Home » The View from Saturday » The View from Saturday #10

The View from Saturday #10


Well, it was a weird week.

No school Monday, substitute all day on Tuesday for an ESD thing, substitute in the afternoon on Wednesday for district literacy curriculum adoption “meeting,” I made it to school the whole day on Thursday, and then The Iza was sick so I stayed home for the morning on Friday. Lucky for me, and my students, I was able to have the same sub every day.

Throw in that we started preparing for student-led conferences, and it hasn’t been the normalest of weeks. Next week won’t be much better, since we will be continuing our conference prep on Monday and Tuesday, then have a half day on Wednesday for district things, and then conferences start. Whew.

Anyway. My students have been much better with independent reading, allowing me conference with a lot more students per day, allowing them to have a choice in their reading responses, in turn allowing me to spend less time responding to letters every night. It seems like a win all around. I’m happy about it. Happy enough that I am leaning toward our annual day-before-Thanksgiving-pajama-readathon, which I didn’t really think these students would ever be able to handle (I’m still not convinced, but I’m getting there). We’ll see how it goes moving forward.

So let’s talk about literacy curriculum adoption, instead. Though I don’t use it–I’ve been learning/working/reading/reading/reading Lucy Calkins–my district on its last year, hopefully, of Open Court. This curriculum is thirteen years old and needs to go. It’s taken us as far as it can. So, we are in the process of selecting something else. Our curriculum director brought three programs for us to look at: JourneysImagine It! (the new version of Open Court), and Wonders (brand new–not out until 2014–but maybe someone is piloting it?). Anyone use these? I have a biased and curmudgeonly view of them–I would really, truly love to hear people’s thoughts about them. Do you use them? What do you like or not like about them? Please let me know in the comments. My students depend on your honest assessments. To me, just my impression, is that they all seem like they run on the “worksheet” model, instead of the workshop model–just shinier, newer versions of Open Court (literally, in one case). Our reading scores have plateaued–I feel like we’ve gone as far as we can with these types of curriculums. Non-responsive reading programs, with writing slapped onto the side, are not a fix for what we really need in my district.

Here’s what I want: I want us to not pay for Accelerated Reader, and use that money for books. Why is our picture book collection so lacking? Why is our nonfiction collection boring and outdated? Because we’ve spent thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t give us anything. I want us to not pay $50-60,000 for a curriculum, and instead spend that money on quality professional development around literacy. Invest in teachers and books, not scripted programs. Who is AR really for? It’s for teachers and librarians who want to (a) not read the books their students are reading, (b) not talk with kids about what they are reading, (c) not help students find the perfect book for them, or (d) all of the above. Who are these scripted programs for? They’re for (a) districts who don’t want to spend money on authentic literacy PD, and would rather give teachers a book that tells them what to do, (b) teachers who just want someone to tell them what to do, (c) publishing companies happy to make a buck, or (d) all of the above.

Neither AR nor scripted programs are for students. You know what are for the kids? Harry PotterElephant & Piggie, Captain Underpants, Sisters Grimm, One for the Murphys, The One and Only Ivan, Bink & Gollie, Wonder, Bigger than a Bread Box, Babymouse, poetry, nonfiction picture books, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Marty McGuire, biographies, Smile, Amulet, Bone, Squish, Percy Jackson, Dork Diaries, Popularity Papers, Origami Yoda, book clubs, reading aloud, reading with a friend, reading and reading and reading every day, writing and writing and writing every day, Counting by 7s, The Real Boy, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Tuck Everlasting, Hugo Cabret, celebrating writing and writers, Hatchet, #teambear, #teamrabbit, wordless picture books, The Year of Billy Miller, teachers who read, teachers who write, principals who read, principals who write, librarians who read, librarians who write, Jerry Spinelli, Christopher Paul Curtis, Sharon Creech, and gosh I could go on forever.

Let’s invest in that.

understand that is harder. I understand that it is more work. I understand that it might be more money up front. I understand that it is scary and change and uncertain and new and different. I understand. I just don’t care about that.

I care about kids. I care about my students. So let’s get started.


I’m glad you’re with me.




  1. So, Adam, first my apologies for not returning to your post sooner. But returning and leaving a comment has been on my to do list! Thanks for the tweet reminder to just get it done.

    What I love even more is that when I reread your post just now, I fell in love with your words again, but this time I fell even harder! You have captured the essence of my hopes for my district as we went through the adoption process last year. We reviewed Journeys, Reading Street, and Reading Wonders knowing full well what the research suggests: books rooms with books, books, and more books! Not the scripted program with a label slapped on the cover that says “Common Core Aligned”!

    I struggled navigating through the series and what they had to offer, but no one else was speaking up. No one else was talking about the workshop model. I think (if my memory serves me correct), Journeys did offer the option to either follow the basal approach or the workshop model. I also remember loving that Fountas wrote/created the guided reading books incorporating the 3 levels of questioning (like in LLI (Fountas and Pinnel’s Leveled Literacy Intervention — our intervention program): within the text, beyond the text, and about the text. Building that language of questioning and teaching students how to talk about text is so important! And it would have been a perfect tie in with those students receiving additional interventions utilizing LLI.

    Each program offers the usual. I can understand why my large district stuck with purchasing a basal program. The other option that wasn’t on the table was the quality literacy PD that you mentioned. That would have been the BEST money spent! Because even if we have a shiny new series, if teachers do not have a solid understanding of a balanced literacy program, then the series that provides too much will be difficult to navigate. We tell teachers to be critical of the components of the series, but I sometimes think they believe they have to “cover” it all and forget that we want to foster life-long readers!

    I’m not even going to speak of AR. You said it all perfectly! I agree. I agree. I agree! (Good news for us. . . I think next year it will be gone.)

    Interesting side note, my district hired a new superintendent mid-year last year, but he was not starting until July. He was vocal with our board about no agreeing with the idea of adopting a new series. He had a different vision (which we are learning about now — in house curriculum building and out-come based planning). Yet, the teachers who piloted spoke up and the board approved the purchase. I think the fear was we had been using Harcourt for 10 years and it was time to retire that series, but if we waited another year . . . what would that mean? What would we do? Instead, the teachers saw this shiny new series and wanted it … and by the way, we have had little to no PD with Wonders!

    I know the biggest frustrations are the website and resources. Yes, everything is digital and online, but locating resources has been difficult for teachers! Also, teachers log in, find what they need, get it all set up and poof! Logged out. Grrr. I also fear the worksheets that are being printed as well. Yes, so much is offered, but if teachers are not targeting instruction and are still using most of it with the whole class, we are not meeting the needs of our students. Conferring, as you talk about, is where we learn about our students as readers and learn how to move them forward in their reading and thinking. I know some teachers have complained about the text complexity. It has been a jump. No one is talking strategies or close reading . . . I think they are still just getting their feet wet and learning about everything that is offered. The website is always a sore subject . . .

    Best of luck in your district’s decision making process. I will look forward to hearing about your “journey” and “wonder” what the next step will be…

    This is what really matters: “I understand that is harder. I understand that it is more work. I understand that it might be more money up front. I understand that it is scary and change and uncertain and new and different. I understand. I just don’t care about that.

    I care about kids. I care about my students. So let’s get started.”

    Again, you said it best. I’m on your team!


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