Reluctant Readers

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rebekah Muñoz

Getting students interested in reading has been a very challenging task for me as a teacher. I am often bombarded with comments about how boring it is to read. I have tried different tactics and the ones I have found to be the most rewarding are read alouds and creating questions. The first book I tried this with was The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. At first I was a little worried that I would be met with disapproval or complaints but it turned out to be a great book to start off with!

 All students have their own book to follow along with, as this helps with their engagement, comprehension, and fluency. I also had my students create and decorate a “book” foldable to write down questions while I read. I begin by reading the title, looking at the cover and reading the synopsis of the story. I instruct my students to write down three pre-reading questions on the first page of their foldable in silence. After they are finished they read their questions out loud and we have a discussion, during which, they try to make predictions and offer answers to the questions. As I begin to read I tell my students to feel free and record any further questions they have as we continue. At the end of each chapter we read the questions to each other and enjoy a lively conversation.  My students really were analyzing the text as they were trying to prove their answers with evidence. As simple as this sounds my students were really engaged in this activity and demonstrated a clear understanding because of this questioning strategy. The students really enjoyed listening to me read with different expressions and voices. Coming up with questions seemed to turn into a game as my students tried to come up with the most unique questions for the characters and the plot.

At our school the students are supposed to test on a non-fiction book weekly. I always catch students trying to cheat by skimming through the books for the answers without reading. Disappointed that students do not appreciate reading non-fiction books I decided to try out my two strategies. We started to read  Cynthia Ann Parker:Comanche Captive  by Tracie Egan which is about a young Anglo girl kidnapped by Comanche Indians. Their initial comments were that the book was probably going to be boring because the picture on the cover was black and white. But by the end of the book the questions kept coming and we even resorted to the internet to look up more information about the topic. Success! I smiled at my students hoping they would tell me that I was right, reading non-fiction isn’t boring, but interesting and fun. Although I didn’t get a definite answer, I’ll interpret their grins as a yes! I have had great success with these two approaches. They are simply, easy to implement and produce great results. I recommend using them to help reluctant readers enjoy reading.

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Read alouds in ALL subjects!

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By M. Guerra

I always assumed that only teachers in the early childhood grades would use read alouds.  It is thanks to taking this course I have understood and valued reading for what it’s truly worth.  A book can be read aloud to any grade level; it is up to the teacher to choose what is adequate enough for his or her students.

Choosing a book title can be rather tricky if you have no idea where to start.  In my first year teaching, I would randomly choose any book that looked good enough to read to my first graders. Throughout the years, I have changed my ways of selecting books.  Many books can be found to connect to all subjects.

 During Math time, our curriculum has a big book which is used in introducing the new math topic.  Along with this big book, I highly recommend teachers to find books that correlate with the skill being taught.  Several books can be used for different math skills.  One of my personal favorites is Fat Frogs on a Skinny Log by Sara Riches.  This book can be used for number counting, addition and even subtraction.  My students were very intrigued during this read aloud.  One can truly change a story simply by changing their voice and adding excitement to what may happen.

Teaching Science can either be very interesting or boring to students.  Many students need to have visuals, videos, books and hands on experiences in order to truly learn what is being taught.  In our animal unit, first grade students must learn about the life cycle of certain animals.  The Life Cycle of a Frog by Lisa Trumbauer really helps to introduce how frogs develop.  Many students who have no idea how a frog is developed will learn just by hearing you read this book.

The Kite from Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel is a selection from our Texas Treasures basal.  This story is a fiction story about a Frog and Toad who try to fly a kite.  It is quite an adventure seeing them try and try again.  I always introduce this story by having a very dramatic read aloud.  My students get super excited and laugh at how Frog and Toad don’t give up.  Mid week after reading and discussing this story we make a connection to our Science unit and compare the life of a real frog to that of Frog and Toad.

 As you can tell literature can be used in all subjects.  Some books can be read aloud for introducing, teaching and even entertaining.  Using a wide variety of literature exposes our students to the wonderful world of reading.  Take advantage of read alouds by showing expression to your students. It can be a simple expression that will intrigue a young reader to want more.

War and the Classroom Discussion

This semester in READ 6310 students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By G. Garza

A current topic of research, academic discussion, and opinion in the classroom is war. The unfortunate reality of war is primordial, mythical, embedded in the psyche because of its existential role in human history. So why is it often avoided in classroom conversation? Can’t the topic be be a catalyst for discussions, positive social change in the world, promoting peace as the voice and means for problem-solving rather than force?

The origin of WAR can be traced to the word WORST, which means less skilled, more severe, more evil, to share a few examples that stood out to me. In “Searching for Peace: Exploring War with Young Children” (2009), Terry J. Burns suggests that war’s role in the classroom can be a transformational development in the learner, the learner that is bombarded with information about war on a daily basis in the form of news, images, and in an often overlooked sense, fighting. In its simplest form, war can take place on the playground or in the classroom, any where there is a conflict. In her article, Burns suggests through her observations that the topic of war can be used as a vehicle for raising awareness about the inherent wrong of war. Even though students may not have directly experienced war (in the militaristic sense) first-hand they can explore its effects in a vicarious sense. The emotion expressed through literature about war is powerful enough to affect the reader in a way that will cause them to “feel” the same pain, argues Burns, thus raising empathy for those impacted by war. These moments of empathy and emotion are also great jumping points to connect students’ lives with war and its effects.

With awareness of the impacts of war raised, and the emotions felt by survivors and readers linked, searching for causes of war can bring the youth to a heightened understanding of the unjustification of war. This probing of the causes of war, and “justification” of war by those in power lends itself to excellent possibilities for transforming the child’s view of war, and perspective regarding a conflict in which two parties are involved, one affected more severely than the other. This understanding that empathy is needed to ease tension supports the fostering of a generation devoted to peace and change as a solution to ending war. With that said, there is also the opposition against voices that choose to stand for the sake of humanity as a living breathing suffering vibrant community.

 Burns, T (2009). “Searching for Peace: Exploring Issues of War with Young Children”. National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 421 – 430.

Falling in Love with Reading in 1st Grade!!

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to our blog.

By Elma A.

Can 1st grade students really fall in love with Reading? Yes, they can!!! Reading is crucial in every subject and when skills are developed at the beginning they can begin an endless journey of true enjoyment. Is falling in love with reading never wanting to put a book down? Yes, I believe this year has been exceptionally good with my 1st graders as they started and discovered the true authentic meaning of READING.  Although many are not be at a fluent reading level, the approach I have taken is different and all students have been receptive about partner reading, choral reading, and discussing their personal opinions of type’s of literature and genres. I have modeled through read aloud which have been very successful, share readings, class discussions, partner reading and have noticed how students are engaged in activities as they gain appreciation for literature and captivate their attention as well. 

During my Reading class 6310 Children’s and Adolescent literature this Spring semester 2013, I’ve had the exposure of many multi cultural literature books which I have integrated and enjoyed seeing my children relate to stories in their own personal lives.

Some examples of these books are Dear Primo: A letter to my Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh, a book which consists of two cousins writing to each other from two different parts of the world. In this bilingual book language is introduced along with different cultures from Mexico and America. Another example is La Buena Noche by Antonio Sacre which is about a young girl visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Students in class could relate how they also visit their grandparents in Mexico for the holidays.  They shared with their partners about a special time they spent time away with either a cousins or a grandparent. One literature book one of my students could truly relate to is Playing Loteria/El juego de la Loteria, by Rene Colato Lainez. My students enjoyed this literature book as I used it in my read aloud and they were remembering how they played loteria with family during family gathering or a special holiday. Story was about how child didn’t understand the Spanish language but throughout the story both child and abuelita were able to understand each other as they played loteria and bonded.

After sharing these literature books and many more, I have been able to capture students desire to want to read more and more. Literature books are colorful, entertaining, and captivated their imagination and many would wonder what life was really like out there as they intertwine with characters.  Read aloud have a purpose and has opened up a new way of viewing literature and family ties.

In my literature class reading The Wonder of it All: When Literature and Literacy Intersect, by Nancy J. Johnson and Cyndi Giorgis it gave great suggestions of understanding when literature and literacy intersect. I have integrated many of these ideas such as literature circles and students engage in activities as they share opinions about literature to each other most of all the multi cultural books. This literature books have created effective and affective readers ever since I began using it in my classroom.

So definitely when a curiosity, wonder, determination, desire is inspired in students, students will start READING! This is the beginning to a wonderful journey learning to read and wanting to read at all times!!

Enhancing Emergent Literacy Blog

This semester in READ 6310 students were asked to contribute a post to our blog.

By Cristina Sanchez

In this blog, I chose to write about enhancing emergent literacy. I feel there are many teachers who need information on how to enhance emergent literacy in their classroom. This information that I provide little information on what teacher can do in their classroom to help the children increase their literacy development. These are just a few classroom activities that can be done in the classroom.

Teachers can do read aloud and ask the children questions and do fun activities with them about the story. Giving them challenging questions about the story and make prediction will help the children construct meaning.  After the teacher is reading to the children the story. The teacher will then ask for a responds. This time the children should be able to do any kind of response, which will be able to show the teacher that they understand the story, for instance if the teacher is reading Little Red Riding Hood the children will have different ideas.

At this stage, many children enjoying art. These children will draw a picture of a part of the story that interests them. At this time they might write a summary about their drawing. The children will also include character and express a different ending. There might not even be a drawing; the children will probably use clay, collage, posters or mobiles. It will depend on how advance the children are. Using art is encouraged to children to use their imagination.

Retelling a story is a good way for the children to summarize the story. The children will be able to retell the story to a classroom buddy, or the teacher. There may be some children who will need help, at this time the teacher should continue to use instructional strategies in the classroom and monitor the children at a regularly bases.

Journal writing will be able to enhance children emergent literacy since they will be able to response to a journal. The children will be able to write down the name of the book, author or authors, illustrator, and the year the book was published. The children will be able to copy it for the book or a calendar. In the journal the children will also be able to write or draw their comment. In the beginning, the teacher will start off by having them draw facings on how they feel. The teacher should also provide a word wall for the students, so they are able to copy off phrases. The list might include, wonderful, sad, laugh, reread. The children should also be given an option for them to choose their own words.

In the classroom the teacher use introduce group discussion. This would give the children the pleasure of discussing with one another about the books they just readied. A group discussion can be introduced in any reading block of a literacy program. At first the teacher will need to describe role- play, and make sure all the children are participating in the discussion until the children are able to take control on their own. The children should be able to stick to the topic, listen to others, they are able to respond and accept other children ideas and show good behavior. There may be some times that the children need help in a group discussion. The teacher will be able to observe and assess the children in making sure they are making the right connection. Whole class discuss is not a good idea, because the teacher will only gather a few comments from a number amount of children.

Literacy Centers

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Melissa

Teaching in the classroom for five years has made me realize and appreciate the value of Literacy Centers.  Literacy Centers are composed of  flexible small groups, giving them all the opportunity to learn at their own pace.  These centers play an enormous learning resource in my classroom because it gives me the opportunity to reach out to all my students with different learning techniques. It is important to keep all Literacy Centers in your classroom as friendly and flexible as possible being that students  IEP’s change from time to time.

As a Kindergarten Teacher, most of my Reading instruction is taught through Literacy Centers. Literacy Centers may not seem the easiest thing to do at first, but after giving it some thought and well preparing for it, you will realize that they are great for reinforcement and mastery of any skill learned. Students in my classroom not only enjoy learning with their peers during centers but also benefit through this wonderful approach. These centers provide a wide range of learning opportunities and gives the students some ownership to their work and their independence at the centers. It is important to set clear expectations for every center and hold the students accountable to their behavior and work.

As I mentioned earlier, implementing  Literacy Centers has been one of the best things I have been able to incorporate in my classroom. However, it is crucial to  plan ahead and study your students before grouping them with their learning partners. My students are grouped heterogeneously using data and teacher observation. By grouping them accordingly allows each leaning group to have students with various abilities which ensures that one student can seek for help within his group if he finds a skill too difficult for him.

 During the ninety minute literacy centers, I am able to call upon my own small group instruction which are called upon homogeneously. This allows me to individualize my instruction to a small group of students who are struggling with the same or similar skill in order to reinforce and help them master it. Literacy Centers allow me to introduce or reinforce a specific skill independently  and allows me to individualize instruction to my small group. This gives everyone the opportunity to learn at their own pace such as learning the alphabet, reinforcing sight words, learning how to read or working on comprehension skill.

Literacy Centers not only benefit the teachers but most importantly our students. It is they who benefit from working at their own rate, work independently, are encouraged to try new things and allow them to take ownership to their expectations and responsibilities.