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Sometimes I think we make education too complicated.

State tests.  Federal tests.  Special programs.  Increasing graduation requirements.  Spending insane amounts of money on Professional Development (the cost of name tags alone must be in the thousands of dollars).

We come up with new ideas.  We reinvent old ideas.

Evil Spawn Reads a Book While Buddy the Dog Naps.

We work in large groups.  In small groups.  One on one.

We change our curriculum and schedules.

We throw money at our problems, then complain it’s not enough (a little known secret… there will never be enough money).

Now we are looking at National Standards.

All of this (and so much more) in an effort to improve our schools.

We are constantly looking for the Holy Grail of Education (bad news… it’s going to take more than a cup to fix our problems).

I think we are making this way too complicated.

Or more likely, I’m making it way too simple (my blog, my rules).

But I have a thought (or several).

How about instead of looking for the magic bullet, we focus on the basics.

Let’s focus on a few important skills in lower elementary schools.

Reading, writing, and social skills/exercise.

That’s it.

That’s the list.

3 things.


Preschool through 3rd grade.

We have the kids read.  Then write.  

All while playing nice and getting along with others.

We teach them while they are still hungry to be taught.

After we do these three things consistently, we have them read some more.

Silently.  With partners.  Out loud.  To adults.  For high school kids.  And student teachers.  In front of groups.

Read, read, read.

Then read some more.

We narrow our focus and get all of our students ready for 4th grade.

When they are proficient and arrive at that level (regardless of age), students will be prepared.

Ready for math, science, social studies, foreign language, health, speech, technology, vocational programs, etc.

All because they have a foundation.

Because they can read.

And if they can’t, they don’t move on.

Not until we get them the reading skills they have to have.

Reading is good.  Reading while using Buddy the Dog as a pillow is better.

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13 Responses to “Read.”

  1. Brett Gibbs
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 3:54 pm

    Great blog….exactly what we need to do….although I’m not that I need a couple of hundred buddies in the building. Keep up the great blog…it always brightens my day.

  2. Cracked Chalkboard
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 4:09 pm

    I’ve read that the achivement gap between black and white children is primarily a lack of reading and examples of reading (e.g. parents) in the household. It has nothing to do with their school, their teacher, how much money is spent. It’s reading, folks. Read in front of your kids, have your kids read, and as Mike said, WRITE. To read more is to become a better writer, too. Seems so simple, but it goes beyond the school and by the time they are an 18 year old freshman in high school, then how do we get past this huge deficit that’s been created by a lack of reading? Help :)

  3. Mister Norris
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 5:36 pm

    I really like your blog, you hit a lot of nails on the head, but this time your rant is just ridiculous. Literacy should be integrated across the curriculum. That way it becomes more meaningful to the students and they know why they must read better. Plus how boring would it be for the kids to read ALL day, every day.

    Plus Maths is so important to develop from a very early age to set foundations.

    Not to mention health and knowing what is health and unhealthy food, how to look after yourself/keep safe, etc.

    I agree that they need to read, a lot, but I do not think it’s all kids should do for the first 7 years of their life.

  4. Tim
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 7:04 pm

    Love your plan. It’s so simple a caveman could do it!

  5. Dave Sherman
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 8:58 pm

    No Math in K-3? That’s gonna be a tough sell. How hard did you really think about this post or were you just in a mood and started pounding the keyboard?

    I agree with Mister Norris. Reading and writing must be integrated in all areas of school; not taught as separate entities.

    Do the parents in the community where you are the superintendent read your blog? If so, you might want to do a little rethinking here.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Dave Sherman, Everyone can have an opinion.

    I’m thinking people may be missing the larger point… or I didn’t explain myself well enough.

    It’s not that the other curriculum areas aren’t important, it’s just that too often students don’t get the most basic of skills at a early age (reading) – then we send them through a system in which they are going to struggle or fail because they don’t have those skills (reading).

    If all children read well (or adequately) – wouldn’t they be better prepared for success and then math, science, etc.

  6. Christy
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 9:21 pm

    How much math can a little kid REALLY do? I see these kids when they hit high school and knowing how to read really well would

    a. make math books easier to read and understand
    b. make history books easier to read and understand
    c. make science books easier to read and understand
    d. health books etc
    e. music books
    f. drivers manuals

    …you get the picture. It is really ridiculous how many times I have had to cut down on the amount of homework simply because the kids cannot READ the textbook – or if they can, their reading skills are so low that it takes them 10 times longer than it does me. We just finished a research project that required them to read a 12 page packet. Some of my kids didn’t get it done in 3 days of class. Knowing how to read well can make a HUGE difference in every other class. As for those that commented that you need to read across the curriculum, Mr. Principal didn’t specify *what* books he would recommend the kids read, just that they read SOMETHING. It would be easy-schmeezy to have the kids read books about science or math or history…no one is saying they have to read only Dr. Seuss.

  7. Mister Norris
    on Mar 11th, 2010
    @ 9:54 pm

    @Christy, you want kids to read textbooks? Good luck. You think the kids sit there while the teacher spews information into their brain? You think every 5 year old is engaged and understands everything the teachers says? You expect KIDS to read at the same pace as you? Did you read what you just wrote?

  8. Amy
    on Mar 12th, 2010
    @ 9:12 am

    I’ve watched our 3rd grade teachers try most of your idea the last two years. (except for the exercise part.) Our students are in school for 7 hours each day. They spend approximately 1 hr. and 10 minutes at recess and eating lunch. In addition, students have one “special” class every day for 30-40 minutes. (One day computers, another music, another art…)
    The other 5 hours a day have been spent exclusively on math,reading and writing, with the lion’s share going to reading and writing. Yes, you read correctly…5 hours.
    No social studies or science (even though we have state standards in this) .
    And the best part is, 90% of the time they spend in computer lab is spent doing glorified math flash cards online or guess what? Reading and writing kill and drill – oops! I meant to say Skill and drill.
    After all of this, you would think that our students would be extremely proficient at reading, yet we have not made ayp on our state’s
    standardized tests in reading and writing for a few years running now, and students have only made modest gains in those skills.
    What we have been successful at is increasing the number of
    referrals to our committee for students that need to be tested for behavioral/learning problems, and we have done a really good job of turning out a bunch of 3rd-grade graduates who lack self confidence and think that school and learning is very boring and that 4th grade will lead them into one of Dante’s next levels of hell.

    I agree that reading skills are important, but I think having a teacher that is engaging, energetic and good at the job can go a lot further than 4 hours of instructional time on one subject.
    Just my opinion :)

  9. Diane
    on Mar 12th, 2010
    @ 2:21 pm

    Mike-are you ducking for cover yet?

    I love to read and would rather do that than almost anything else. And it had been proven time and again that students who read well at an early age do well all through their school years and have better paying jobs. However, I think a common ground is needed. Learning different subjects helps different areas of the brain develop, which to me should be the ultimate goal of education-well-roundedness.

    (Hope this makes sense. I was on a field trip to NYC with 6th graders and I’m a little fried.)

  10. Diane
    on Mar 12th, 2010
    @ 2:22 pm

    I meant to say “haS been proven”. Told you I was toast.

  11. Christy
    on Mar 12th, 2010
    @ 7:25 pm

    @Mr. Norris….

    I don’t think you read MY comment very well before spouting off. I did not say that I wanted 5 year olds to read textbooks. Nor did I say anything even remotely resembling an expectation that 5 year olds read at my level. I did however, state that as a HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, I know that if my students had a background that included the plan Mr. Principal was referring to (reading for fun, at home, to their parents, etc at a young age), which would result in them being stronger readers in general, it would make their lives much easier. IN HIGH SCHOOL. Where I teach.

    In addition, this kind of foundation would probably would lead to less hatred of school, since a lot of the reason my students usually hate school is because they are frustrated (and morose teens, but that’s another deal altogether.)

  12. Dave Sherman
    on Mar 13th, 2010
    @ 3:36 pm

    @ Christy Your first comment is so typical of high school teachers who do not have a clue what goes on in the elementary school. Spend a day in first grade, and you would be amazed what kind of math those kids can do. They are doing algebra, geometry, statistics to name a few.

    Go visit an elementary school during your spring break and see some REAL teaching take place.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.