Scripted lessons refer to highly structured, pacey lessons with specific time allocations for tasks and word-for-word scripting for the teacher. These are most often used to teach early reading where the most effective instruction is highly structured and systematic. Scripted lessons face fierce criticism in education. Critics say they stifle teacher creativity and fail to acknowledge teacher expertise. In other words, they fear scripts deprofessionalise teaching.
I do not agree with the critics. Scripted lessons do not deprofessionalise teachers in any way. It is not ‘robot teaching’ whereby the teacher mindlessly reads the words on a page. Scripted lessons do not mean you do not assess your learners and make necessary adjustments. Good scripts make the need for formative assessment very explicit. In fact, this is one of the greatest benefits of scripts – the teacher spends less time laboriously planning lessons and more time assessing students and advancing learning. Just like in any other lesson, highly knowledgeable, experienced teachers are needed for effective teaching to take place. The script does not teach the child, the teacher does.
Robot teaching is a wildly misinformed view. Scripted lessons vary in their level of detail and scripting depending on the desired outcome in a lesson Teaching a new concept requires a teacher to explain, demonstrate, model and combat misconceptions that may arise. In this case, word-for-word scripting is not ideal or appropriate.
Instructional routines, on the other hand, which are pacey and oft performed, are highly scripted as this is the most effective way to execute pacey routines. Instructional routines are perhaps the best example of how useful scripting can be. I use a script every day when we do blending drills. My self-made script is highly influenced by routines used in Read Write Inc. and MultiLit. My blending drill immediately follows an LS correspondence drill (also scripted).
Teacher: KK we are going to practice blending our sounds.
Show the first flashcard (e.g. stain)
Teacher: Special friend? (digraph)
Teacher: 3, 2, 1
Point at the individual sounds above the card as the students blend and say.
Students: s-t-ai-n STAIN!
Repeat routine for desired amount of words, dropping the ‘special friend’ prompt and pointing prompt over time. Assist and model where necessary.
Teacher: [Praise students] time to sound out in your head!
Now show the flashcard for the desired time. Push forward to signal the students need to say the word. Continue for desired amount of words, picking up the pace over time.
This is a very simple example of a scripted routine. It is pacey, engaging and challenging. While executing the routine, I am constantly running a narrative. Often times I am challenging students telling them I’m going to trick them (I almost tricked you Barry!) or I’m praising lavishly (Wow! wow! wow! Debbie’s today’s superstar so far!). Every couple of days I will draw a funny picture on a card and slip it into the pile or place blank ones in there and act as if I didn’t know it was there. Put it this way: the routine is definitely NOT disengaging.
Some may argue that because I have made this script myself, there is no need for me to use commercially produced scripts. That ignores the fact I have leaned heavily on world-class scripts (MultiLit and RWI) and assumes all my scripting in every scenario is of top quality, which is highly doubtful.
I see scripting as a useful addition to my practice. Instead of spending time planning and resourcing, I could be spending more time thinking about the lesson content, assessment and the behaviour management and engagament strategies I could use. Spending more time on these three things would be much more effective for learning than trying to pull together what I am going to include and what I am going to say.
The case for scripts, especially for instructional routines, is clear, so why the criticism and opposition? Probably insecurity. If they ever do get around to trying scripts, teachers will soon find some scripts to be far better than what they could ever produce on their own. It’s an ego check. This is to be expected; good scripts have been created by experts and tried and tested thousands of times. My advice is to just give them a go.