Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Engaging Our Students: Reading

Language is probably the most frequently taught subject in school. Yet, it's probably one of the most challenging areas to engage students. TRULY engage every.single.student. The reason-- everyone is literally on their on boat. Some kids are flying and riding waves and others are in a row boat.... some with no oar. 
This topic can be discussed a million and times, and it still would not cover all realms. 

So let's just take a peak at one area in particular. 

Reading.
How do we make reading engaging? How do we meet the needs of all students? How do we motivate kids to like reading and in turn, enjoy it so much they may just pick up a book during their free time?

Primary teachers have the challenging task of teaching beginning readers. They are setting the foundation for years to come. Junior & intermediate teachers have the task of keeping reading fun and engaging, all while battling kids who have potentially already fallen 'in hate' with it.

The first discussion I want to engage in is the topic of "autonomy" (freedom and independence). 

A fearful idea for many.

Why are we so darn fearful of letting kids have choice? Choice doesn't have to mean chaos. Is it not perfectly o-k to use the curriculum, but allow kids to choose? 

A few months ago, I read the book "The Book Whisperer".

It's a book that requires you to think about your reading practices as a teacher.

Donalyn Miller begins with sharing her enthusiasm about teaching reading, followed by her failure--using whole class novels, comprehension worksheet and key vocabulary terms.  

One portion of the book she identifies some students as "dormant readers" or what we would call "reluctant readers". These are the students who are disinterested and apathetic when it comes to reading and are usually overlooked because they are just getting by. 

Without giving the book away too much, one of her key ideas is to establish high expectations for your students by creating a time and a place for them to interact with their texts and the freedom to choose and also abandon their books as they work to meet a 40 book requirement (with various genres) by the end of the school year.  *So instead of dictating which books students read, they work at their own pace and are challenged to choose books within various genres. 

In terms of schooling, I think we are falling behind when it comes to reading. We are forcing books into the hands of students, when they are not interested in them. We say "oh but it's a classic! You must read it to appreciate the past!" 

I know many will disagree with me, but really? Yes, they are great (I majored in English in University, and they are).... But does a student really need to read "Great Expectations" or "The Catcher in the Rye" to appreciate books?!?!

I love this quote by Maya Angelou.....

This idea never hit home for me until I taught the upper grades, but it's a thought for all. I didn't realize how many kids hated reading  by the 6th grade. We must ask ourselves WHY WHY WHY?

I started reflecting on my past practices. Have I made reading fun? Have a I offered a variety of reading material and choice?

Here are a few of my past pics....Maybe a few ideas.

iPad/Digital Book Reviews

Christine's Main Character Gallery Walk 
(w/treats to nibble on as they walked around)

Digital Stories. Love the app called 3:15 to listen to some simple suspense stories.


Making Ice-Cream-Sundaes according to the info we read in our partners reading summaries. Did they have all the ingredients?

Summary Coffee House
Students read each other summaries and provide feedback. All while learning about other books and authors. 
Click here for more info. 

Winter Reading Challenge. The students are challenged to set goals throughout the winter months and earn stickers in their snow globe for each response they choose to do.
Click here for more info.

Independent Boxes (Personal Choice of Book and some teacher picks, as well as reading duo).
Click here for more info.

 Using reader theater packs! Students don't feel as hesitant reading in from of others. It also allows them to get into character, inflect their voice and hear others read.


Using music videos and reading and analyzing their lyrics.

 Reading Response Cards (found in our Independent Reading Boxes)
Allows students choice on how they would like to respond. 

I won't dive into Guided Reading, Read Alouds, Shared Reading etc..... I think you get my drift. 
If you are reading to your class, how are you engaging them?
Are you sending them back to their seats to fill out a response time and time again, or are they being asked to engage in something interesting and creative? It doesn't have to be everyday. But every now and then, make reading an adventure.

 We can riddle through the curriculum all day long, but it's up to us to make it practical, useful and engaging. 

Those are just a few of my thoughts.
Have a great week :)

~Kaitlin~

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