Today I visited the best public school in the district. A school so good that they brought in Singapore math. All but one of the teachers at the school had more than 10 years experience in teaching. All of them had classrooms that indicated they had some autonomy, despite the district's top-down insanity--the principal had hired professionals, treats them as professionals, and in return, they behave as professionals.
But they teach Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop. Today, visiting K and 1st grades, I spoke with some teachers. The K teacher explained that they'd been doing guided/leveled reading for a decade, and RW was just catching up to have curriculur content. He said he assessed kids with Fountas Pinnell twice a year, then broke up kids into 6 groups (for 22 kids). He worked with groups every *6* days, though later in the year, every 3 days.
The idea was that higher abled kids in reading could decode well past their comprehension, basically which I don't doubt. [My child] can decode anything, for example. But obviously can't comprehend everything. So the teacher spent that time trying to teach the upper ones (I didn't ask about the lower able readers) things like inference--what else could have happened, how events would have changed the ending, etc. He said with one kid who was reading at nth grade level he had the kid journal, and they swapped the journal every 2 days, trying to think more deeply about inferences in the comprehension.
My first thought was that in the hands of an excellent teacher, RW wouldn't be so bad. With enough nonfiction books teaching content, and enough interaction, this could be useful.
But my second thought was why do this now? Why not just wait until kids KNOW MORE STUFF to infer about? Why not wait until they are 8 or 9 and then ask about this stuff?
Third thought was that it reminded me of a comment in Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice (do you know that book? It's an annotated version of Alice in Wonderland, explaining the puzzles, puns, riddles, historical and mathematical references, etc.) Gardner wrote that he hoped his book would not be used to destroy children's interest in literature, as excerpts of it would be turned into such questions as "draw the chess board alice is walking on at the end of chapter 2. Is the white queen protected by the knight or not?" "Find five puns in the March Hare tea party about time." etc--wouldn't reading this way make reading miserable?
Then I looked at the WW stuff. and it was so dreary. They had taken a unit on Eric Carle and broken it down into the recognizable PATTERNS! "what's the pattern in the very hungry caterpillar?" "the days of the week" "what the pattern in Does a Kangaroo have a mother too?" "The pattern is the text "yes, an < animal > has a mother too, just like me and you."
Does this stuff just appeal to adults, and they have no idea how much kids hate it? Is it a boy thing to hate this stuff? [My son] would be excited he'd recognized the pattern, and then he'd be ready to move on, no discussion needed. It would take ten seconds, not 5 days. He'd rather be doing something.
I can imagine that RW and WW at least appear to make sense if a child is already a fluent reader. It must be impossible to become one, though, if you're doing this rather than learning to read.