy is pretty much my focus!

Here are a few links I like that have to do with reading, books, authors, illustrators....just like the piles of books in my house, there is so much great stuff out there in cyberspace, and not enough time to browse them all !

Readers are Made On the Lap of a Parent                            

Cynthia Leitich Smith


Children's Book Almanac

David Wiesner

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