It continually amazes me just how much we can learn from children, if we choose to listen. I am fortunate to partner with a local school district to run an after-school reading club for students in Kindergarten and first grade. These amazing children stay after-school each week to teach my graduate students about literacy intervention. And each week, they continue to teach me a thing or two about literacy intervention as well.
This week, I was reminded of just how important it is to involve students in their own learning, to follow their curiosities and give them choice and ownership. In a classroom setting, many teachers utilize the workshop method, giving whole group instruction in the form of mini-lessons and then giving students the freedom to choose the books and topics they read about. Yet, when it comes time for literacy intervention, I have found that much of that ownership and choice our most vulnerable readers deserve is given back to the teacher. Admittedly, there is good reason for that. In a literacy intervention setting, teachers carefully sequence skills and strategy instruction to ensure student success and transfer those skills to real reading and writing. We take great care to carefully choose books based on both level and interest, craft word work opportunities for students to develop their alphabetic knowledge and apply that to their reading and even support comprehension and spelling development with writing engagements. All of these elements are needed for a successful literacy intervention program. But, as I sat with a student who clearly told me he did NOT want to read THOSE books about THAT content, I realized he needed a stronger voice. He needed more choices. He needed to feel in control. And I couldn’t blame him. After all, that is what we work to provide in the classroom and what we as adults would demand. This realization cut close to home as well.
The other day, my youngest son presented me with an impressive list of ski resorts that we might visit. He independently engaged in his own research and created a document that listed the name of the resort, the height of the mountain, how far it would take us to drive there and the hours of operation. I was shocked as this was the child who typically avoided reading and writing at home. Of course, I made a big deal out of his efforts and asked why he chose to do so much reading and writing. He looked at me and said, “Because I wanted to find out”. Isn’t that what drives learning? Because we want to find out things? Between this exchange and my conversation with the Kindergarten student, I knew I had to find out a few things of my own and came up with this question to lead my journey: Can curiosity be an intervention?
How can curiosity drive literacy intervention (or any intervention, for that matter)? How can we ensure that students have just as much choice and voice in supportive literacy instruction as they would in the classroom? How can we ensure that they have even MORE control over their own learning paths to ensure differentiated and personalized instruction for those that need it most?
I hate to end a blog post with more questions than possible answers, but this is where I am at and I would love to collaborate. Can curiosity be an intervention? What would this look like and sound like while ensuring that students receive the skills instruction we know they need? This is more than just choosing books based on students’ interests, it is about changing the way we look at literacy intervention. And I’m up for it. I am starting by reading The Curious Classroom and using the study guide to reflect on my own learning ideas. I’m going to bring this topic up at my literacy think-tank sessions with coaches and specialists and I am reaching out to my virtual PLN for ideas.
Who is with me?