I like the idea of the 20/80 Approach. I also appreciate that Gallagher admits that he can't implement the reading curriculum he's advocating based on the constraints he faces in his teaching position. I love the book club ideas and extended reading exercises and suggestions. I think there is definite value in teaching more difficult literary works as a whole class and also building in time for students to read something between easy and challenging in groups or independently. Everything he says in this chapter rings true to me.
I know from experience that teaching through best practices is what works for students and what allows me to feel confident in my lesson plans each day. When we approach the curriculum based on what is best for students, we teach them what they need to know (and meet the standards) without having to teach to the test.
I agree with all of Lindsey's comments about this final chapter. In my perfect "Nirvana Classroom" I would see my students every day instead of every-other day. I would have funding to purchase sets of the most recent books in the different genres of realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, graphic novels, and historical fiction for book clubs. I would be able to fully put into motion the 20/80 concept that Gallagher outlines.
I loved his outline of his poetry unit at the end of this chapter and will use it as a model for my teaching this year. I really like how Gallagher emphasized what he didn't do during his poetry unit. He didn't worksheet and quiz his students to death, and he didn't focus too much on the standards. I feel like he is reinforcing my own thinking for what I know is in the best interests of my students. He is helping me see that it's okay to want to focus more on creating a lifelong reader instead of being so focused on hitting the standards (although I definitely still keep those in mind). ;-)
I love Gallagher's rubric (p. 188). I don't often think about my effectiveness in this way. He's right, of course; if this were the criteria, things would definitely change.
I've often felt caught (especially when I taught ELL) between preparing students for the SOL & preparing them for the real world.
I also agree with Lindsey's (& Stacie's!) comments here. Gallagher's challenges to us are clear & the benefits (to our students & to our schools) are obvious. The 20/80 concept is something that I can/will strive for this next year, as well as a shift in my own thinking in terms of how to appropriately prepare students for what they really need in the future. I do trust (in theory, now I have to trust in practice) that if I'm focusing on reading like Gallagher models, the test will take care of itself.
I heard Gallagher speak about the 20/80 shift at NCTE. The man is brilliant. That said (again), I'm not quite willing to make that shift in my upper-level classes. As I said in a response to an earlier chapter, that flexibility sounds totally doable in regular English 11--I actually met the requirement this year. In Honors and DE, though, I'm probably closer to 50/50. I just want to push them with the challenges that Gallagher talks about. We *can* achieve more rigor and better analysis when we work through a text as a class rather than as individuals. I'd miss that community discussion and progress if I went 20/80 (even acknowledging that some students don't read the whole-class texts).
Rachel, I agree about the difficulty of the balance between teaching for the test and for the real world. I lean, more and more, toward the latter . . . but I want to make sure my kids get diplomas! I think it's a struggle we all face (and will continue to face), and our reflection is key toward maintaining our focus.
Oh, and I really appreciated Gallagher's response to teachers who say that it's presumptuous to choose the texts our students read. I've read a lot of GREAT teachers' works asserting that students should always choose individual books--but (as I said above) I'm not ready to embrace that complete shift quite yet. I think Gallagher's assessment that our education/preparation/status as teachers makes us all presumptuous to an extent matches well with my own thinking.
This chapter just reinforces what I know again and again. Reflecting Rachel's comment, I'm going to try and set up my Strategies class (the MOST reluctant readers in the building) as reading workshop like I do my 9. I can teach all the test strategies in the world, but their reading needs to grow, bottom line, or they will still struggle with the test AND hate reading for life. Since they tend to be in and out (the nature of the population), I'll try and get the independent piece in place online so they have tools. The tricky thing is the whole class in a revolving door environment, but maybe I'll just have those on days they are all there. Even though the test is poorly designed and questions are often not skill based but content based, they'll fare better if they are readers; my BEST readers this last year did very mediocre on the SOL but quite well on the AP test. Such a ridiculous result....but I digress :-).
I think Gallagher’s 80/20 approach is really smart, and I love that he is so focused on creating lifelong readers. Music to my ears. I would like to implement 80/20, but as a resource teacher that isn’t going to happen.
My biggest take-away is the point Gallagher made at the beginning of the chapter, “Instead, these tests [standardized reading] really measure the depth (or lack of depth) of our students’ background knowledge.” Well, YEAH. We know this, but reading it here has really caused me to stop and think about how I can implement this for my small groups. Almost every one of my students has weak background knowledge, and I am now rethinking and reprioritizing that part of my instruction. Sure, I do background building with out-there topics, but I should be doing it with the day-to-day also.
I really liked the balance Gallagher proposed between whole class core works, extended reading, club reading, and independent reading. I agreed with his arguments for whole class core works – I have not been able to give this practice up despite having read books/articles arguing against it. My greatest difficulty with extended and especially club reading is having enough books with multiple copies.
Kimber Tate, Coordinator of English, Reading and Libraries