Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Read, Write, Teach with Guest Host Linda Rief

By Amy Brennan

On July 6, 2017 #G2Great welcomed Linda Rief as a guest host to share her ideas around reading, writing and teaching. Linda’s book, Read, Write Teach explores reading and writing workshop sharing her thoughts about the choices and challenges that are inherent to a strong reading and writing workshop.

Everyone has a story to tell. Linda reminds us that while data and test results show how students may have performed during a test, it neglects to show us how a reader or writer performs in the actual experience of reading and writing in their life, built on their experiences in an authentic context. It is this lens that shows us the deeper understanding of a reader or writer’s process and allows us to see what a student is doing and enables us to identify where to go next.

Aside from choosing a multiple choice answer from the selections of a,b,c or d students have no choice in what they are reading on most standardized tests. In all truthfulness, that choice they make does not resemble any sort of real choice, in that they are choosing the best answer hopefully in line with what the test creator believed was the best answer.

Choice is critical to readers and writers because it allows the reader or writer to fully embrace the process and ensures the belief that all learners have the right to learn and the capacity to learn. Learners have the best opportunity to learn when they are motivated to learn and being provided with choice supports a reader or writer in learning who they are as a learner and what really is important to them.

We can begin the growth process when we allow our minds to be open and reflective. We must challenge earlier beliefs about mastering teaching and understand that no number of years as a teacher fulfills the title “Master Teacher” rather it is a reflection and revision process that develops the “Master Teacher” or what I prefer to call a “Reflective Teacher.” When we believe we are done learning and have mastered something, that is when growth stops, stagnation sets in and our best teaching lingers where it is, no longer pushing ourselves or our students as far as we can be as learners. A truly “Master Teacher” or rather “Reflective Teacher” knows that teaching is a practice, much like law, medicine or even yoga. Practice is what allows growth and by engaging in practice we are open to reflection and revision and therefore we can continually push ourselves and our students to be engaged in reading and writing every day, thereby growing every day.

 We continually grow by experiencing new things and being open to trying things we have not tried before.  During our teaching practices, we can then experience multiple iterations and improve each time. I have often heard, “I taught that already and they still don’t know it” or “That was covered last year by the teacher before” or “They should have been taught this last year.”  This problem gets compounded year after year until we start reflecting on our own practices, collectively as educators. It is not enough for only some of us to engage in this reflection and growth. All educators need to embrace the practice of teaching and reflect on each time we teach and consider what the student is learning. By focusing on the learning we can look through a lens for reflection by allowing us to go back over the teaching practices and connect what teaching happened and then what learning resulted. In order to continually grow, this practice needs to go through multiple trials, reflections and revisions. Additionally, because no two people are alike and no two brains are alike; this continually happens in order to foster growth in our teaching and in our leanring. As educators engage in this practice of learning, we need to also ensure that we are transparent to our students about our own learning and growth. This can provide a model for learning for our students, ensuring that their story contains opportunities for multiple iterations during practice along with reflection to foster growth.

Links for Linda Rief

Read Write Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading–Writing Workshop by Linda Rief (Heinemann)

The Heinemann Podcast: Linda Rief and Read Write Teach

Writer’s-Reader’s Notebook (5 Pack)

Linda Rief: Keeping a Notebook Makes Me Pay Attention (on Poem Farm)