Wednesday, December 3, 2008

SO, who READS these days anyway?

Well, for one I do. Try to stick my head full of facts and figures, yuck, but give me something that fills my imagination full of images and gives me the feeling that I can't put down a book. That is what reading is all about. The new discussion as of late is getting our students to read again. To engage them in creative and imaginative thinking. I must confess, I am NOT a supporter of AR in the schools. When my daughter was little, she loved being read to and couldn't wait to start reading. She love all types of stories and wouldn't go to bed without at least three stories under her belt. I could see that I was going to have a reader on my hands. Once she started school, she started accelerated reader program which is required in our district. From that point on, it was downhill. Getting Ali to read was like pulling teeth. In her 5 years of school, she has maybe read 2 books that she absolutely enjoyed reading. The rest of the books were ok or horrible, chosen from a list because that was considered her "reading level." Although she read the books, she didn't enjoy them, because of what came afterward. The dreaded AR test. Questions based off the book that unless you picked up and remembered every detail from the book, you may or may not pass. Now I don't know about you, but I have read several books in my past that I have thought were ok or enjoyed, but did I remember the details after I was done, heck no.

This year, however reading is changing for her. Her teacher, Mrs. Wright has made it her passion to engage students in what they read and to assess from there. Ali is now reading and enjoying it again. She is making projects, powerpoints, even timelines using what she has read. Instead of being strictly tested by true/ false and multiple choice questions, she is getting to demonstrate through creativity and imagination those things SHE found interesting in the book. And to Mrs. Wright I am indeed greatful for instilling that love back in to my daughter.

My Dad was a sixth grade teacher for 37 years. I always thought he was a great teacher, because he actively engaged his students. He found ways to get the students into the stories they read. For instance, my favorite was reading Treasure Island and at the end, they had a treasure hunt with clues from the story to find the chest. Engaging activities that encourage paying attention to the details while making it fun and relevant.

At the high school level, our focus is now getting our students to read again. With all they are active in, how do we find the time to incorperate reading into our specific curriculum. For instance is it possible to get students to read 16 books a year? There are a lot mixed reviews on this one. Yes students are busy and yes, there comes the question of, if we require them to read will they really enjoy it. Tough call. Here is what I know. Lately I have had to ask or even beg some of students to put down their books for class, because they were reading the Twilight series and apparently it is one of those sets, you simply can't put down.

Yes we are all busy as teachers, but really, how hard is it to be a little creative, take a little time out of our personal curriculum goals, and get kids to start using their imagination and sharing their creativity. I know I am as guilty as the rest when I think that if I don't finish my semester at a certain point in my intended curriculum, that I did not succeed. But who sets my standards on where I have to finish...I do. So if I want, I can be brave, get out of my comfort zone and assign my students to read. Read a book about at artist, read a book about a time period where art came to a great turn, or simply a book that is non-fiction or fiction that falls within a specific decade. Does it have to be something that pertains to what I teach, it would be great, but no. I can make anything relevant to what I teach by picking something about the book and working it into my curriculum. I think if I am encouraging reading time, talking to them about it, and then we create something that is meaningful to them to help them remember and enjoy, then it is all worth it! A piece of art, do a photography project, create a group project that works with the story...those kids will remember that and enjoy it. Do I expect them to remember the details of what color dress someone was wearing, no. Do I want them to gain a new interest or remember an old love in reading...yes. As much as kids having going on, they still need reading in their lives. It gives them a time out from the real world and let's them use their imaginations and be kids again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Controlled Chaos

This week, Mr. Doughan's creative writing classes are up in the artroom 1st, 3rd, and 7th hours. They are creating art for their Poetry Books. What these students are coming up with is so creative. Most people that would walk into the room at any point during these hours would think it was absolutely crazy with two classes combined, kids working on the floor and at the tables. I think it is amazing to see these kids so focused and enjoying themselves, being creative and having fun! I encourage any teachers or administrators who get the chance, to stop by and see these kids in action! They are great. I having a great time and I think Mr. Doughan is too. Talk about bringing him out of his comfort zone and into a whole new world...but I am finding that he is getting kinda used to it!

***pictures are coming soon!