The other day as I was being a total geek and adding some of my favorite books to Shelfari, I realized that pretty much every professional book I keep out for reference or would refer to as a "favorite" or "must have" is about literacy.
I guess this isn't too shocking considering my undergraduate degree is in Language Arts and my Master's degree will be in TESOL. It got me thinking about it a little bit though. I wrote my Master's project on implementing a reading workshop for ELL students. During the course of that research, I really became to realize how much I despise scripted curriculum for reading. I didn't like it before but I really didn't like it after I had concrete research that I could wave in the faces of the folks in the ELL office (oh, MW, how we lost so much when you left us, you were the only one there with a brain!) and go "HELLO, changes are needed people!"
When I finished The Cleanse of 2010 this weekend, I was not at all surprised to discover that I had so many teacher resource books (either purchased myself or gifted to me by friends/family and retiring colleagues) that focus on reading and writing. I filled an entire 18 gallon tote with just those books and still had a few that wouldn't fit in there that I had to put in another box. That might not seem like much but for someone who's only taught for 4 years, that's a lot of resources to have in one subject area.
My math, science and social studies resources fit into ONE tote. Together. With room left over. We all know that literacy has taken a front stage in recent years. Almost all of the professional development I've taken part in over the last three years had something to do with literacy. Getting kiddos reading and writing better has been a top priority and, at least in our district, this shift in priority has resulted in increased scores on the standardized test (although we won't talk about how we all spend 6 weeks JUST prepping for that darn test...grr).
I think what has struck me the most about this is that I have an utter aversion to scripted reading curriculum. Yet we use Everyday Math, which is about as scripted as you can get, and I don't mind that. Probably because I hated math as a child and this math makes sense to me, despite it being different. I'm able to provide understanding for my class because I understand the concept behind this math. One of the biggest complaints we discussed this year and last at my school was a lack of a formal curriculum in social studies. We didn't have textbooks or anything. We were handed a list of standards and basically told to give it a go.
Um, thanks? We wanted someone to hand us the lessons or at least a book and say "teach these specific things."
Science wasn't as big of an issue because we use FOSS kits which provide hands-on materials for the students, they are just time consuming. This year, one of the many "extra" jobs I had, was to be the science leader for our building. I went to a meeting once a month with the head of the science department in the district and the other K-5 building leaders. We toned down the curriculum so it fit the standards a bit better and wasn't as overwhelming. Basically we took the kits and provided a list for teachers and said "in order to meet XYZ standard, you have to teach these parts of this kit". If you taught a full kit, it would easily take you 3-5 months depending on how much time you had for science each week (read: not nearly enough). So we made it easier and provided somewhat of a roadmap to getting back to the basics with science instruction. I didn't mind that either, despite the fact that it is basically a scripted curriculum.
Why is it that it seems so horrible to teach from a script in terms of literacy but isn't as frowned upon in the other content areas? Students still require differentiation in math, science and social studies. Every year I have had kiddos who were completely clueless in math so I had to provide a lot more scaffolding for them while other kiddos went on to other things. Children have different needs in every subject area. Our focus tends to be on literacy though and while I will be the first to admit I am a Language Arts nerd, I do realize that I need to start shifting my focus to make sure I am providing more in the other content areas to help my students be as successful as possible.
I doubt I will ever have the number of resources in the other content areas that I have in literacy but it's definitely food for thought.