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18 July 2016 @ 01:34 pm
Either/Or versus Both/And  
I wrote last week about the lack of wisdom when it comes to SELECT ONE. Then, yesterday in the sermon at Mass, Phyllis talked about the gospel story of Mary and Martha. She talked about the need to see not an either/or choice. We do not need to be either Mary OR Martha. Rather, we need to see the choice as a both/and situation. We need to be both Mary AND Martha.

It seems to me that some of the folks on Twitter need to take this idea of both/and to heart. Yesterday, there was a discussion which grew tiresome about whether or not access and choice were important or if instruction needed to be the cornerstone of the classroom. I do not think that any of my like-minded colleagues see this as an either/or situation. We all believe that instruction is a component of "whole language." Those who insist otherwise are reminiscent of the folks who waged a reading war 3 decades ago, claiming that we needed "balanced" instruction. Of course, we all saw what they meant by balance: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

I am not going to engage in this battle once more. The National Reading Panel tired its best to decimate anything that even had a whiff of whole language. They took shots at whole language, accusing (falsely) proponents of this approach as eschewing anything that looked like instruction and simply allowing kids to read anything they wanted with no time ever for instruction or discussion. This was and still is a false dichotomy.

What is important to know is this: "Whole language is not a program, package, set of materials, method, practice, or technique; rather, it is a perspective on language and learning that leads to the acceptance of certain strategies, methods, materials, and techniques." Dorothy Watson, 1989 That first sentence speaks volumes. Some of the folks who were calling for instruction during the Twitter discussion were insisting that a program would better serve some students.

I would rather take the funding spent on these programs that promise the moon and the stars and often deliver much less (RtI anyone?) and purchase real books. Allowing access and choice does not mean no instruction takes place. What it means is that every single kid has the chance to select a book for himself or herself. It means that teachers talk to readers, analyzing their responses to the book. If needed, instruction takes place where needed. It does not mean packets and worksheets and ONE approach.

Kylene Beers has written about using a different lens. I recommend this piece for a start: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Beers.pdf and then move on to this: http://www.heinemann.com/blog/wont-read-much-if-i-dont-have-any-books-poverty-access-to-books-and-the-richpoor-reading-achievement-gap/ and finally rad this post by Donalyn Miller on the research behind independent reading: https://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/.

So, instead of making this situation an either/or, we can broaden our scope and include more that one approach, one right answer, one right way. Let's think BOTH/AND.
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