“Reading has become schoolwork, not an activity in which students willingly engage outside of school.”
“I think my worst nightmare was last year, when we all had to read the same book, and do worksheets, and make journals after every chapter. – Christina”
“Reading is not a duty, and has consequently no business to be made disagreeable. -Augustine Birrell”
From the end-of-year evaluation: Circle which factor was most important to you. Teacher who reads.
These quotes hit me hard. As I mentioned before, I couldn’t wait to do novel studies once the reading skill lessons had been taught. Novel studies were like dessert after getting through a distasteful meal. But were my activities and assessments I used accomplishing my intended goal of producing life readers who read avidly? Were these activities even preparing my students for the test? Unfortunately, probably not. I apologize to all of my former students for “hijacking” reading from them.
As I think back to my years in high school, reading instruction hijacked reading away from me too. I remember dreading reading class in 9th grade because of the fact that the assessments and discussions ruined the enjoyment of reading the classics. In 10th grade, the teacher gave us a list of assignments for the week. When we finished, our time was our own to do whatever we wanted as long as we didn’t bother him. He sat at his desk behind his open briefcase doing who-knows-what, but never teaching. I have no memories of 11th grade; I guess there is nothing worth remembering. However, I do remember my senior year. At the end of the year, the teacher asked us to choose an author from a long list. Choice. I chose Agatha Christie. We had to read a certain number of the author’s short stories and novels, and then her biography, followed by book reports. I loved the reading but dreaded writing the reports. I even missed the deadline. She pleaded with me to finish and gave me an options of a shorter assignment. This teacher was probably the best reading teacher I had. I would have loved to have been a student in Ms. Miller’s class, wouldn’t you?
Here is a list of things I love about her class:
- Book Commercials
- Book Reviews: I really liked how students read professional book reviews to determine what elements and vocabulary were needed for their personal reviews.
- Not using reading logs: Logs are a sign that you don’t trust the students. As a parent, I even disliked keeping track. (Loved the frank discussions she has with her students. They feel safe with her to be honest.)
- Expanding reading in class: “The only way to make sure that your students are reading every day is to set aside time for it in class”
- Integration of reading & social studies: Loved the example of book choices that showed different perspectives of people/characters during WWII.
- Prepare & practice for oral reading: “Reading aloud on demand is just torture.” Had a knowing laugh when I read this.
- Not being bound to Accelerated Reader: She calls AR the “worst distortion of reading” that she can think of. It sends the message that a “book’s value lies in how many points it is worth, and reduce comprehension to a series of low-level trivia bites gleaned from the book…(it shifts) the purpose for reading a book toward the memorization of plot details and away from an overall appreciation for the book. These statements may be offensive to some, but I feel a sense of urgency for teachers to hear her out. AR may have its good points, but it may be another “slippery slope.”
This chapter is filled with so much valuable insights and alternatives to traditional reading instruction. What were some things she addressed that you see yourself “cutting” from your lesson plans?