Academic Language: Good Idea.

I've gone off on Lucy Calkins, and for good reasons, not the least of which was the use of euphemisms instead of real academic language. I was taught (a shout out to my Teacher Education Program, whatever the hell it was) to use academic language with kids. I use it for a simple reason: If I must teach them a term for something, why not the accepted term? It has always seemed to me that we users of language ought to say what we mean, and use the most precise language we can to get our meaning across. We (I) may not always be successful, but we ought to shoot for precision and simplicity. Agreed? Good.

So, today the 2nd grade had a literacy meeting.

We were introduced to a new, comprehensive, state of the art (copyright 2002) spelling curriculum. The main goal was to use.....wait for it......here.......it........comes.........academic language! Yes, be explicit and use correct terminology, and you should start with the short vowels, moving towards the harder stuff like silent "e"s and stuff.

Can you believe it? I don't make this stuff up, and I am not dumbing it down. People spend hours, days, probably weeks and months thinking up evaluations teachers can do with students to see where their "weak" spot is. Is it dipthongs? Blends? Letter combinations (?)? Of course! It's all of those things. They don't even start to teach kids to read until 7 years old in Finland! Because kids, humans, are wired for language, and are ready to recieve it at about 7.

We can teach kindergartners to decode, and I say we should, since we can. But up until 2nd grade, these fundamentals are really all we need to focus on, and most kids start to get them right around 2nd grade.

If taught the fundamentals, and with practice, most kids get it, just at different rates, and with different degrees of success. Degrees of success are begun, affected, and influenced after the fundamentals are sound. If the fundamentals are the problem, then I say, you start to heavily anylize what kinds of mistakes the student is making; because only then--and I am talking about 2nd grade--is there a problem.

This overanalysis of student progress does not inform my instruction. Indeed, it impairs it. If I must now use a method and system that replicates what I already do, I will be forced to divert my attention from teaching to learning the new system. To what end? To the end that the district will have more data on MY TEACHING! It is not for the kids. Trust me. It is for me. Is that what you want? Or would you rather i do what I have been doing, which is what they are now advocating, like I said they always do (in that Lucy Calkins link above).

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