Tag Archives: reading

Celebrate the first day of summer with summer reading.

SummerReadingSummer reading is an important component of an overall reading program. Research shows that summer vacation often has a significant negative effect on student learning. Providing opportunities for students to read regularly during the summer can prevent documented reading achievement losses. The bottom line is that students who read during the summer do better in the fall.

A June literacy fair for students and their families is the perfect way to end the school year and get students off on the right track for the summer. In addition to standard carnival fare (face painting, games of chance, etc.), offer a variety of fun literacy-based activities!

  • The cost of entrance? Ask students to bring a lightly used book as an entrance pass, to be collected on a table or display. As students leave, each person can select a book to keep from the donations.
  • Hold a literary trivia contest, with new, donated books for prizes.
  • Invite an author to your school for a book reading/signing event. If the author can’t attend in person, have the author Skype in to talk with the students.
  • Don’t forget to invite families to your event and to include informational material.

How will you kick off the summer with reading?

Can Poetry Help Us To Shape a More Just World?

This is the fourth installment of the NCTE Citizenship Campaign, a blog series sponsored by the NCTE Standing Committee on Citizenship. This month’s theme is using poetry to spark civic engagement. It is written by Duane Davis.

My first instinct as a teacher of English and longtime member of NCTE was to put this month’s theme together through song lyrics.  This would likely have resulted in a deconstruction of the work of Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, and certainly a mention of Nikki Giovanni’s Poem, “For Tupac.”  I also considered an exploration of poetic justice through the lens of the current political assault on education.

Instead, I decided to ditch both of those ideas and use this space to discuss the work and life of the recently fallen poet, Derek Walcott.  In the proud tradition of “artist on the margins,” Walcott embarked on a journey to create a myth on the level of Beowulf and Virgil, in his epic poem Omeros. I have been fortunate in my life to have English instructors who exposed me to art that challenged my view of the world, my community and myself. In Walcott I found someone who spoke to the ideas that were circulating in my head: global racial formation and its effects on space, language, and identity.  If you don’t know Walcott already, here are some links to explore:

Walcott’s poem is epic and Afro-futuristic and magical realism and intersectional rolled into one.  Ultimately, he reminds us through his work that with art at the center, understanding and acceptance can be the norm and not the outlier. It is not enough to observe and comment on society. You have to enact and activate in order to seek the justice necessary for equity and equality.

As educators, we have to remember that our daily choices, from the greeting at the door (for all levels), to the selection of text, to the type of assessments we give, illuminate our beliefs about the world—who we read, how we interact and what we say.  To that end, I am also including a few links to national poetry organizations that encourage student voice and often through the subject matter explore issues of equality and justice.

While it is not our job to imbue students with our personal ideology, it is our job to give them the tools necessary to critically understand, reflect, respond and evaluate their world and their own ideology.  Poetry is a vehicle for reading and learning the views of others and exploring our own ways of seeing the world.

More Poetry Resources

Five Reasons Teachers Love Student Choice

A choice of many booksIn Wentzville, Missouri, some high school teachers changed how they taught reading, and after seeing the results, they report they will never go back.

Eight teachers from the Wentzville School District wrote an article for our February 2016 English Leadership Quarterly explaining why they now love letting their students choose their own reading material. Before, these teachers would have entire classes read the same novel, and they now see that as a mistake:

When we assigned the same book to every student to read, we turned reading … into a chore—and that’s if the students were actually doing the reading!

Determined to teach more effectively, these teachers decided to let students choose their reading and to give students class time to do that reading. These teachers now love this new system, and they list five reasons why.

  1. Choice Empowers Students

Most students spend their day being dominated by adults. An assigned book becomes one more humiliation, and students “end up dreading the reading and often fail or refuse to complete it.” Empowering students to choose their own books, on the other hand, makes reading a pleasure for students and “sets them up for success as lifelong readers.”

  1. Valuing Student Choices Values the Student

As students choose books, they reveal insights about their personalities and interests, which in turn makes it easier for teachers to build connections with these students and to succeed in teaching them:

Book choices tell us a lot about our students. We learn about their dreams for the future, interests we have in common, and why they act the way they do in class. As we provide more opportunities for choice, we discover realities, such as high school boys enjoy reading nonfiction. They … want truthfulness and honesty; they want something real. Knowing this changes the way we see them and react to their participation in class.

  1. Choice Leads to Meaningful Conversations

When students are free to choose their reading, they read books that are more applicable to their lives and their interests. As a result, they care more about these books, and discussions about these books become more lively and meaningful.

  1. Choice Helps Deepen Relationships

Not only do students who choose their books have better conversations with teachers, they have better conversations with their peers:

Often students are hesitant to talk to classmates they do not know. When conversations are about books they have read and enjoyed, suddenly students are more willing to talk to others—even if they have never spoken before.

As the reading culture takes root, students enjoy sharing with one another their reading recommendations. “Reading for fun can be contagious,” these teachers observed, “and it’s the most enthralling thing for a reading teacher to watch spread.”

  1. Choice Leads to Independence

The real mark of success for a reading teacher is when students start reading on their own, reading not for a grade or to keep a pestering teacher off their backs, but for the sheer pleasure of doing it. And this, too, seems to spring from a strategy of letting students choose their reading:

Teachers in other content areas are beginning to report seeing students reading in their classes more often than before. They also have observed that students are not all reading the same text as they have seen in previous school years. Instead, students are reading all different titles more often. While we can’t follow our students around to monitor their reading habits, we know, anecdotally, that many of their reading lives have been positively impacted by this shift in our instructional approach.

Read the complete article, “The Top Five Reasons We Love Giving Students Choice in Reading.”


YA Lit

ya-misconWhile some of us packed up and went home after the NCTE Annual Convention, many people stayed for the 2016 ALAN Workshop. It was hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center and continued the tradition of celebrating the very best of young adult literature. The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) promotes communication and cooperation among teachers, authors, librarians, publishers, teacher-educators and their students, and others who are particularly interested in the area of young adult literature. Members receive three issues annually of The ALAN Review, a journal emphasizing new books, research, and methods of teaching adolescent literature. Many attendees of the 2016 ALAN workshop have been posting on social media about their time there. Interested in Young Adult Literature? See what NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org have to offer!

Text Messages: Recommendations for Adolescent Readers is a podcast providing families, educators, out-of-school practitioners, and tutors reading recommendations they can pass along to teen readers. Each episode will feature in-depth recommendations of titles that will engage and excite teen readers. Text Messages is hosted by current ALAN President, Jennifer Buehler.

With a supporting explication of NCTE’s Policy Research Brief Reading Instruction for All Students and lively vignettes of teachers and students reading with passion and purpose, Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives is designed to help teachers develop their own version of YA pedagogy and a vision for teaching YA lit in the middle and secondary classroom. Visit the Companion Site for more from the author.

Teaching YA Lit through Differentiated Instruction offers suggestions for incorporating YA lit into the high school curriculum. Each chapter opens with an introduction to and description of a different popular genre or award category of YA lit—science fiction, realistic teen fiction, graphic novels, Pura Belpré award winners, nonfiction texts, poetry, historical YA fiction—and then offers suggestions within that genre for whole-class instruction juxtaposed with a young adult novel more suited for independent reading or small-group activities. See more in a web seminar recorded by the authors.

Engaging American Novels: Lessons from the Classroom focuses on ten frequently taught American novels, both classic and contemporary, that can help promote engagement in reading. Texts highlighted include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chocolate War, The Outsiders, and Out of the Dust. Teachers are challenged to think about how students best engage with texts, especially novels. Many of the titles in this book have been challenged or censored. The NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center offers advice, helpful documents, and other support to teachers faced with challenges to texts (e.g. literary works, films and videos, drama productions) or teaching methods used in their classrooms and schools.

How do you incorporate YA Lit in your classroom?

Join the 2016 Global Read Aloud

read-aloud-hiThe 2016 Global Read Aloud kicks off October 3rd. NCTE member Pernille Ripp created the project in 2010 with a simple goal in mind: one book to connect the world. During a 6-week period, a book that has been selected is read aloud to students. Also, during that time, teachers and students try to make as many global connections as possible. Hear more about GRA from its creator.

Teacher read-alouds demonstrate the power of stories. By showing students the ways that involvement with text engages us, we give them energy for learning how reading works. By showing them how to search for meaning, we introduce strategies of understanding we can reinforce in shared, guided, and independent reading. Read more in this strategy guide from ReadWriteThink.org.

If you aren’t fully convinced of the merits of a read aloud program, veteran primary teachers Jenifer Katahira and Kathy Egawa provide plenty of evidence, as well as lists of their favorite read aloud titles in this article from Talking Points.

In “Collaborative Read-Alouds: Engaging Middle School Students in Thoughtful Reading” two experienced teacher educators explore the features and benefits of collaborative read-alouds, using crossover picture books, the importance of attending to student voice in contemporary learning environments, and deepening student interactions with texts.

Response Journals: Keeping Students Tuned In during Read-Alouds” provides  concrete examples of how read-aloud can increase classroom community and help students to build background knowledge and improve listening skills.

The author of “Illustrating the Reading Process: The In-Class Read-Aloud Protocol” finds that letting students see his own struggles with reading encourages them to feel greater confidence and eases the way for productive interventions in the process.

How do you do read aloud?