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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in reading instruction

Posted by on in Education Resources

As a proponent of choice reading, I am always looking for ways to get books into the hands of my students and have them build their reading list, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s week than having your students speed date books? Inspired by the speed dating scene in New York where single people met potential dates over a brief, timed conversation and ranked them, speed dating books is a way for students to quickly put their hands on several books in order to find one of interest.

To kick off each semester, my students speed date books. I’ll give our media center specialists a little information about my class, and they go to work pulling high-interest books. When we arrive in the library, several books are arranged on tables and students find a table and sit with their guided note page. I set the timer for anywhere between two to four minutes depending on the students, and the book dating begins. Students make notes on first impressions of the cover, the inside jacket blurb, and possibly even the first paragraph or two. The timer buzzes signaling students to move to another table and start the process with another book. We may repeat this process between five and ten times depending on student interest and the time of year. After students have completed the process, they will rank books deciding which book to begin reading immediately and which ones to add to their reading list.

I have experimented with book speed dating several ways. Books may be grouped at tables by genre helping students learn different types of genres and seeing the variances within a genre. Faculty members may choose books which have been personal favorites for students to browse or students may each submit a couple of their favorite books for others to choose from. Today my students will speed date books on Valentine’s day complete with chocolate and candles. The possibilities are limitless.

As a follow up to speed dating, I carry the analogy further by discussing dating the book. A book may start slow but grow on you as the more you read it, so I encourage students to not give up too quickly on a book. Sometimes, however, the book does not live up to the hopes and expectations of a student, and students have permission to break up with a book and try another one. Life is too short to trudge through a book without connecting to it especially for choice reading when there are so many other choices.

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Posted by on in Literacy

cartoon1

Reading is fundamental, that’s true, but somehow this idea gets lost in the translation. Re-stated, it means, in today’s education system, that reading is fundamental when we make Johnny read and read and read until the words come out of his eyes and ears. At that point, it becomes a habit, so deeply ingrained in him, that it is only natural for him to pick up a book in his leisure time.

Imagine that: In a world of constant distractions and events flying by at high speeds, Johnny will read at a pace much slower than reality, where digressions and inner-space journeys intervene frequently. In order to prevent these diversions from happening, we bombard the child with a barrage—sometimes called a list—of thirty books to read on his own.

By reading, on average, three books per month, along with the summer bonus of ten more books, Johnny might become, for us, but unbeknownst to him, a reader, booklover, lifelong learner, in a naturally unnatural way. This is the fundamental way to impact the reading process, or the magic of reading, so he can sit engaged and bored simultaneously, and constantly thinking and asking questions about his future days, for example:  

What are the easiest books to read and respond to?

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The Things They Carried

Brave New World

Of Mice and Men

Walk in Room 128 on any given day, and my students could be reading these books. Add The Catcher in the Rye to the list if it makes it through our approval process. These books are all on the top 100 most frequently banned books, and I want to defend why I teach banned books since this is National Banned Book Week.

Books are a way for students to learn about life, the world, different ways of thinking, injustice, and growing up. When I teach books, I am not only teaching my students literary devices and analysis but how to think. If I give students books of the same genre, theme, complexity, and issues, students will not grow in their thinking. What if a person ate only broccoli at every meal? Broccoli is healthy and good for you, but only broccoli doesn’t make for a well-balanced diet or healthy person. The same goes with reading. Students need a variety of books for their intellectual development. Isn’t this the basis of education to expand our thinking and expose ourselves to new ideas?

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

reading joyIn the early childhood world there has been a lot of talk and concern expressed about the “pushdown” of academics into kindergarten and even preschool. And the Common Core kindergarten reading requirements have sparked outrage – particularly the standard stating that every child should be able to read by the end of kindergarten.

Standards such as these make it clear that the people devising them do not understand child development. Moreover, such standards, to my way of thinking, provide the best route to a resentment of reading. Ask children to do something before they’re ready and the end result will not be a love of the activity forced on them.

Nancy Bailey, an educator who left teaching because of the current “reforms,” stated it beautifully when she wrote:

While kindergarten is now the new 1stgrade, in 10 more years will kindergarten be the next 2nd or 3rd grade? When will the current reformers be satisfied? When will they quit demeaning children and making them jump through inappropriate developmental hoops?

Enough is enough! Let children be children. Let them be their age. Bring back the joy of learning to read.

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Posted by on in Education Policy
Ginn's Dick and Jane Big Book 1948
What should Kindergartners be expected to know? Ginn's Dick and Jane Big Book, 1948

What should kindergarteners know about reading?

Dick and Jane taught a lot of kids how to read, even though not every yard had a pony. We've come a long way with rich literature and real life writing. But there is a chasm between what kindergarteners know and Common Core 'K' Standard, which may surprise you with its rigorous expectations. There are four major standards in this "strand: "Print Concepts, Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Word Recognition and Fluency". Phew, a lot for kindergarten.

Kindergarten children are my favorite little learners. First they figure out how the classroom works and how to get along with each other, then learning begins. Kindergarten teachers are unsung heroes and sheroes. Spend a day in kindergarten and you'll know what I mean. Not all kids coming into kindergarten are ready for challenges above their developmental level and that's what's happening. I worry about teachers as much as the kids.

As principal I once told a.m. and p.m. 'k' team I would take their classes so they could do extra planning. At that time, kindergarten teachers lived in a very isolated world. Well, that was brave of me- 64 squirrelly kids playing store, with fake food and shopping carts flying around. Since I am a firm believer in learning through play, my plans were shattered and my ego took a trouncing. BUT those two teachers got time together to plan and that's what it was all about. We are now all in the middle of a different, important collegial conversation, involving many stakeholders.

Children are not cookie cutter kids. One size does not fit all, and class size matters. Of the CSSS 'K'standards, it makes sense to teach print concepts, of course. Also phonological awareness (sounds of the language). In my opinion, most of the next two levels belong in first grade. Children who didn't go to preschool may not know how to hold a book or which way the print goes. It may take awhile to teach that sounds make letters, letters make words, etc. That's why Language Experience still works for these kids. Kindergarten is a time to look for patterns in language and savor the beauty. Policy makers must listen to kindergarten teachers who know best and say good-bye to data driven instruction. Kids drive instruction.

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