Monday, April 21, 2014

Easy Credit

Last week we completed Session 3 of Reading Essentials Class.   Each session lasts six weeks and this was our last day.  Several of the 8th graders asked if they could be part of the next session.  I was curious as to why they wanted to extend their stay with me.

One student replied, It's an easy credit."  Immediately I began thinking that maybe I should make the course more academically rigorous.  Although the purpose of the course is to help students reach a point with their reading ability where they can be successful in academically rigorous classes.  I had carefully structured the class to be a place where reading was nurtured and encouraged.  I also wanted to make success within reach of everyone so their lessons were set-up so they could be successful with effort on their part.

Another student piped in and my fears were put to rest.   K added,

"Easy credit.  All we have to do is read and talk about what we are reading and do her lessons."

So the class boils down to reading, discussing your reading and having mini-lessons on appropriate reading skills and strategies.  Yes, sir.  That was music to my ears.

I want my students to be reading, enjoying it, discussing it with others and learn strategies and skills that will make them better readers.  That's a big order for 40 minutes a day.

But if they are doing this and it seems easy to them-so much better.  Each one of them has grown significantly in their reading ability during this session.  So I'm feeling successful and they're feeling successful.

I guess you'd call this an easy credit.

Want to hear some of my ideas.  Contact me with your email address.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Returning from Spring Break

Michigan in March

Spring Break in Michigan in the schools often occurs when there is no sign of spring in our weather.  As a results, many families leave the state for warmer and sunnier climates.  Florida and Gulf Shores Alabama are favorites.  If you are in Gulf Shores during the first week of April you will see almost more Michigan license plates than those from Alabama.

This means that the students returning from Spring Break today have thoughts and memories of fun days in their minds.  But that is not what they see as they arrive at school.  This morning started rainy and very windy with snow in our forecast for this afternoon and evening.

My task today will be to help the students refocus and continue reading.  But wait, that's my task every day.

I work with the most struggling and reluctant readers in our middle school.

I have the data of their reading levels both for fluency and comprehension.  I know their MEAP scores (our Michigan assessment), and I know their classroom grades.

Reading strategies-I have been thoroughly trained and have implemented several of these-visual imagery, self-questioning, inference, word identification which I share with them over the course of the class.

But none of the above items are the most important thing I have to impart to my students.

The most important take-away I want my students to have from Reading Essentials class is a love of reading and the desire to pick up a book-not as a last resort for something to do but rather as an enjoyable activity for which you never have enough time.

So today, I will be using The One and Only Ivan to accomplish that goal.  We are on our last week with this book.  This story lends itself perfectly to teaching inference and self-questioning.  I was most impressed, however, when my student reacted enthusiastically to my introduction of the One and Only Ivan.  J is one of the lowest readers in our 8th grade.  But after I introduced Ivan, J went immediately to the school media center to get his own copy of the story.

He quickly began reading it outside of class.  One day he stopped me in the hall. " Mrs. B, Stella died today," he said sadly.

A reluctant reader who had never read a complete book before is becoming emotionally involved with a story.  Success!!

That is the heart of my class-encouraging students to read as an enjoyable activity. No homework, no worksheets, no projects.  Just read a book and talk to me about it.

It's what adults like to do with their reading.  It also works for middle school students.

Over the next few days, I'll share some of the activities I used with the One and Only Ivan.  Feel free to use them and send me your own ideas.