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What Makes a Great Reading Curriculum?

As I write curriculum, trying to provide a path for teachers, I have been thinking a great deal about the question, "What makes a great reading and spelling curriculum?"

Most of the solid reading methods based upon Dr. Orton's 70 phonograms require intensive and expensive training classes. Though I believe that all teachers will benefit from training of this sort, I also understand teachers' reluctance to spend the time and money.

My goal in writing curriculum is to provide a map for the teachers and students through the logic of English. The curriculum should mentor the teacher in discovery-based learning by providing questions and sample conversations around the material. New teachers and even experienced teachers with new material often need hand-holding to guide them. Good curriculum provides support so that the teacher can pick up the curriculum and teach. Good curriculum should have flexibility and support teachers in branching out. It will have a freedom to empower the teacher, not to control. Good curriculum mentors the teachers to become better teachers by training them in discovery learning. It will guide the teacher not only on content but also on how to engage and challenge the students.

English is a complex subject. Almost all teachers need a clearly laid out guide to teach well. Though I love curriculum design, I have found that when faced with lesson planning, grading, and multiple subjects, there is no time left for intense curriculum development. In addition, the larger the class the more complex the task, as the students represent so many different levels.

Good curriculum inspires, but it should never be held above the teachers and especially the students. Teachers and others may discover new patterns to English, they may find new ways to teach or to explain. Some students may not understand the explanation provided and the teacher will need to listen, observe, and try to explain from a different angle. Curriculum is a tool. We are not to be enslaved by it.