This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
By Ann Velarde (Slusher)
As everyone knows, getting students to read is a very difficult task. Since I teach high school students, I have stopped and asked myself whether it is too late to get my students to find reading enjoyable. The challenge that I gave myself after the STAAR test was over was to get my students to read. It has been two weeks since I have started introducing new approaches to literacy and I have had many challenges, but also some successes.
The first approach that I implemented is read alouds. There are several things that I want to accomplish through these read a louds. First, I am introducing various cultures through the stories that I read. I started with a chapter in Gary Soto’s book Baseball in April. I read about a third of the story and realized that it wasn’t going very well. I honestly don’t think that my students knew how to react to me reading to them, so I simply stopped and told them that we would continue the story tomorrow. I knew I had to regroup. The next day I had copies of the story for each student to follow along. This worked so much better. After I finished reading, we discussed the story and many students made connections to the characters.
The second story that I read to them was a picture book called Grandfather’s Journey, which is about an Asian man who comes to America, but still missed his homeland. My students loved it! Even though the characters were Asian, many could relate to the feeling that they had regarding America and their birth place. I also read a short story by Anne Estevis from her book Down Garrapata Road titled “The Prisoner.” The conversations that my students had were so rich that they were still talking about it as they were walking out of my classroom. Needless to say, that put a smile on my face all day!
Today, I let my students choose someone to work with and gave them a poem and story from Voices form the Fields. This is a collection of interviews and photographs of children of migrant farm workers by S. Beth Atkins. The partners read each of them and tomorrow will “respond” to the texts. I know this is going to be difficult for them because they are use to being told exactly how to answer something. I told them that had to put something on paper to prove to me that they found a connection to the two pieces of texts. I was accused of making them think, which they don’t like to do.
Next week, I am going to read The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Pollacco . This story is about a Jewish family from Russia who came to the United States, but decided to make a quilt from all of the important things from their homeland and it is then passed down to each generation to remind them of where they came from.
Another approach that I am trying in my classroom is what I am calling Free Read Fridays. I told my students that every Friday they are going to read for thirty minutes. They can read anything that they want: magazines, newspapers, novels of any type, and they can also use their I-pads to find something to read. My school library had several magazines that they were willing to donate to my classroom, and my school gets the paper three times a week, and so I have those available for my students as well. I was pretty surprised how many students brought something to read last Friday. Most read magazines or something on their I-pads. I did have to make sure they were actually reading on the I-pads and not playing games, but once that rule was established things went rather smoothly.
Introducing my students to new approaches to literacy this late in the year is harder than it would be if I had done this from the beginning. However, I realize that I can take what I am learning now and adapt and change it for the start of the upcoming school year.