Pedagogy as a barrier.

I should start by saying that my mother retired last year after a quarter century teaching reading recovery in the same school. She has a medal hanging in the house from that school honouring her contribution to the school community. I have children and grandchildren. My observation is that they learn to read despite the current teaching practices. What is being described here is a very bad example of whole language teaching — and a lack proper pitching of material at a level when the little girl drawing clowns can do what she’s being asked to do.

Draw conclusions can be rephrased as “Tell me what you think”. Theory is for the teacher. The kid just needs to be reading.

As I looked around, I noticed a small girl drawing on a piece of paper. Ten minutes later, she had sketched a string of human figures, and was busy coloring them yellow.

I knelt next to her and asked, “What are you drawing?”
“Clowns,” she answered confidently.
“Why are you drawing clowns?”
“Because it says right here, ‘Draw clowns,’ ” she explained.
Running down the left side of the worksheet was a list of reading-comprehension skills: finding the main idea, making inferences, making predictions. The girl was pointing to the phrase draw conclusions. She was supposed to be making inferences and drawing conclusions about a dense article describing Brazil, which was lying facedown on her desk. But she was unaware that the text was there until I turned it over. More to the point, she had never heard of Brazil and was unable to read the word.

That girl’s assignment was merely one example, albeit an egregious one, of a standard pedagogical approach.

Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic.

My mother says that Phonics is useful for some kids and not for others. But I know how I learned my times tables — I had to recite them until I could give the answer without thinking when asked by my Mum and Dad. Elspeth, who is teaching kids, comments.

I taught my kids to read by reading to them and also using this admittedly drab phonics book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy LessonsIt wasn’t glamorous, as phonics instruction rarely is, but it got the job done and prepared them to be able to read content and then comprehend it.
Of course, it might be helpful if teachers, you know, actually teach kids something about the content they are expected to comprehend as well, which also seems to be missing from the current model. At least it is if The Atlantic piece is to be believed.
The passage and quiz approach leaves a lot to be desired, and I’m sure it’s easier on both the student and the teacher, but what about the long term implications? Why use it if it doesn’t work?


You should all read Elspeth. She’s got homeschooling sorted, and knows that in this fallen time, sending kids to school means exposing them to unneeded traumas and sexualization. But I would add one thing to the list. Modern educators try to be relevant about that which should not be relevant. They never expose kids to the old, good stuff, for it may bring uncomfortable questions — why does the shrew tame? Where are knights like Roland? Should Horatio stand at the gates, and if he his, who is he standing against?

And then, what is good? beautiful? true? For these modern theorists know that this age is not any of the above. Do not be them, or like them.

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2 years ago

I appreciate the linkage, Chris. Your mother is correct that sometimes with some kids you have to vary your approach.

You can rarely go wrong with foundations and building blocks, but because they can be tedious and require more work, schools try everything to avoid that.