A Webinar with Brian Cambourne and Debra Crouch

Saturday, September 26, 2020, from 4:00 – 5:30 EST, we have a chance to visit with Brian Cambourne and co-author Debra Crouch about their new book, Made for Learning: How the Conditions of Learning Guide Teaching Decisions. The webinar is free and open to all. By registering and attending you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of the book or a year’s membership in Literacies and Languages for All. Here’s the url for registration: https://ncte.org/made-for-meaning-cambourne/

Still Relevant – After All These Years

This last week, the Arizona Daily Star announced that the legislature was actually considering doing away with the 4-hour English Language Development blocks imposed on ELL students many years ago because the students aren’t doing  well in the program. They apparently are now more open to dual language programs and recognize that students need access to English speakers and core curriculum if they are to learn anything at all, including English. In light of the current visibility of teacher movements across the country, seeking to earn professional salaries, adequate funding for our schools, and claim our professionalism, I thought a visit to an old journal was timely.

This all brought back moments almost 18 years ago when I stood before an audience challenging the initiative that would eliminate the bilingual programs that our own state’s data showed were so successful. In speaking before the dedicated and enthusiastic supporters of bilingual programs, I gave the following remarks which are still aptly appropriate, after all these years.


October 1, 2000

My twenty five years of teaching has been 25 years of learning, some from research, books, and colleagues, but mostly from my students. The things I’ve learned encourage me to speak out in support of and out of respect for children, parents, and teachers. Here’s my own Letterman-style top Ten List – somewhat irreverent, but at the same time, deadly serious.

The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Teaching

10. Throwing money at schools does make a difference, but all to often it’s been my own.

9. Parents know their children best. We should listen to them, hear what they have to say, and ensure them a place and a voice in their children’s education.

8. A good teacher knows she can’t force children to learn anything, but can, at best, help them construct literacy and knowledge for themselves.

7. Children succeed when we allow them to use all their intellectual and linguistic abilities as resources for learning.

6. A hug a day keeps failure away.

5. Children can be trusted as learners. We don’t need tests to hold them accountable.

4. The only guaranteed outcomes we can expect from the use of textbooks and commercial programs are profits for the publishers.

3. There are no magic bullets to “fix” education. Out best bet is teacher knowledge and caring.

2. Government officials and politicians can standardize the curriculum, standardize the tests, threaten to standardize the teachers, but they’ll never be able to standardize the learners.

1. Teachers know more about what to teach and how to teach it than corporations or politicians.

As an individual teacher, I might touch the life of a single child, but by myself, I cannot transform all the years of education for that child or others. We must become politically active – make our voices heard – together with parents in school board assemblies, in the halls of government, and at the ballot box. We can’t be intimidated by those who profess to know what’s good for us and our children. We need only look in our own hearts and in the children’s faces to find the strength and courage to act and perservere.

The Problem with Lexiles and Levels

Those of you working with vulnerable readers, have you noticed how they often don’t really want to read the materials offered at their “level?”  The lack of choice offered to these students has much to do with their lack of enthusiasm for reading. Would you like to walk into a bookstore and find out you could only choose your reading material from a certain shelf? Of course not! So why do we do this to children?  Here’s an excerpt from a recent post on the NCTE website related to reading levels and exiles:

Levelized reading programs have been around since dirt but considering what we know today about reading—how we read, why we read, how we can keep on reading throughout our lives—surely we know better than to even suggest that our students restrict their reading only to books recommended at certain levels or lexile scores.

But it seems we may not. Many “acceptable” reading curricula resemble an orderly progression of texts organized by steps and numbers when neither make sense.

Peter Greene writes about how nonsensical this can be:

“There’s a lot to argue about when it comes to reading levels. These are generally based on mechanics, in keeping with the whole philosophy of reading and writing as a set of context-free “skills”– it assumes that how well you read something has nothing at all to do with the content of what you’re reading. Lexile scores, the type of analysis favored by the Core fans, works basically from vocabulary and sentence length. That has the advantage of being analysis that a machine can do. It has the disadvantage of providing ridiculous results. Ernest Hemmingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises is at about the same lexile score as the classic Curious George Gets a Medal— third grade-ish. Meanwhile, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V may have PG-13 language and situations, but it also has a fourth grade-ish lexile score. And none of those works rank as high as Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

“So there’s a great deal to dislike about the whole business of assessing reading levels…”

Read the entire post at http://www2.ncte.org/blog/2017/07/whats-lexile-score/


There’s More on the Website

Work has continued on the new Tucson TAWL website, including the ability to join or renew your membership on-line or through a mail-in form. You’ll also find information about the upcoming 2018 Whole Language Umbrella Literacies for All Summer Institute, to be held July 12 – 14, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. The call for proposals is open and a link is provided to the online submissions on the Whole Language Umbrella page of our site. Watch for more changes to the website in coming days and weeks, including email contacts for TAWL board members. I’m learning more about how to construct and manage the site each time I sit down to work on it. Please be patient!    –Caryl Crowell

Our New Website

Welcome to our new website! Since I work on a Mac, and Apple hasn’t updated iWeb since 2011, it no longer works with the more contemporary servers. So I had to learn how to create a new website from scratch using WordPress. The site may still undergo some changes while I become accustomed to an application that is not quite as intuitive as iWeb was. Please be patient with us. We’ll also be posting about any upcoming events on our Facebook page. Please Like us when you visit the page. https://www.facebook.com/TucsonTAWL/