Monday, July 28, 2014

Why "Good" Is Not in My Vocabulary


Good.  It's such a simple word...one that we probably use 100 times in a single day.  "Be a good girl."  "You're a good boy."  "Do a good job."  "Did you have a good day?"  "This food is good."  When there are seemingly an infinite number of adjectives we could choose, we stick with the word "good."  It's a word I've been trying to eliminate from my vocabulary for quite some time, but probably not for the reason that you think.  

I see so many signs, products, and instructional tools that talk about "good" readers and writers.  I think so many of them are wonderful products and great resources for our classes, so I don't want my message to be misconstrued.  But if we tell students that there are "good" readers and writers, what is the implication?  That there are also BAD readers and writers.  That's what concerns me the most.  Some students, and some teachers alike, struggle with reading and writing.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.  Some people read quickly, and some read slowly.  Some people have poetry and prose flow from their fingertips, and others are intimidated by the written word.  And I think that comes, at least in part, from this focus we have on "good" readers and writers.

So perhaps you think I'm full of baloney right now, but journey with me in this consideration for a moment or two.  If we send our students the message that there are "good" readers and writers, and therefore, that there are "bad" readers and writers, some students will attribute their struggles with literacy to just being a "bad" reader or writer.  Fast forward in the educational experience of those students, and what do you find?  These students will give up on themselves long before high school and will abandon reading books for pleasure or for information, and creative writing will certainly be unheard of, in school or for leisure.  That is possibly one of the most heart-breaking thoughts in the entire world to me...that we could be raising a generation of students who do not love words, who avoid reading, and who loathe writing.  Long before Common Core standards were implemented, I wanted nothing more than to have my students become lifelong learners and self-proclaimed aficionados of language.  But with increased focus on reading, writing, and speaking, it's even more important that the messages we communicate to our students about literacy are positive ones.

So what's the solution, you say?  That's easy!   Stop saying "good."  Rather than explaining to my students the strategies that "good" readers and writers use, I simply explain the strategies that readers and writers use.  No "good."  No adjective at all.  What does that sound like?  Here's an example..."So we just discovered that this author uses dialogue to share a conversation that's happening in the story.  That is something we can use in our own writing.  Let me add that to our list. (Writing on anchor chart/board as I read aloud.)  'Writers use dialogue to share conversations.' "  I do not want to tell my students that "good" writers add dialogue because I just simply want it to be something they do.  I want to eliminate their apprehension about reading and writing.  I want them to be confident that they are simply readers and writers and that literacy is a part of our lives every single day.  Furthermore, the key to bettering our craft, whatever that may be, is PRACTICE!  This ultimately leads to MORE reading and writing, instead of an avoidance of either or both.  It also helps all of us consider the idea that, no matter how "good" we ever become at anything, we can always be better with more practice.  We never truly "arrive," but we are always changing and growing...as students, as teachers, as humans.

(This is a student-generated anchor chart from my classroom.  While I wrote the responses, the students discussed answers to the proposed question.  Notice the phrasing of the question...I refer to writers without any descriptors.  The same is true when we answer the questions, "What do writers do?" and "What do readers do?")
I think the same can be said for other subjects too...math, science, art, music, even gym!  I oft wonder whether I would have been a little more athletic or active if I had been aware that I didn't have to be "good" at it before I let loose and gave it a shot!

Let's create a NEW generation of READERS and WRITERS and eliminate "good" from our instructional vocabulary.

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