Modules have become the new “trend” in NYS. Teachers are being told to either adapt or adopt these units of study. I am fortunate enough to be in a district where we are allowed to adapt this so-called curriculum. I am thankful for that. EngageNY is the website set up to “show” teachers how to teach their lessons for each module. I say “show” teachers because the module is literally a script for teachers to follow. I am not required to follow the script verbatim, but some teachers are. This is very concerning to me as an educator and as a parent.
Two years ago on the last day of school, I printed out the first ELA module which ended up spitting out 800 pages! These 800 pages were a script of what to say and what to do with my students. I put those 800 pages in a BIG binder and took it home to work on over the summer…yes, teachers do work over the summer!! I read through much of the module, but just could not bring myself to wrap my mind around what they wanted me to do with my sixth graders. I was a little, okay a lot, overwhelmed.
I decided to give the first module a shot in the fall of that year. One of the few good things about the modules are the books that we are expected to cover. Bud, Not, Buddy was the first book I was going to implement in my classroom; I enjoyed reading the book over the summer and thought the messages that it would send to my students would be beneficial.
The first few days of the module I completed what I could using the EngageNY pages that were included. I could tell right away that using only those pages was not going to work! My students were fading fast, and I needed to do something else to keep them going. One of the problems with the module was that the lessons would take forever to complete if I followed their format. There was no way that I wanted to drag this unit out over four months! Also, another challenge was that the 6th grade module was set up for the kids to read the book at home, which some students did not do. The most frustrating problem was that the students were supposed to have only five minutes to discuss the chapter the following day. Then, it was time to move on to the next lesson and the new documents being introduced. I actually did like the included documents that correlated to the text, but the kids did not have any time to discuss what was going on in the chapters they had read. They were as disappointed as I was because they just wanted to talk about what was going on in the book!
I decided to do the module my way, but use the materials I was given. We went back to reading the book and discussing it in groups. The kids were so excited every day to get into their groups and talk about what happened in the chapter they read for homework. They answered higher level questions and really analyzed the characters and the plot. I loved the fact that my students were thrilled to read and engaged in meaningful conversation. Actually, when we finished the module, I had a lunch group that went on to read the next book, The Mighty Miss Malone. They loved that book too!
It is disheartening to say that not many teachers are able to adapt the modules the way I was allowed to. Some teachers across NYS are instructed to teach the modules as they are written. The problem with this is that the modules are boring, repetitive and drawn out over months and months of time. The kids lose interest and do not enjoy the books; this is crushing any hopes we have of kids appreciating literature.
My own son who is in 6th grade is lucky enough to have a group of teachers who are able to adapt the modules to fit the kids’ needs. I am thankful that my son thoroughly enjoyed The Lightning Thief, but only because his teacher was able to make that module her own. This is the first book that my son wanted to talk to me about and wanted to continue reading. I believe that if his teacher was not allowed to adapt the module, my son would have tuned out for most of that book.
Many students are losing interest in the books they are reading because they are so sick of dissecting the book and not enjoying the book. Students are expected to close read (reading a text up to three times), annotate, and show text evidence. These strategies truly do help children get a deeper meaning of the text, but they can also destroy a love of reading if used too frequently. Teachers try to find a perfect balance of using these strategies, but also allowing the children time to read and appreciate a novel. This is what makes using the modules so difficult because some teachers are not given this freedom. How do we protect the children from losing their love of reading?