Focus Group

Chapter 4- ELA made SIMPLE

If you're born poor, you'd better start reading - Joe Queenan

Here is a simple fact: Wide, abundant reading is the surest route out of poverty and the limitations that impose themselves on the less literate. - Mike Schmoker


Let's face it: reading is the most important subject in school. It's more important that all the other subjects. -Rafe Esquith


"We are what we read," and inversely, "we are what we don't read"

Readicide- when pseudo-standards kill authentic literacy

Would a regular reader, one who has been taught to purposefully annotate, discuss, and write about plays and poems and nonfiction works from the 2nd grade on- need to be taught to add "-ed" or "-ing" endings to words or the difference between a play and a poem?


Standards rob us of what should be our true priorities: large amounts of meaningful reading, discussion, and writing.

The impact would be colossal if, every year, students:

  • Read, discussed and wrote about 15-20 fiction and nonfiction books (some self selected)
  • Read and discussed and wrote about 30-40 interesting poems, newspaper, or magazine/online articles
  • Wrote many short, informal pieces and one longer, formal, argumentative or interpretive paper each month.

Virtually and student can learn the mechanics of reading to decode grade-level text in about 100 days.

The highest performing teachers don't wast time, they don't do arts and crafts, and are always on task.

Students are not distracted by the skill worksheets and coloring that are so common in classrooms encumbered by the basal programs and the typically excessive reliance on the small group/guided reading model.


For every assignment that starts with reading we should:

  • teach vocab
  • establish purpose for reading (background knowledge)
  • teach and model how to annotate/underline/take notes
  • discuss the work using a rubric
  • write about the work
  • use students and professional exemplars as teaching tools

We over emphasis the process of "learning to read," instead of emphasizing "reading to learn".

Finland achieves the highest scores in the world because they do not administer multiple choice exams at all.