FEATURES FOR TEACHERS
Features For New Teachers
Volume 2, Issue 20
This topic has been hotly
debated recently in the International Reading Association newsletter.
I'm not trying to enter this debate.
This article will simply describe what we in our school have
observed and detail what we've done in our classes that has worked for
First off, let your students
choose what they read, whether it is a book, magazine, or whatever.
It makes a huge difference in peaking their interest.
Teachers already give (and require) plenty of specific readings
through activities, literature, and in textbooks.
Students need the opportunity to read about what interests them,
and this can occur when you allow them to choose what they want to read.
By all means, continue with your regular activities, but find a
way to give your students time (in class is best) to read on their own.
It is very important for you
as the teacher to model reading to your students. Read the entire time your students are reading too.
Don’t let this time be wasted on grading papers, checking
email, or doing any other administrivia.
If you want your students to take the time seriously, show them
you are taking the time yourself and are enjoying the activity.
Regardless of what the kids may say to you, they will imitate
your behaviors in your class. You have this great opportunity to be a positive role model!
Just as in practicing writing
and their skills through the week, you as the teacher need to schedule
in time for sustained silent reading.
When I'm covering a piece of literature, for example, my class
may read in a variety of ways. We
may read aloud, I may read to the class, or we may play 'popcorn' around
the room as students choose others.
You probably have other out-loud reading activities you use too.
These are great, and I always recommend them.
But you should always give students time to read silently too.
It doesn't have to be a lot, but I do recommend at least ten
minutes, though not more than twenty.
Think in terms of attention spans:
plenty of time to become engaged in the text, read for a bit, and
yet stay focused. Obviously
some students could lose themselves in a book for hours on end, but not all
kids have such a long attention span. Start with ten minutes and work upward, adding a few minutes
In addition to literature we
all cover in class, I also set up a regular library time so students can
select their own books. We'll
stay in the library for, again, about twenty minutes.
I give students between ten and fifteen minutes to look over the
shelves and 'try on' a book. Its
like trying on clothing. This
trial version is very important so students can start deciding if this
is the book for them. If it
doesn't hook them in the first ten minutes, I suggest they try again.
I'll try to make suggestions based on what I think the students'
interests are. Sometimes we
talk about what they like, what their interests are.
Students are not required to check out a book, but they must 'try
out' at least one book at each visit.
We designate each Friday after
our vocabulary quiz for sustained silent reading.
Students may read their library book, another book of their
choice, or even a magazine from the rack in my room (I typically collect
old magazines from everywhere and keep them in a large rack in class).
Old magazines include the old stand bys - Reader's Digest,
National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated.
But I also gather Teen magazines, food and cooking, gardening,
hunting and fishing, and video game magazines, among others.
This way there are a large variety of topics for students to
The bookshelves in my room
also have old reference materials and some outdated textbooks I've
scrounged from other teachers. Some
of your students will enjoy looking through drafting texts, recipe
books, or science books, and you'd be surprised at the number of kids
who love maps in social studies, history, or geography text books.
I've noticed a difference,
especially in the attitudes of my students toward reading.
Students given choices through the year were more engaged in the
assigned readings through the year.
Often, students (especially struggling students or low readers)
have told me they enjoy reading, or they've found a topic or author they
want to read more about, or the readings I did assign were some of the
only ones they actually read (that year or in several years).
Comments like that last one are bittersweet, because though I'm
glad the student has regained the interest in reading, I'm sorry it took
so long and the student was turned off in the first place.
Sustained silent reading and allowing students to choose their
own texts can be very powerful and beneficial to your students.
You can be the teacher who makes a difference to your students.
Every teacher understands that legitimately
a community must expect schools to be held accountable for proficiency
and learning. Most teachers I know do not object to reasonable demands
But the current climate suggests that if
we just push students even more then they WILL be able to compete more
effectively in the world as adults. We could enter a whole philosophical
argument as to whether our society has been more productive in the past
when we allowed children to play and develop their imaginations which
translated into more inventive and creative adults. These adults go onto
be more productive because of their imaginations have never been
squelched or hammered into a box. Certainly Steve Jobs, the former CEO
of Apple, still asserts that play and fun are an integral part of his
current company policy and why it is so successful.
The other side of the argument holds that
unless we set standards and expect students to meet them, they will just
lazily slide along in life becoming deadbeats, or letting the other
countries of the world outsmart and out invent us in product and out
produce us profit.
Somewhere along the line, business has
become schooling and schooling has become big business.
Certainly I have always been an advocate
of learning and standards. I have had high expectations for students but
they are developmental appropriate and reasonable.
For example, if Kindergarteners are ready
to read and have proficient reading readiness then they might be ready
to receive reading instruction to begin to learn to read.
I heard a disturbing comment the other
day from my daughter-in-law (she has a one year old daughter), that
unless your Kindergartener can read when he/she enters Kindergarten,
he/she is all ready considered behind. Not only is this harmful, in my
opinion, but it is without any consideration for what is cognitively,
emotionally, socially, and developmentally appropriate.
So what is a teacher to do who may
realize that some of the current academic demands are unrealistic,
unreasonable and might even be harmful to his/her charges? Remembering
that first a teacher’s job, like a doctor’s, is to do no harm; I
offer some suggestions to help incorporate play back into learning.
There are numerous advocates and studies
that support play as not only valuable but necessary for healthy human
growth and development. (See sites at end of article for references)
Without adequate time for play, students
may become restless, anxious, angry, irritable, unfocused and
uninterested in learning. Think of yourself, when you work too long and
hard, with no breaks or time for recreation- what happens? Even the
military, realizes that R&R (rest and recreation) are essential to
human recovery. I have heard some teachers report that their students
just scribbled their end-of the year standardized tests rather than
really exert their best. (after endless weeks of test prep and nothing
Ideas to Try:
Some websites that discuss the value of
play in schools are listed below.
Course…And Play is Losing”
Science=Transformation (article on the seven stages of play)
Education: Developmental or
By David Elkind
Mounting: Is it all in Our Heads?”
by Beth Lewis
The book, Full Steam Ahead! is a masterfully woven tale of ordinary people finding vision in their personal and professional lives and making positive changes. Simplified to a tale of a business owner and an employee, the tale displays the progression of a developing vision in the company and the steps and learning along the way. There are many excellent connections to the education field, from administrators to classroom teachers.
Ken Blanchard, coauthor of the business classic The One Minute Manager, has teamed up with Jesse Stoner, a leader in the field of vision and strategy, to show how anyone can create a compelling vision for their organization and for their own life. They show where vision comes from, how it unleashes great power and energy, and how it provides ongoing focus and direction.
Have you read Full Steam Ahead!? Do you have comments you’d like to share with our readers about this book? Email your responses to email@example.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB READER RESPONSE in the subject line. Responses will be posted on our website with the StarTeaching Book of the Month Club. All responses will be proofread, and may be edited for content and space before publication.
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and in life.
Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned
with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic,
glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling
them to help themselves to the coffee.
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Designing and Running a Medieval Fair
Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds
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Expanding Your Writing Program
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