For the readings this week, I was most interested in the Kucer and Rhodes article. I think what makes this article so compelling to me is the fact that this idea of parallel reading and writing should not be new and innovative news! I think that it should be common sense. We spend so much time on reading and writing in the classroom that it only makes sense for it to be detrimental to student understanding that we teach them as opposing sides. I am reminded of an individual sixth grader that I dealt with during practicum, as well as a student that I went to high school with in regards to Kucer and Rhodes’s article.
My sixth grader, “Shana,” was identified to me as reading and writing at a first grade level. In my prior observations and classroom work, I had never worked with a student so far behind. As I spent time with her over the next few weeks, I realized that she, like Jack, held the “belief that words are the basis of both reading and writing” (Kucer &Rhodes, 1986, p. 189). I find it so interesting that even as a sixth grader, she felt threatened with reading and writing words. With a learning disability, as well as speech-language issues, why on earth would everyone only be focusing on words with her? I would never choose to do that with a first grader, which is arguably where “Shana’s” spelling and word recognition stood. This student, that my classroom teachers presumed was unable to learn with the rest of the class, was given insanely modified writing assignments, along with first grade level books, while everyone else picked their books and wrote essays. Obviously, “Shana’s” drive to succeed was drastically limited, as no one around her felt she could succeed because she didn’t know the words. Reading both of the strategies that Kucer and Rhodes outline in their article makes me wonder where “Shana” would be if she were given tasks like these, along with everyone else in the class. In Kucer and Rhodes’s interviews, Alice is identified as a better reader because she “indicate[s] a clear understanding…that reading and writing both involve the construction of meaning” (Kucer & Rhodes, 1986, p. 189). How did Alice get to this point? Why should “Shana” be punished due to her disabilities and denied the possibility of reading or writing the way Alice does? This knowledge on “chunks of meaning” is what “Shana” needed to be introduced to (Kucer & Rhodes, 1986, p. 189). She had no desire to read or write during designated workshop time because that mean spelling and sounding out words, everything that she struggled with. Had the class used the “Card Strategy” or “Puzzle Strategy,” I can imagine that “Shana” would be more interested in working. She would be doing the same work as everyone else, and no one would tell her that she needs to spell or read words perfectly.
It was so interesting reading this article, as I was able to recall a student that I graduated with from high school. I remember sitting in English class with him in ninth grade, and dying every time he was called on to read aloud. He lacked fluency, and had a hard time understanding anything he was reading. He sounded out every word individually. Peer reviewing essays with him was equally a nightmare (from my freshman self’s perspective), because he spelled everything incorrectly and his sentences were not connected in any way. Reading the Kucer and Rhodes article made me feel that Jack was this student I graduated with. I cannot help but wonder what “Mark’s” experience with language would have been like, had he understood the process of constructing meaning through the text.
Essentially, I see a great deal of good in what Kucer and Rhodes say in this article. I see the benefits of engaging all students in the process of reading or writing by chunking knowledge. Each of the aforementioned students struggled with reading and writing, and I think that my focus as a teacher should ultimately be on how to pull the content out of students’ heads. Just because a student has difficulties reading words as a whole, or spelling words, does not mean that the student should be pulled from understanding meaning in a text. Providing students with new sets of understanding may help to increase their word recognition. I do not see any benefit in chalking up any students to failure, especially when all strategies have not been attempted on the students.