"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Building vocabulary at Carver Elementary

Sent to the Pioneer Press (Twin Cities, MN)

One of the strategies Carver Elementary is using to increase its unsatisfactory test scores ("A school on the edge," Dec. 28) is "vocabulary study." Research consistently shows that by far the best way to boost vocabulary is through wide, self-selected reading. Picking up words by reading is faster than word study and gives children more complete knowledge of words. Wide reading, in fact, has a positive influence on nearly every subject taught in school.

Wide self-selected reading requires access to lots of books. For many children, especially children of poverty (38% of the Carver student population receives free or reduced price lunch), the school library is the major source of reading material. Study after study confirms that school library quality and the presence of a credentialed librarian are positively related to growth in literacy.

Carver Elementary is in a district that let all their elementary school librarians go four years ago. Now one middle school librarian is also responsible for three elementary schools. Firing the librarian and then instituting vocabulary study is like stealing all your money and then giving you a bus token to get home with.

Tori Jensen
President Elect, Minnesota Educational Media Organization

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

Original article at: http://www.twincities.com/ci_14070492?source=email


  1. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Years after our school had daily silent reading but was forced to discontinue it because NRP-loving consultants insisted that "SSR/FVR does not teach reading," I still manage to include 20 minutes each day in my ESL class. I'm no hero--my administrators, thankfully, support me in this. (The state of Arizona, on the other hand, insists that every minute, literally, be direct instruction of discrete points of grammar or academic writing. The part of speech being taught should be immediately identifiable by a visitor, they tell us.) But how could I stop the reading? Nearly every student I have who finishes a Goosebumps book or a Disney movie book or a Donald Duck Adventures or even a Dr. Seuss book during silent reading informs me that it is the first book they ever finished, in English or Spanish.

    It is hard to determine what is an ethical compromise between the demands of the board of education and the demands of my conscience.

  2. "It is hard to determine what is an ethical compromise between the demands of the board of education and the demands of my conscience."
    Trust yourself.

    I think you actually know the answer, but you fear to trust yourself due to years of obeying and trusting authority.
    Read a little Emerson & learn to trust yourself.

    If you really think it through, and apply your own best ethics to it, you will find the answer yourself--Truer and better than "authorities".

    I had to learn this myself, after years of trusting the People Upstairs.

    In fact, YOU may be the only defense your students have against inhuman violations by those same obtuse and self-serving authorities.

    Personally, I'd trust YOU over "them".

  3. I guess I fail to see the administration's point of view on how SSR is not literacy instruction. In order to read, we must practice. It is great to have a teacher or literary instructor guide a student to the greater understandings of grammar, twisting plots and themes, but in the end, the student is the one responsible for whether or not he or she learns to read effectively. I believe there is a direct correlation between reading and academic success. I know people who dislike to read, and henceforth despise school. Because schools (especially in the secondary and college levels)become centered heavily upon being able to read and understand. Students need to learn to do this for themselves in order to continue their education and be next generation's leaders.