The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 41

41

TECH TALK

professional development and pedagogy. Since Reading First was a K-3 initiative, extreme emphasis was placed on elementary instruction. Intermediate grades became the uncle no one invited for dinner. Professional development generalized the prevailing sentiment towards intermediate instruction stating, “There are many [Reading First] principles that can be applied to the intermediate classroom.”

After my school adopted the mandatory reading workshop model, in compliance with “school-reform” expectations, I noticed a significant change in the attitude and achievement of my students as they entered my classroom. Not only did they seem immensely bored, but they demonstrated less capacity to access text. Many defined “good reading” as the ability to read fast and accurately, always determined through assessment, demonstrated through authentic interaction with text. Students who read independently fulfilled the obligations of assigned reading but did not go beyond those requirements. Very few read autonomously, as if they had lost the power to realize they had a choice in reading. Some students began to resist reading. They displayed anxiety and contempt when asked to read aloud or complete assignments. When I asked them to respond to questions, eyes bulged as if I had violated some inner sanctum. Over time, grade-levels (2-6) became mirror images or extensions of the previous year classrooms. More and more readers became averse to reading and the “I hate reading!” sentiment increased. Despite extensive training and study in workshop model proposed by Dorn, French, and Jones (1998), I felt more and more helpless. Reading in my classroom stalled, yet, ironically, we still had a strong majority of students passing the state test.

I had to figure out why students recoiled over reading and responded negatively to basic reading tasks. I eventually discovered a reasonable explanation by accident as a result of reading shame research (Tangney & Dearing, 2002).

Reimagining the Reading Workshop

At this critical point in my teaching life, I reflected on what I knew to be true about teaching, learning, and students, based on my experiences, education, and professional reading. I understood the value of the reading workshop as an instructional modality, but something hidden inhibited my students’ engagement with reading. I knew the purpose of the workshop’s components and strongly believed in the gradual release model (Fisher & Frey, 2008; Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). I felt readers needed to be pushed to the threshold of their abilities during instruction and I hoped they would challenge themselves in independent contexts, such as reading at home. I knew the gradual release model required heavy frontloading with learning turned over to the student via guided practice before performing tasks independently. However, I could not orchestrate the components of the reading workshop to maximize a balanced literacy model (Pressley, 2006)—and the model mandated by my school (and designed for K-3 classrooms) was not meeting the needs of my students. Specifically, my instruction was

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Considering Reading Workshop: Intermediate Readers and the Role of Shame

by

Justin Stygles

In my workshop, I had (unintentionally) developed proficient, alliterate readers.