Let the CAS in Literacy Begin


It’s a hot, late summer day here in Maine and I’m sitting outside watching 5 cardinals frolicking in my bird bath. Each one of them goes about this water play a little bit differently. I wonder, is there a best way to water frolic? Do they all obtain the same results? How do they know what to do? As I wonder these things I am giddy at the connection I’m making with learing to read and learning science, both unlock the secrets about how our world works. They both have things in common that I am for the life of me trying to understand. But 1 commonality that is becoming very obvious to me is the role of wonder.

Previous to being able to finally sit outside and watch cardinals, I’ve spent the week caring for my husband as he slowly recuperated from back surgery. It hasn’t been pretty. Lesson learned, never underestimate the degree of trauma that surgery can have on the mind as well as the body. And never underestimate the effects of pain meds. Both of these things have played a heavy hand in his slow, and difficult to watch, rehab. So during the rare times I was able to sit throughout that week I found myself wondering about how kids learn to read and what happens to reading instruction when the child brings trauma and baggage to the reading table?

I’m into the 3rd course of my CAS program. Far from acquiring the knowledge and confidence I feel I need to do the best job in my classroom that I can. But slowly light bulbs and connections go off. And for me one occurred this week, well several really. That connection came from some prior knowledge I acquired via science education. I went for my masters in Elementary Science Ed because I loved watching my kindergarteners wonder. They wondered about everything! And I loved exploring those wonderings with them. We learned a lot as we explored how our world works. During the 6 years it took me to finish my graduate work, followed by 10 years of teaching middle school science, and then 2 years teaching teachers how to teach science, I learned one enormous guiding principle about how we learn about how our world works (aka, science). I learned it’s all about wondering. It’s all about the questions. I learned you have to ask questions and your kids have to ask questions and that some questions are better than others. Yes/no questions are not what guide inquiry or wonder. They actually slam the inquiry door shut. Well I’m wondering about something. I’m wondering about the roles of wonder and questioning as well as the role of trauma in learning to read. How are they connected? How do they work?

My reading assignment for 1 of my classes last week  kept referring to the positive value of prior knowledge in comprehending text. Seems rather obvious. But as I read this over and over again I found that I kept writing the same question in the margin over and over again. What if the student(s) don’t have prior knowledge? As a teacher in a literacy classroom trying like crazy to teach a bunch of Title 1 kids, many who come to school hungry, tired, and without a lot of background or language experiences so I of course wonder about this. How do these kids without prior knowledge and with heavy, trauma filled baggage construct the necessary knowledge to understand an assigned text? How can I help ignite the wonder necessary for them to want to explore their world through reading and questioning? How can this wonder and questioning guide explorations that will expand the background knowledge they will need to pull from to  understand complicated text?

This blog is where I write to try to understand my own wonderings.  And while I realize that part of successful writing is establishing a routine of writing and that I should follow that routine with this blog, I have to fess up and admit that I doubt I will adhere to such a routine. I’ll try my best to write on what I uncover but a more honest promise is that I will keep you posted on what I uncover based on where my wonderings lead me. Wonderings of course can’t be rushed or scheduled.

May you read like there’s no tomorrow and be sure you include a kid,



2 thoughts on “Let the CAS in Literacy Begin

  1. Too often the prior knowledge isn’t there or it is too limited. I am always amazed at what kids don’t know, even after 30 years! A little wondering and wandering are good things. They are the stuff of questions. Without curiosity and wonder and a little wandering around a topic of interest kids won’t be able to form questions or think critically. Learning is a slow process and we don’t give kids the time.

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