Notes from Kelly Gallagher’s Talk at the Dublin Literacy Conference

Kelly Gallagher kicks off the Dublin Literacy Conference with his keynote on “Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.” Here are some notes from his presentation.

  • Kicks off with Barry Lane’s “Basalreaderville” parody. Interestingly, Barry asked me to have my students create accompanying slideshows that he could use in his performances. Here is a link to Katie Eckardt’s portfolio/slideshow she made for him.
  • Read-i-cide — “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools”
  • Mike Schmoker’s new book, Focus: Elevating the Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning.
  • Gallagher is talking about sacrificing teaching in name of standards… I am not sure that this rhetorical approach of attacking standards is necessary anymore. The standards are not the curriculum, and we if we are engaging in a more holistic, integrated approach to teaching reading and writing, aren’t we meeting these standards and moving beyond them? In what ways can we move beyond this conversation about whether or not standards are useful or good? How can we think about teaching standards and not always seeing them as standardization?
  • Gallagher is talking about the fact that we are losing a focus on writing. Very true. See also the new “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” from WPA, NCTE, and NWP.
  • Jeff McQuillan – The Literacy Crisis — more books equals more reading equals better reading
  • Concept of “word poverty” — Gallagher is showing political cartoons and and talking how context and background matters to reading comprehension. He argues that our mission is to build background knowledge for our students. I wonder, is this, in some ways, an argument for teaching cultural literacy or, at least a more liberated vision of cultural literacy, ala E.D. Hirsch?
  • Gallagher idea — read and respond to article of the week. Digital twist — have students post this to a blog or wiki, and copy quotes, make hyperlinks to the article, embed images, make connections to what others have written in their posts.
  • “Many kids are literally starving the lobes of the prefrontal cortex of their brains.” Jane Healy, Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Can’t Think and What We Can Do About It
  • Gallagher cites Kenneth Burke — imaginative rehearsals
  • Gallagher — need to find the “sweet spot” of instruction, not too heavy and not too light
  • Gallagher – “What you bring to the page is often more important than what’s on the page.”
  • Ideas from Gallagher
    • Sometimes the framing of the text should be motivational in nature. Reading an article about olestra and giving having them taste test potato chips.
    • More often, the framing should be to help gain surface-level comprehension. Carol Jago talks about the idea about giving students a guided tour during the first part of reading a text, and then dropping off and helping the kids go on the budget tour by themselves.
  • I had to leave before the end so I could go get things set up for my own session! I appreciate Gallagher’s humor and insights and look forward to hearing him talk again at the NWP Spring Meeting in a few weeks.

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5 thoughts on “Notes from Kelly Gallagher’s Talk at the Dublin Literacy Conference”

  1. It is hard to imagine that we are still having the same conversations about standards. I agree with your statement about standards. The fact is standards are not the curriculum, but why can’t teachers move past that fact- and school administrators and curriculum coordinators. We have to find ways to integrate content so that learners are constructing knowledge.

    Thanks for reminding me of “Basalreaderville”. I hope to one day hear Barry perform it live one more time! I actually had this conversation this past week about the many classrooms where the basal is the curriculum. If is not standards, it must be the basal.

    Have a great week!


  2. Digital writing n digital teaching are new concept at least in Developing countries.As this techniques, are very transparent methods of learning.We should use these techniques along with traditional where major use should be of Digital learning…

  3. Gallagher, as usual brings up some very relevant points. I agree with him when he says we are losing a focus on writing and believe that the evidence is in our students writing samples. Our student’s ability to communicate via writing has vastly decreased as a result of text messaging and social networks. However, I do not believe that all of the blame should be placed on the advances of technology, but rather shared with those of us (teachers and parents) charged with the responsibility of teaching these skills. It is essential that all teachers make writing a part of the curriculum and not leave it only to the English teachers. An English teacher can teach the skills and guide the student, however it takes a science teacher to show the student how to apply those skills for scientific writing.

    Gallagher’s idea of reading and responding to an article of the week is a fairly simple way for teachers to teach writing across the curriculum while at the same time incorporating methods of communication that may be familiar to students.

  4. I totally agree with the last comment, I am an ESL teacher, and I have taught some High school students who do not even know how to write a proper sentence. Writing should be taught by every teacher irrespective of which subject he/she is teaching

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