Ensuring our students read every day can be a stretch, and making sure that their reading is meaningful and relevant to the curriculum can be even more difficult. Many of us rely on old strategies that are no longer contributing to student achievement and understanding. In the spirit of a new season of planning for the new school year, let’s review some of these practices and investigate replacements that will engage, entertain and enliven your students next year.
Assigning the same book to every student. If we fail to differentiate reading material, we are guaranteeing boredom and frustration among students. Instead, peruse your school’s resources for several different books on the same theme or concept, on different levels. Then assign these appropriately, so that once students have completed the reading assignment, they can come together to discuss facts they learned from the reading.
Popcorn reading. This is when students take turns reading aloud, passing or “popcorning” the reading to each other. This strategy, though popular, has several drawbacks. Not all students are fluent, and reading without fluency will hinder some students learning the proper pronunciation. Other students are quite shy about reading aloud, and will resist, creating a negative classroom environment. Instead of popcorn reading, try choral reading or echo reading, where the entire class or group reads aloud together, or echoes after each sentence you read. This gives students who are not fluent or confident the ability to read aloud without being in the spotlight.
Silent reading without follow up. Silent reading is a great opportunity for students to choose their own books and focus only on reading. But we lose a great chance to find out how those students actually read during the time. Try a reading log with summary or a graphic organiser to give students accountability and responsibility for their reading.
Assigning books in a vacuum. Always take into account what the curriculum is teaching when you assign books for the class. Students need to feel that what they are doing is relevant; otherwise, they fail to have proper respect for the assignments. If you can show students that what they are reading is important and necessary for the unit, students will be more likely to read the assignment.
Standardised vocabulary activities. Looking up definitions in a dictionary, writing a word twenty times and writing a sentence for each word, are all antiquated ideas for teaching vocabulary. Offer a menu of more interesting activities such as Frayer models, using words to draw designs, or even creating a rap or song with the words. Students will be happy to choose their own assignments and will learn more than with dry vocabulary work.
Reading only books. Functional literacy is a term that has been around for a while. Today, with the age of technology, it has spurred even more ideas. Students should be exposed to articles, tweets, posts, blogs, comics, puzzles, and all of the writing we come across in our daily lives. Writing tweets that other students can then read brings a sense of authorship to students and an interest in what their peers are writing, naturally fostering a love of reading.
Monitoring only sporadically. Baseline and running record assessments are usually given at the beginning of each new term. Three months is too long for a problem to go undiscovered. Make time to hear each student read to you once a week. Constant monitoring gives teachers a chance to jump on a problem before it grows larger.
Updating your literary bag of tricks will serve you well in the new school year. Making substitutions for those practices you know aren’t getting results, will change the way your students approach reading. Have an excellent summer and happy reading!
By: Betina Fuentes