We recently underwent a huge remodel of our school library and had to get rid of bunch of resources that were being under-utilized. It was bittersweet as our library no longer has some excellent books, but teachers also got to take their pick of what they wanted to keep for themselves and I made out like a bandit. One of the books I scored was actually a double of one I had signed out and intended to read through before our redesign (what luck, now I get to write all over it and call it my own!). The book in question: Classrooms That Work by Patricia M. Cunningham and Richard L. Allington.
Right in the title, the text boasts that all students in these “classrooms that work” can read and write. This immediately grabbed me as I work with kids who have come from regular classrooms and have struggled. They cannot read and write and it’s my job at our congregated school to find strategies to help them succeed. It’s difficult and oftentimes daunting, but it’s outrageously rewarding and can be done. Extra tips from teachers with many more years under their belts? Yes, I’ll take it!
The first chapter is titled The Problem and Some Failed Solutions and starts us out by discussing how our classrooms began failing our students. It talks a lot about phonics and how classrooms fail, not because they’re using bad techniques, but because they’re relying too heavily on one or two methods or because these methods work better in theory than they do in practice. The kids who don’t respond to these methods are left behind, especially if they also have low support at home.
Also discussed heavily is retention and the negative effects repeating a grade have on children. We attempt to use it as a solution for a child who is behind, but it is not viable for the long term, as they tend to fall behind once again in later grades. The belief that they are “dumb” will set up a barrier between students and their success and retention will only intensify this.
Indeed, classrooms that utilize multiple approaches to reading and writing will be the most effective as they will target the majority of students’ various strengths and weaknesses. The problem which arises here is how to actually organize a classroom that properly and effectively utilizes various methods. That is where our chapter ends; we’ve discussed what doesn’t work and in the next chapters they’re going to be discussing what does.
If you’re interested in buying the book, here’s the link on Amazon. Mine is the second edition, the one on Amazon is the 6th. Chapter two will be up in two weeks!