Keeping one’s balance

An opinion piece from last Sunday’s New York Times lambasted the planned return of the teaching technique balanced literacy to New York schools. I’m on the fence myself. Anything that gets kids reading and writing can’t be all bad, right?

But my own experience with a child in these schools is that far too much is expected of our young writers and readers with far too little support. Lucy Calkins is right when she champions the joyful exploration of language and writing, and I have no wish to denigrate her or other experts’s techniques. Educational techniques are a pendulum, and it seems as if it has swung just a bit too far towards joy and too far away from instruction. I love seeing children’s memoir pieces posted on the hallway bulletin boards, but I don’t love actually reading them and realizing that very few students have any sense of sentence structure, spelling, or the other mechanics of language.

Surely there’s a middle way – one in which students are given the building blocks of writing and narrative but still allowed to create castles and skyscrapers of words. How can one create sense of a narrative, either one’s own or one written by some one else, without knowing the parts of speech? How sentences are constructed? The richness and beauty of language is less accessible when we are unaware of how it is created.

Stepping off my soapbox and preparing to keep my balance in yoga class…

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3 thoughts on “Keeping one’s balance

  1. Leslie, I’d have to say “Make room on your soapbox!” I actually have erected quite a few I stand on myself! I think a lot of modern thinking is not all that good. In respect to this, and education in general, I think there needs to somehow be the creation of “joy” in learning HOW, not just in “free form” doing and thinking. I find it myopic and lazy on the teachers’ part, though I’m sure many think this really is a good approach. I, like you, don’t agree!

      1. I REALLY feel for teachers with all this nonsense that’s put on them. Common Core is pretty much useless in the way it wants to hold teachers “accountable” while leaving them, the principals and anyone else involved, with LESS time to try to accomplish these useless standards they’re being held accountable for!

        I feel very strongly about this, obviously, and even more so ’cause my daughter-in-law is a teacher of Special Ed, 3rd through 5th. It’s harder than it should be because of these things. I DO believe teachers should be held accountable, but the stuff they come up with to try and make that happen for the percentage of teachers who don’t do their job, is futile. They have businessmen calling the shots and coming up with this stuff, meanwhile good teachers are actually retiring early because of it! *sigh*

        See? Soapbox šŸ˜€

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