kitchen table math, the sequel: scenes from the front: the "literacy" degree

Sunday, February 22, 2009

scenes from the front: the "literacy" degree

from Anonymous:
The University of Northern Iowa offers a "literacy/reading minor" with endorsements for teaching K-8 as part of its Elementary Education degree.

Most public schools won't even consider a job candidate unless they have a literacy minor.

What's infuriating is that the literacy minor is worthless. It is nothing but taking a few extra "advanced" children's lit courses which amount to learning how to "read multiculturally". This is a euphamism for finding threadbare explanations for how rascism or classism can be found in (insert popular children's literature).

In the classes where we are supposed to learn how to "teach" reading, we're fed a program that consists of whole-language learning disguised in the rhetoric of "balanced-literacy". The funny thing is that none of the professors ever use the phrase "balanced-literacy".

Phonics isn't present anywhere in these teacher-ed programs other than extremely brief lip service paid to it in "Methods of Early Literacy" classes. There is no information on how to effectively implement a phonics program for struggling readers (much less all students).

As a 30 year old 2nd BA student who has returned to college to obtain a teaching degree/licensure I am disappointed by the lack of any real education that I'm receiving in my teacher-ed program. It's too much theory and pedagogy and not enough "here's what to teach and the best to teach it".

It has gotten to the point that I am simply going through the motions to get through the classes required for my degree and licensure. I don't expect to learn anything at all in my ed classes and instead spend time outside of class educating myself on how to be a teacher (by pouring through various phonics programs and other instructional methods).

It is sad that what used to be called "Iowa State Teachers College" is no longer turning out anything resembling a teacher.

from K9Sasha:
It has gotten to the point that I am simply going through the motions to get through the classes required for my degree and licensure. I don't expect to learn anything at all in my ed classes and instead spend time outside of class education myself on how to be a teacher (by pouring through various phonics programs and other instructional methods).

It's been the same for me. Even when I got my elementary teaching credential, some 20 years ago, the classes were "mickey mouse." When I recently got my reading endorsement, I was disgusted at having to pay to "learn" useless information. I refuse to drink the cool aid. Like you, I spent, and spend, a lot of time on my own learning how to teach effectively, especially how to teach reading to struggling students.

The NCTQ report on ed schools and the science of reading is here. (pdf file)


Catherine Johnson said...

If either of you has time to tell us what books you're using to educate yourselves, that would be great.

I think palisadesk can give us a list, too.

I know she likes Mary Damer's book very much. I have it, but have yet to read.

My world was transformed by Diane McGuinness' Early Reading Instruction. Incredible.

I'll read her book on language acquisition next (and will post my own list of phonics texts, which I've started to collect).

Jean said...

Well, that's depressing. I'm a librarian myself, and enjoyed my children's/YA lit courses very much, but they were worthwhile.

I live in California, near a college that produces a lot of teachers. The number of meaningless hoops there are to jump through is mind-boggling, and keeps growing. I'm really hoping that I never find myself in a position where I have to get a teaching credential, because I'm pretty sure it would be a few years of pointless torment.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm pretty sure it would be a few years of pointless torment.

Gauging by my emails from people currently attending ed school, I think you can count on it!

The whole thing is a scandal. Young people are spending a small fortune on degrees that indoctrinate them in a belief system and approach to teaching that will hurt kids.

Meanwhile, a person who wants training in science-based reading instruction must spend a second fortune picking it up from the DI folks, the precision teaching folks, and/or the Orton Gillingham people. (btw, I do realize that DI & Orton-Gillingham aren't the same thing--!)

K9Sasha said...


You asked about books I've used to educate myself. That's a harder question than it sounds. I've read a large variety of books, but I've also read articles, read websites, followed links, etc. I think what happens overall is that I pick up a little knowledge here, and a little knowledge there, without even quite realizing I've done it.

The places I've probably learned the most are:
* the training for using Wilson materials (Orton-Gillingham based)
* Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
* books by Diane McGuinness
* The ABC's and All Their Tricks by Margaret Bishop
* anything written by Louisa Moats
* the Phonics Pathways website and newsletter
* and especially anything written by or suggested by Palisadesk. I'm in awe of her knowledge base.

palisadesk said...

I think palisadesk can give us a list, too.

Mary Damer's book is a recent addition to my favorites. I use it mostly as a reference, and loan it to colleagues because it has a lot of useful examples, sections on vocabulary, teaching language skills, etc. Lots of practical lesson exemplars, and a DVD showing how to teach beginning readers to blend sounds, segment words into constituent phonemes, etc. (Most teachers learned nothing about this in their training so many don't know how to do it -- the DVD is a great addition because a demo is more effective than a verbal description)

Some of my favorites from earlier on:

Specifically on the topic of reading and language skills:

Marilyn J. Adams, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print

Nathlie Badian, ed. Prediction and Prevention of Reading Failure

Andrew Biemiller, Language and Reading Success

Margaret Bishop, The ABC's and All Their Tricks (great reference book)

Douglas Carnine, Jerry Silbert, Edward J. Kameenui, et alia, Teaching Strugglng and At-Risk Readers

Jeanne Chall, The Academic Achievement Challenge
--- The Reading Crisis
--- Learning to Read: The Great Debate
--- Stages of Reading Development

CORE Reading Research Anthology: The Why? of Reading Instruction (Arena Press, 2001)

Siegfried Engelmann, Teaching Disadvantaged Children in the Preschool
-- Preventing Failure in the Primary Grades
---Your Child Can Succeed

Rudolf Flesch, Why Johnny Can't Read and Why Johnny STILL Can't Read

Barbara Foorman (ed) Preventing and Remediating Reading Difficulties:Bringing Science to Scale

Irene Gaskins, Success With Struggling Readers: The Bnchmark School Approach

Susan Hall and Louisa Moats, Straight Talk About Reading
----- Parenting A Struggling Reader

(both are good books to loan to parents with valuable charts and tables and indicators of what to look for in an effective classroom, good books for kids at various stages, etc.)

Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, Strategies That Work (for older readers Gr 4 and up)

Peggy McCardle and Vinita Chhabra, The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research

Elaine McEwan, Teach Them ALL to Read: Catching the Children Who Fall Throught the Cracks

Diane McGuinness, Why Our Children Can't Read

Bonnie McMillan, Why Schoolchildren Can't Read

Daniel J. Moran & Richard Malott (eds) Evidence-Based Educational Methods

Michael Pressley, Reading Instruction That Works

Louise Spear-Swerling and Robert Sternberg, Off Track: When Poor Readers Become "Learning Disabled"
-- Perspectives on Learning Disabilities

Deborah Simmons & Edward Kameenui (eds) What Reading Research Tells Us ABout Children with Diverse Learning Needs

Keith Stanovich, Progress in Understanding Reading

Sharon Vaughan and Silvia Linan-Thompson, Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction, Grades K-3
(great resource for teachers just beginning to get a grip on effective reading instruction. Nice layout, lots of user-friendly activities and resources)

Sharon Walpole and Michael C. McKenna, The Literacy Coach's Handbook: A Guide to Research-Based Practice (focus is on effective teaching in K-3)

Arthur Whimbey, Mastering Reading Through Reasoning
--- Analytical Reading and Reasoning
--- Problem Solving and Comprehension

( techniques for good readers at middle school level and up)

Maryann Wolf (ed) Dyslexia, Fluency and the Brain

Maryann Wolf, Proust and the Squid

Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading

On effective instruction :

Wesley Becker and Siegfried Engelmann, Teaching: Evaluation of Instruction

Wesley Becker, Applied Psychology for Teachers

Grant Coulson, Ph.D. Power Teaching

Siegfried Engelmann, Teaching Needy Kids In Our Backward System

Siegfried Engelmann and Douglas Carnine, Theory of Instruction: Principles and Applications (warning: very difficult reading. Well written, but cognitively dense)

Norris Haring and Barbara Bateman, Teaching the Learning-Disabled Child
(significantly, the effective strategies outlined here work even better with average or gifted students -- good teaching is good teaching)

Kent Johnson and Elizabeth Street, The Morningside Model of Generative Instruction

Fred Jones, Positive Classroom Instruction

Michael Maloney, Teach Your Children Well

Stan Paine et alia, Structuring Your Classroom for Academic Success

Michael Pressley et alia, Motivating Primary Grade Students

Jerome Rossner, Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties

Beth Sulzer_Azaroff & G. Roy Mayer, Achieving Educational Excellence (1 & 2)

Owen R. White & Norris G. Haring, Exceptional Teaching


Roger Bass, Amy's Game: The Concealed Structure of Education

Robert C. Dixon, The Surefire Way to Better Spelling (for adults, from the author of Spelling Mastery. Some cool tips and many interesting insights into the language)

Kieran Egan, Getting It Wrong From the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey and Jean Piaget

-- The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding

Arthur K. Ellis and Jeffrey Fouts, Research on Educational Innovations
(some trenchant analyses of Outcomes-Based Education, learning styles, "Whole Language," self-esteem programs, interdisciplinary learning, "brain based" education and so forth. On the other hand, co-operative learning, mastery learning, Direct Instruction and teaching for intelligence show consistent and positive empirical outcomes).

John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

James F.Kavanagh The Language Continuum: From Infancy to Literacy

Philip Lieberman, Human Language and our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax and Thought

John Mighton, The End of Ignorance: Multiplying Our Human Potential

Ernst Moerk, First Language Taught and Learned
--- The Guided Acquisition of First Language Skills

Cathy L. Watkins, Project Follow Through: A Case Study of Contingencies Influencing Instructional Practices of the Educational Establishment (brilliant analysis, and a must-read for anyone with serious interest in changing the "system")

Arthur Whimbey, Intelligence Can Be Taught
-- Why Johnny Can't Write

I'm sure I'm forgetting some important ones, but that's a start.

K9Sasha said...


That's quite a list. I have a lot of reading to do. Thank you for taking the time and effort to post all that. I'm going to print it out and continue to work on learning more about English and reading, and how to teach them.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Palisadesk. Thank you.
I would simply add the newsletters and message board of the Reading Reform Foundation of the UK.

Xiude said...

I realize this is an old post, but I can't help but say: if only I had stumbled upon this website--or this post-- before I started my teacher ed program!

At least the extensive list of resources has come in handy.