Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: Week 1 Better Late Than Never

"Considering and constructing an understanding of a text's meaning should be the purpose of reading, rather than practicing strategies or skills or meeting a particular standard."   
                                        -Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

#cyberPD:  Week One Reflection
Well, I'm a little late to the party.  I've been out traveling America's beautiful northeastern states and got a bit distracted.  In this time, I did manage to read the first four chapters of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  I'm excited to finally be joining the conversation.

Building Our Toolbox
Having spent many years beside readers, I find myself continually puzzling over the many opinions about reading instruction.  Listening to a variety of perspectives, and being willing to weigh them, helps to provide new insights.  So many people find themselves a vocal proponent in one camp or another.  In my opinion, this is always the problem.  Reading isn't all one thing or another, instead, it is a difficult process that some master in what appears an effortless progression while others find themselves pushing against obstacle after obstacle.  To complicate these challenges, everyone is different.  If there was "an answer" to teaching reading, it would have been discovered long ago, but every reader brings different experience, different strengths, and different needs to this learning process.  Teaching reading is always ultimately about knowing our readers.

As reading teachers, placing ourselves in one camp or another can be a detriment to our readers.  Instead, we work to grow in our knowledge and expand our toolbox to better meet the needs of the readers we sit beside each day.  Reading to determine the meaning of a text requires an integration of skills, strategies, knowledge, and thinking.  "Reading is also highly complex because it involves a slew of cognitive, linguistic, and sociocultural processes that all must somehow work together, often simultaneously (p. 3)," Vicki reminds.  As educators, our beliefs can shape the way we support our readers.  It seems that our goal has to be bigger than being college and career ready, becoming literate matters to our very existence.

Thoughts To Grow
Reading Vinton's book gave me much to ponder.  In this first section Vinton shares her thinking for a problem-based approach to reading.  To me this means entering a text with a sense of inquiry, a willingness to puzzle through and question the meaning.  To me, this means keeping reading focused on the whole of meaning instead of isolated skills.  To do this, Vinton reminds that our focus has to stay on our readers.  We have to know our readers, allow them the space to grow, and provide opportunities that will help in next steps.

Considerations, Concerns, Cautions 
In the first section Vinton cautions about:
1.  The "Skillification" of Reading (p. 5):  the focus on isolated skills and pieces of reading instead of the complex thinking required to determine the author's message.
2.  Over-Scaffolding (p. 10):  Vinton's concern that we may over-scaffold for our readers, instead of giving them the opportunity to productively struggle with the text to puzzle out the its meaning.  (I'm wondering if we over-scaffold for texts instead of supporting readers next steps.)
3.  Reading Isn't Extraction (p. 17):  Reading really isn't just about finding answers to text-dependent questions or staying within the four corners of the texts.  Reading isn't simply extracting meaning from the text, but is instead a transaction between the reader and the text.  This implies that what the reader brings to the text does truly impact meaning.

For the Toolbox
1.  Teach with the Whole in Mind:  "Thinking involves putting the pieces together, rather than taking them apart, [which] allows you to see connections, relationships, and patternss of interactions (p. 4)."
2.  Use a Problem-Based Approach:  "Let the text set the agenda by putting you in a problem-solving stance where you read not to practice a strategy or skill or to answer a text-dependent question, but to wrestle with the 'real problems' these texts pose (p. 11)."
3.  Shift from Complex Texts to Complex Thinking:  "I propose that rather than using problematic Lexiles and vague rubrics that contain circular reasoning, we assess a text's complexity by how much a reader has sto figure out that the writer conveyed indirectly (p. 22)."
4. Utilize the Components of Balanced Literacy (The Literacy Framework):  "For planning instruction focused on readers, you'll want to use variations of the components of balanced literacy:  read-aloud, shared reading, small-group work, and independent reading, plus word study (p. 23)."
5.  Bring Creative and Critical Thinking Together:  "With a problem-based approach to reading, however, we can create situations that position and invite students to think both creatively and critically in ways that will prepare them to deal with the problems in our complex world (p. 36)."

It seems to me, that what Vicki is talking about is putting readers first in our teaching.  Instead of teaching a standard because it is time, a book because we've always taught it, or a strategy because of some preset order, that instead we keep our focus on the reader and provide opportunities for real thinking around real texts.


  1. "Putting readers first" - that's key! Curriculum, state assessments, standards, etc...can all takeover and cause us to forget the purpose of what we're doing. One of the biggest benefits of the problem-based approach is that it involves teaching based on students' strengths.

  2. Ahh...your "Building Our Toolbox" section is an important reminder to me to BREATHE. I'm making it all too hard/overthinking things (as usual...).

  3. Yes, students first and problem- based. I love your point that if there was any one answer to teaching reading we would know it by now. We are all developing our tools. Your reflections always make me go back and think again. Sorry we did not meet up this summer, hope you loved my part of the US:) Off tonight.

  4. YES: "Teaching reading is always ultimately about knowing our readers."

    And I'm with you, there is no one way to teach readers. We need to collectively add tools to our toolbox and work together to determine the tools we need to guide all readers after we get to know them.

    Vicki is reminding us to keep readers first and let them to all the hard thinking too!