Have you ever wondered about the secret recipes of your favorite commercial foods?  I always wondered how Burger King got their onion rings just right.  Also, what is the secret sauce for the Big Mac?  But more importantly, how does Sarah Lee make their pound cake taste so buttery and keep the calories per serving below 200?  Since sweets are my weakness, I’ve always wanted to crack that phenomenon.

I do know one thing: someone other than the inventor of the pound cake knows the recipe.  The person entrusted with the recipe is the person who is responsible for making sure that the product is achieved every time a cake is made in their factory.   Even though the person probably has the recipe locked in a safe somewhere, it goes to reason that sometimes the recipe will not come out exact.  Maybe the large eggs are not as large as before or maybe the flour is a little dense.  Whatever the technicality, I am sure adjustments must be made here and there.  Regardless of the variables, that trusty employee must always be knowledgeable of the ingredients for a successful Sarah Lee pound cake. 

Similarly, are you keeping the necessary ingredients to becoming a successful reader from your students?  Sure, I’ve seen the beautifully written charts that state what good readers do.  But, really now, are all of your students good readers?  Don’t get hasty and take the charts down, because I am certain some students in your class can use the tips.  But what about the others who are struggling?  We know that the recipe for them is not a one-size-fit-all.  Surely, while some students need a dash of decoding and a heaping spoonful of inferencing skills, other students may need two cups of comprehension and a sprinkle of fluency.  Bottom line, each student must be looked upon as that trusty employee who is always held to task to make the recipe work. 

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How do we go about this daunting task?  Do you have the time to write a recipe for each student in your class?

I say, “How can you afford not to write it!”  Every student is a novice at connecting different strategies to make them work just right.  They need you to tell them what they need to do.  They must know their level and their reading goal for the year.  When necessary, students should understand strategies for chunking lofty goals so that the goals are achievable.  Second graders need to know that if they are reading on level C that they have a lot of hard work ahead of them to make it to level l by the end of the school year.  They need to know that every minute of the day is an opportunity to work on their recipe for reading success.  Their parents, like the cake batter mixers, need to know what they can do to help.  They may not know the entire recipe, but they need to know that adding too much flour can make the cake taste grainy.  As you know, academic rigor should always be the focus.  How can there be any rigor when the students are not privy to their own recipes?  Therefore, wouldn’t you agree that every child in our schools should be given the information immediately?  All students should know their current reading levels, their goal levels for the end of the school year, and the strategies they must use to achieve their goals. 

I challenge you to have this task completed before the Winter break.  How invigorating do you think it will be for your students to not only know why they are on a reading level, but also know the necessary steps for successfully working towards a higher level?  I promise, armed with information, your students will approach reading with a different sense of focus.  After all, even the trusty employee takes pride at the end of the day when the cake comes out perfect.