Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Reading IS Fundamental

The Second Annual Lexile© National Reading Conference is in the books...no pun intended. I attended, as I did last year, and was once again impressed by what I discovered. Sure, Greg Cizek's presentation about "Testing Myths" was enjoyable and informative. My presentation criticizing NCLB not allowing "off level" reading assessment was novel if not interesting (though it was well attended). Quality Quinn, Lou Fabrizio and Malbert Smith all provided very informative and instructional presentations. All of these were worth the price of admission alone. However, what impressed me the most was the desire of the attendees to read! Teachers were buying books, with their own money, to give to "troubled readers" in their classrooms. Malbert Smith talked about that "parasite" we have in our homes, the television, that robs us of intellect. Reading teachers agreed that the best way to teach reading was to get children to read. Assessment developers understood the needs of the reading specialists! In short, it was utopia. Well, short of utopia, it was very exciting to see people paying attention to reading and reading instruction. I hope you can attend next year, but in the mean time...pay attention to reading.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is It Fact or Process?

A friend of mine and I were recently discussing some aspect of mathematics instruction. I wanted to talk about the "number line" and he wanted to talk about "math facts". Perhaps I was being a bit ornery (quite contrary actually), but I looked at him with a blank stare and asked what he meant by "facts." He said, "You know...facts, like two times two is equal to four." Since I started down this path, I continued. So I replied, "Well, actually, two times two is really a concept. The concept of the successive addition of two for a total of two cycles." He became quite agitated and said, "No! It is a fact, you either know it or you don't." That is when I drew a matrix of 1-9 across the top of a piece of paper and 1-9 down the side and showed him how this matrix provided the "facts" he claimed without really "knowing" anything (other than how to draw the matrix). My friend then noticed that I was trying to teach him about process and he was trying to teach me about facts, and that we were getting no where fast. As such, he changed the topic to history, which I am sure he thought was a safe subject. "Math is no different than history," he said. "It's all about knowing the facts and sequencing them correctly." I said, "Really? Then if you list the League of Nations before the United Nations on some timeline you have demonstrated knowledge of history?" My friend was skeptical (and annoyed) and did not answer. I told him that in reality, it might very well be important to understand the impact the League of Nations had on the development of the United Nations if you were going to use history to help understand current events and/or future events.

At this point we decided to end the conversation before anyone got really mad. In departing, he did take one last shot. He said, "It's just like with testing...all you have to do is figure out if the kids know the facts." And I asked him, "Perhaps, but what process do you want to use? Multiple-choice, short answer, essay...?"

Perhaps the next time I see my friend we will talk religion...it will likely lead to a simpler discussion!