Some of my holiday reading included delving further into the work of the cognitive scientists and their take on the way we read. Pretty fascinating stuff. The obvious conclusion: no matter how much we think we have it worked out, we have still only scratched the surface of our amazing brain.
I watch the language development in my 18 month old granddaughter and she blows me away with the knowledge and conceptual awareness that she is constantly acquiring. We are all teaching her things BUT the conceptual development which appears to be going on unassisted far outstrips what she has been explicitly taught. The brain has it's own learning pathways and it's own timetable.
And then I start thinking about the way my own brain works. So often it drifts off when I need it to be productive and then chooses to wake me up at 3am with the lightbulb thinking I have been after. Painful given the hour but still very gratifying.
I have learnt to let things simmer and wait for the brain to do the processing; let the ideas come to the surface when they are ready rather than try to force them. Now that is quite a mind-shift for me.
What does this have to do with reading instruction?
Well, reading instruction is all about training the brain to problem solve and we need to be mindful of the best ways to cooperate with that process.
We need to acknowledge the place of what Brian and I call 'Independent Practice' that should occur with the skill development we are after on the way to decoding and comprehension problem solving fluency.
This is not 'go away and practice in your corner' independent practice. This is about me the teacher being there but not with those smothering teachable moments that are loaded with 'this is what you need to do!'
The teacher skill in reading instruction is in being able to set up the learner with just the right amount of challenge so that the learner brain has a chance to make the powerful connections that the research talks about ... for themselves! It's about success, empowerment, autonomy, 'aha' moments that build lifelong readers.
That's being SHARP with our teaching.