The workshop model and minilessons that not well suited to rich, complex literature.
usually accompany strategy instruction are
only read works of increasing complexity, but they should also return to
works now and then to see how much
more they can find in them. Readability
levels should be taken with a grain of
salt. When planning a curriculum, educators should consider many factors: the
richness of the works, their meanings,
their importance, their difficulty, and
their relation to other parts of the curriculum and other assigned texts.
Students should also read historical
and scientific works (in history and
science classes). They should study
spelling, etymology, and grammar.
Teachers could teach straightforward
strategies briefly, as Daniel Willingham
(2006–07) has recommended, and
teach complex strategies in the context
of literary works themselves.
Concerns and questions will arise:
What if a certain work isn’t right for all
students? What if it doesn’t speak to
their experience or background? What if
students are at widely different reading
levels? Why should there be an established curriculum at all—why can’t the
teacher choose the works? Certainly,
these questions have to be addressed
carefully, but too often these kinds of
concerns have led to a noncurriculum.
There are better ways to handle the
One of the great things about
enduring literature is that it can be read
at many levels, and all students should
learn to persist with things they don’t
immediately understand. Students may
not like or comprehend certain books at
first, but they may seek them out later,
recalling phrases and ideas that slowly
sank in. A work may seem irrelevant to
a student, yet trigger a new interest or
understanding. As educators, we must
be mindful of our students, but take
them beyond where they happen to be.
We must dare to teach works that we
consider valuable—works that stay
when other things come and go. EL
Crain, S. K. (1988). Metacognition and the
teaching of reading, Journal of Reading,
31( 7), 682–685.
Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies
that work: Teaching comprehension for
understanding and engagement (2nd ed.).
Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Hirsch, E. D., Jr. (2006). The knowledge
deficit. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Hirsch, E. D., Jr. (2010–11). Beyond comprehension: We have yet to adopt a
common core curriculum that builds
knowledge grade by grade—but we need
to. American Educator,
34( 4) 30–36.
Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2006). How we reason.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Stotsky, S., Traffas, J., & Woodworth, J.
(2010). Literary study in grades 9, 10,
and 11: A national survey, Forum: A
Publication of the ALSCW, 4. Retrieved
Willingham, D. T. (2006–07). The use-
fulness of brief instruction in reading
comprehension strategies. American Edu-
30( 4) 39–50.
Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students
like school? San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Visit us at the ASCD Annual
Conference and Exhibit!
Diana Senechal, a former New York
City public school teacher, writes
for many education publications;
email@example.com. Her book,
Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude
in Schools and Culture, will be published
by Rowman and Littlefield Education in