There are lots of things that get teachers excited. Lightbulbs going on, trend lines on a graph going up, rapport being cemented, the smell of the first sharpened pencil of the new school year. . . .
Ranking right up there in the top thrills of a teacher's career is collaborating with a great team to choose new curriculum.
At my district, I inherited literature textbooks that were published in 2007. There were no consumables, and we didn't have access to online resources now offered by the publisher to districts that purchase brand-new curriculum. That has meant a lot of reinventing the wheel, aligning outdated texts to new standards, and even consulting Teachers Pay Teachers for quick answers. Throw in three sessions in quarantine due to COVID outbreaks, and the existing resources' deficiencies became that much more glaring.
So it's easy to see why new curriculum on the horizon is a matter for celebration. I'm eager to have resources at my fingertips to help me meet the needs of individual learners. I can't wait to get my hands on standards-aligned, research-based lessons and their corresponding assessments. I want online everything, alongside traditional textbooks so learners can access texts from home or at school, in a format that works best for them.
As we gear up to examine what exactly we are looking for in a reading/ELA curriculum, my administrator has arranged for a half-day intensive workshop (okay, she billed it as a party) to help focus our quest.
And there's homework! Each team member received curriculum samples from one publisher, with more on the way, to review ahead of the session. And we're reading an article on the Science of Reading by Laura Stuart, National Director for The Reading League. You can find it on the Zaner-Bloser Science of Reading Hub.
In the article, Stuart spells out answers to the burning question, "What must be taught?" Synthesizing current studies on how children learn to read, there are five essential components of reading that must be taught, as Stuart says, "thoroughly and skillfully." These are: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluent text reading, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Stuart explains each component briefly before going on to offer evidence-based principles of instruction, or, the nuts and bolts of "How to teach it."
I'm excited to see what my colleagues bring to the discussion after reading our homework and browsing curriculum samples. And I'm wondering, how might our collaboration on February 12 change the way we teach, even before we choose new curriculum?