Today was Day One in the script of the new reading program we started this
year. Not to be confused with Monday (which, obviously, it wasn’t). Unless
school is cancelled due to bad weather, next Tuesday (Feb. 11) will Day One
again in our five day reading cycle. But our county is having an instruction
support day on February 18; students stay home that day, and when they come back
on Tuesday (Feb. 19) it will be Day Five. Day One will get bumped to
Such are the joys of a scripted curriculum. We used to have spelling tests on
Fridays. Now we have them on Day Five, whatever day of the week that happens to
be. It took some getting used to, but it works okay now that everyone (including
the parents) is used to it.
I’m a member of the International Reading
Association. They have a listserv that I subscribe to and, frankly, the
concept of a scripted curriculum has taken a beating there in the last year or
so. Among the complaints:
The authors of this or that curriculum can’t really know and understand my
kids (all of whom are unique, different from other kids in the world).
A scripted curriculum curtails academic freedom (a complaint usually
accompanied with a degree of emotion).
Educators in the classroom have more “real world” knowledge of what needs
to be taught and how it needs to be presented.
You get the idea…
We’ve used our new, scripted reading curriculum (I won’t mention the company)
since the start of this school year. Personally, I think it’s a step forward
from the past. It provides a degree of continuity in an environment where a
significant number of our kids are transient and move every few months to
another school in the county. It provides some level of assurance that we are
actually implementing recent research in our reading classrooms. For example, it
scripts in tasks for building background knowledge related to a story – an
essential (but sometimes overlooked) component of comprehension. It provides
shared tools for monitoring student progress. It provides a measure of quality
It also, to be candid, makes it easier for an administrator to decide whether
teachers are doing their jobs. If my boss comes in tomorrow and figures out that
we’re not on Day Two there may well be weeping and gnashing of teeth. At the
very least, some profound explanation is likely to be required. Heaven help me
if that becomes a regular occurrence. If I am at least on the right day, my boss
can now easily assess whether I am teaching the script. It is not a
word-for-word script; but it is pretty explicit as to what activities take place
today, what graphic organizers get used, how much time students are to have for
this or that activity, what assessments are to be employed, etc.
So to begin to evaluate my performance, my boss can ask a simple, immediate
question: “Is he following the script?” In the past my boss had to ask, “Is what
he’s doing working?” That was a far more difficult question to answer.
Today we started a five day “week” that emphasizes the skill of generalizing
and practices the comprehension strategy of prediction. Day One always includes
a pretest on this week’s spelling words. Day One always includes a read aloud
that develops listening skills. Our question for the week has to do with how
people adapt to their physical limitations. We introduced vocabulary for the
story. We used our SmartBoard to begin a concept web that we’ll return to
throughout the week to help reinforce background knowledge. And even though
we’re trying to impart reading skills during this time, most of this week’s
content is science oriented in our daily reading block.
I understand the complaints that people have about working with a scripted
curriculum. As we climb through the grades, I think those complaints are more
valid in high school than they are in kindergarten.
After six months with our particular reading curriculum, at the moment I’m a
fan of it. We’ll see how the year finishes out…
Greg Cruey, Guest Blogger