Tag Archives: reading instruction

The beginning of the end

6 Aug

I have a meeting at my new school today. I am excited, but also a  little sad to know that summer holidays are almost over. Today’s  half day meeting is for teachers who will be new to the school. It will give me a chance to start really thinking about what the coming school year will look like because, I really haven’t been able to do much yet to get ready. Tomorrow I have a full day presentation by Kelly Gallagher. I am super excited about this because he is the author of Readicide: How Schools are Killing reading and What You Can Do About It.

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Publisher’s Summary:Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by:

  • valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers;
  • mandating breadth over depth in instruction;
  • requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support;
  • insisting that students focus solely on academic texts;
  • drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia;
  • ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading;
  • and losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures.

Kelly doesn’t settle for only identifying the problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers.

He is the author of several other books on Reading and writing instruction.

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Read Aloud is My Superpower

21 Oct

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Read aloud is one of my favorite times of the school day. I’d forgotten that, not having had my own classroom for six years.  This year’s class is a handful. but they love read aloud too!  It is the one time there are no side conversations and my class LOVES to  have side conversations.

The first book I read to the this year was The Worm Whisperer  by Betty Hicks. I knew this class was special because they referred back to events and characters in it when we were talking about other things. One day, just before we left for a long weekend, I was talking to them about being sure not to forget their homework, which led to a discussion of having a regular homework time.We talked about how plans sometimes change on long weekends, so they should have their regular plan in place, but have a back up plan just in case. One student piped up and said “You shouldn’t be so rigid that you can;t break your own rules.”, or something to that effect. I asked where they learned that and they said, “From Ellis’ teacher in The Worm Whisperer.”  I was impressed.

We read Dear Mr. Henshaw next, which they loved, though they were a little hesitant to leave The Worm Whisperer  behind. A couple of kids have borrowed both of those books to reread them on their own.

Friday we started The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. I wanted a book with a strong female lead and was reminded of this one by the recent publication of the 4th book in the series. The boys were not impressed by the cover. Too girly. By the time I reached the family sing-along I had hooked them. The Doll Family was son gong from Greatest Hits of the Sixties. I think it was my own singing of  R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and particularly the “sock-it-to-me ” chorus that really grabbed their attention. Apparently they didn’t know the song, so I played it for them, doing some silly movements with my head and hands. Just as the song finished, the principal was doing a walk-through with the custodian and the fire marshall. We all had a good laugh at that.

I enjoy watching their faces move from skeptical as I begin a new book, to entranced when I’ve hooked them.  I think read aloud might be my superpower.

Sounding my barbaric yawp

27 Aug

Today, I get to present to my staff about the CCSS for reading. There will be grumbles as I sound my barbaric yawp about best teaching practices in reading. I know this. I am prepared. I am going to show them this and maybe other clips from Dead Poets’ Society. Really, it comes down to this question: Do you want to be Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, or do you want to be Mr. Keating?

Last week I started reading Falling in Love With Close Reading by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts.

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I will be facilitating a book group/action research group with any staff members who are interested. I am hopeful that we have a biggish group, and that there are some people who join who might be a little uncomfortable with the whole thing.

I am excited about all the changes happening for me this year, but had a little meltdown when I got home yesterday because I haven’t had a chance to unpack any of my stuff and we are full on for meetings all day today and tomorrow morning. It’s this way every year.  I know, once the real business of teaching begins, it will be good. I just have to make it through this week.

 

 

Something old, something new

24 Dec

I’ve been dipping into a couple of professional books lately. I don’t always read these cover to cover. Sometimes I do, but often I just open and read a chapter , paragraph, a section.

I’ve been thinking about reading of course, but also about being a better writing teacher. I am fascinated by the National Writing Project and I often think I’d like to do the Oregon Writing Project. One book I’ perusing these days is

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It was published in 2003, but still has lots of interesting things to say about writing and the teaching of writing:

..all students can learn to write and that writing is the most visible expression not only of what their students know but also of how well they have learned it.”

“A key element in such systemic change is finding a core group of teachers who write and are enthusiastic about teaching it.”

“…teacher qualifications account for 40 percent of the difference in overall student performance and that teacher quality is more powerful than a student’s socioeconomic background in student learning.”

There is a lot more in there. I just need the time to dig more deeply.

I’ve waited a while for Donalyn Miller’s new book

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Here is her essential question: How can we encourage our students to become independent readers after they leave our class? It mass me wish I was back in the library or teaching middle school Language Arts again.Reading in the Wild is a companion to Miller’s previous book, The Book Whisperer. It explores whether or not we are truly instilling lifelong reading habits in our students and provides practical strategies for teaching “wild” reading.

If your new year’s resolution is to make some sort of change in your professional practice, either or both of these would be excellent resources to help you on your journey.

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