Day One: Are You Following the Script?

Today was Day One in the script of the new reading program we started this\nyear. Not to be confused with Monday (which, obviously, it wasn't). Unless\nschool is cancelled due to bad weather, next Tuesday (Feb. 11) will Day One\nagain in our five day reading cycle. But our county is having an instruction\nsupport day on February 18; students stay home that day, and when they come back\non Tuesday (Feb. 19) it will be Day Five. Day One will get bumped to\nWednesday...


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Such are the joys of a scripted curriculum. We used to have spelling tests on\nFridays. Now we have them on Day Five, whatever day of the week that happens to\nbe. It took some getting used to, but it works okay now that everyone (including\nthe parents) is used to it.

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I'm a member of the International Reading\nAssociation. They have a listserv that I subscribe to and, frankly, the\nconcept of a scripted curriculum has taken a beating there in the last year or\nso. Among the complaints:

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    The authors of this or that curriculum can't really know and understand my\nkids (all of whom are unique, different from other kids in the world).\n
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    A scripted curriculum curtails academic freedom (a complaint usually\naccompanied with a degree of emotion).
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    Educators in the classroom have more "real world" knowledge of what needs\nto be taught and how it needs to be presented.
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You get the idea...

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We've used our new, scripted reading curriculum (I won't mention the company)\nsince the start of this school year. Personally, I think it's a step forward\nfrom the past. It provides a degree of continuity in an environment where a\nsignificant number of our kids are transient and move every few months to\nanother school in the county. It provides some level of assurance that we are\nactually implementing recent research in our reading classrooms. For example, it\nscripts in tasks for building background knowledge related to a story – an\nessential (but sometimes overlooked) component of comprehension. It provides\nshared tools for monitoring student progress. It provides a measure of quality\ncontrol.

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It also, to be candid, makes it easier for an administrator to decide whether\nteachers are doing their jobs. If my boss comes in tomorrow and figures out that\nwe're not on Day Two there may well be weeping and gnashing of teeth. At the\nvery least, some profound explanation is likely to be required. Heaven help me\nif that becomes a regular occurrence. If I am at least on the right day, my boss\ncan now easily assess whether I am teaching the script. It is not a\nword-for-word script; but it is pretty explicit as to what activities take place\ntoday, what graphic organizers get used, how much time students are to have for\nthis or that activity, what assessments are to be employed, etc.

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So to begin to evaluate my performance, my boss can ask a simple, immediate\nquestion: "Is he following the script?" In the past my boss had to ask, "Is what\nhe's doing working?" That was a far more difficult question to answer.

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Today we started a five day "week" that emphasizes the skill of generalizing\nand practices the comprehension strategy of prediction. Day One always includes\na pretest on this week's spelling words. Day One always includes a read aloud\nthat develops listening skills. Our question for the week has to do with how\npeople adapt to their physical limitations. We introduced vocabulary for the\nstory. We used our SmartBoard to begin a concept web that we'll return to\nthroughout the week to help reinforce background knowledge. And even though\nwe're trying to impart reading skills during this time, most of this week's\ncontent is science oriented in our daily reading block.

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I understand the complaints that people have about working with a scripted\ncurriculum. As we climb through the grades, I think those complaints are more\nvalid in high school than they are in kindergarten.

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After six months with our particular reading curriculum, at the moment I'm a\nfan of it. We'll see how the year finishes out...

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Greg Cruey, Guest Blogger

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