Zealotry in the Guide of Reading Science
I could live with a science of reading if the SoR zealots applied the scientific principles they claim to worship and adore to all of reading reality. That is, if the scientific principles that they insist be used to determine what is effective reading instruction were also used to establish cause and effect, I could live with the zealotry. But, they abandon their cherished scientific ideals when identifying problems and evaluating solutions to problems. Look at the reading laws passed by 32 state legislatures. Look at the testimony by “experts”. You will see the word “science” used a lot, but science if much different from ‘I-think-isms’, anecdotal evidence, and personal experiences.
The Dance and the Joy of Reading Instruction
Dance has much to teach us about five areas of reading instruction: 1. Motivation. 2. Practice. 3. Dance dyslexia 4. Whole dancing. 5. Context. Whenever a new SoR reading law is passed, the SoR zealots gather a bunch of children together for a picture, and they’re told to smile. And you get pictures of happy smiling children with happy parents all smiling and being happy. Wonderful. It’s a joy façade. Behind the façade is an unwritten narrative. These children were once unhappy and oppressed because of reading instruction. But then a reading law was passed. Now look at them. Glory hallelujah, they’ve got SoR in their heart. They’ve been saved by orthographic mapping. Their lives are better because of decodable texts. Now just look at how happy they are. How can you possibly argue with happiness? And why would you balanced-literacy devils make these happy children unhappy with your hell-based 3 cueing systems?
Science of Reading: Where's the Joy?
There is only one emotion that is good for learning: happiness and all its derivations. Joy is a derivation of happiness. Joy is pleasurable. Humans are rewarded by their emotions for doing things that bring them joy. They tend to repeat these behaviors. Fear keeps us from doing certain things. Fear of failure. Fear of humiliation. Also, things that make us sad or unhappy keep us from doing certain things. Being forced to sit in a chair and perform like a trained seal creates sadness, boredom, and frustration. The SoR zealots fail to realize that we’re teaching children who just happen to be developing human beings, who happen also to be emotional and social beings existing in a sociocultural context. We read and emote with the same brain. It’s silly to think that one would not impact the other. Positive emotions enhance learning, and negative emotions impede learning. Take that to the bank, baby. We’ve got plenty of research to support this. So, we can say with some confidence that creating a positive emotional environment in which there is social interaction, safety, and joy is a research-based strategy.
Reading, Relgion, and Time
There are five kinds of time in a reading class. Allocated time. There is the amount of time allocated for instruction. Off-task time (OTT). There is OTT when students are doing things unrelated to the lesson or learning objective. TOT. There is also time on task (TOT), where students are actively engaged in learning activities. AET. There is Academic Engagement Time (AET). This is the time when students are cognitively and behaviorally on-task or engaged in learning activities that are within their zone of proximal development. Flow state time. Here the student is completely absorbed, focused on a single task or activity. They are directing all their attention toward something that they are motivated to do or be engaged with. Academic engagement time is good, but flow state time is the best for learning. Magic teachers, if they are empowered to make the choices that are best for their students know how to align reading instruction with students’ interests to create flow state time. But this does not occur in a structured literacy class. A teacher's #1 job is to help children fall in love with books. After that, much of reading instruction takes care of itself.
LETRS, Orthographic Mapping, and Ignorance Mapping
In becoming responsible consumers of educational research, we must ask four questions when claims are made that research has “proven these expensive, code-oriented, one-size-fits-all reading programs to be effective. 1. Are the results of these code-oriented reading programs persistent? That is, do they last after the code-oriented instruction has been discontinued? 2. Do the skills learned in these code-oriented reading programs transfer to real-life situations? 3. Do these code-oriented programs enhance students’ ability to create meaning with print? There’s a difference between scores on a DIBELS test and creating meaning with print. 4. Are these expensive, mind-numbering code-oriented reading programs more effective than balanced literacy instruction which includes reading and talking about good books, and writing a sharing students' authentic writing or stories?