Engagement or Strategies?

This is a response to my colleague, Pernille Ripp’s, post about literacy interventions: How Do We Best Do Literacy Interventions?

What came first: the chicken, or the egg? What comes first: engagement in reading or literacy skills? As it may be, I have theories on both answers, but I’ll stick to the second one today…

Do students need to be first engaged in reading in order to acquire literacy skills? Or do they need to have reading strategies in order to be engaged in reading?

In general, I tend to lean more on the side of engagement but reasonably, these things are integrated and occur simultaneously. Let me ask this: Is it not possible for acquiring literacy skills to be engaging? Can we, as creative, free-thinking human beings, not create lesson plans for our students that engage while teaching literacy skills?

Now, I have been mocked in the past for “acting” when I was working to engage students. My passion for learning and for the skill I was teaching was criticized and I was accused of faking excitement. Who ever said learning had to be boring in order for it to be genuine learning? Excuse me for connecting with students in a genuine and meaningful way!

While I do recognize that some of us can acquire new skills without the entertainment value of an engaging lesson, I don’t believe it is the norm or necessarily reasonable. Today, our society and the changes it throws at our youngest generation of learners makes it very hard to develop genuine intrinsic motivation. But if we want students to develop intrinsic motivation, we must give them reason. We must show them that it is valuable and meaningful to their life. We must show them that they are valuable and meaningful.

Engagement does not devalue the acquisition of skills. In fact, I believe they are codependent, having a cyclical relationship: students must be engaged in order to acquire new skills and students must be successful in acquiring new skills in order to be engaged.

So, I stick to what I know is true about teaching:
“No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”
-Dr. James Comer
The relationship you build with your students. And the relationship you foster between your children and the content.

How about you? Do you teach the student or do you teach the skill?


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