by Darren J. Butler
The other day I was speaking with a principal about our writing program, Weekly Writer. He was trying to wrap his head around the implementation of our five weekly components. “Should I put this in their reading classes or in their writing classes?” I thought about his dilemma, and I realized that this must be a common question across the country. My realization was that our mindset of teaching Language Arts is flawed.
Why are there two classes? Why do you separate these two parts of the literacy equation. It’s basic math like 2 + 2 = 4; reading + writing = literacy. To be more specific, it is the ability to read fluently and read to comprehend + writing that equals full literacy. We can split hairs, but isn’t that what literacy is?
When the United States ranks 22nd in world literacy, is it possible that our mindset toward language arts is the problem? Wouldn’t it make more sense to call them “Literacy Classes” or “Literacy Arts”?
So — if I were in charge, this is what I would do. I would have a meeting of the minds with my staff and say, “Our ground game isn’t working. We need to make some changes, and the first change we are going to make is in the mindset of our students. In every class and every subject in this school, we are going to focus on complete literacy. That’s right my friends, we are going to ensure that every student in this school can read, read to comprehend, and write.”
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? To accomplish this, we must also change the mindset of our teachers as well. Reading comprehension and writing are not just language arts subjects; they belong in every subject.
Weekly Writer gives teachers a powerful resource to build strong literacy in their school. Through the modeling videos, teachers learn a straight-forward approach to teaching writing and students learn the process through a virtual author in residence and his collaborative virtual instruction with the classroom teacher. The close reading strategy — RIP — has been proven to raise the grade equivalency and instructional reading levels on the STAR assessment. When three sections of fourth grade students can raise their grade equivalency by two years and eight months and their instructional reading level by two years and one month from August to January…great things are happening.