Read & Succeed

June 27, 2009 at 10:43 am | Posted in uncategorized | 8 Comments

In their book, Subjects Matter, authors Harvey Daniels and Steven Zemelman write,

In short: understanding what we do now, we will teach reading, not just assign it, though that doesn’t mean we are turning into reading teachers.  We are specialists – science, math, history, art, music, foreign language people – to the bone.  The difference is, we’ll break the work up into steps for kids, and provide help along the way.  We’ll be using methods, tools, activities, and procedures that help our students understand and remember our content better – and maybe even, dare we hope, get interested in it.  Which is right back where we started.

So going right back to where you started this class, in what ways will your professional practice be impacted or changed by what you’ve learned in class?

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  1. I keep being reminded of when I was a riding instructor, and another riding instructor was discussing with our boss how she would have to break down a riding test into individual parts. After she went back to the students, I commented to my boss how ridiculous it was to break down a pattern that simply demonstrated the students could ride at a walk, trot, canter, in both directions, and be able to change directions at all three gaits. It was clear to me, because I had been riding for years, knew the purpose of the test, and had seen it in it’s original form, that came with a diagram showing the figure eight pattern that they would ride.

    It is the same when we neglect teaching the original purposes and intents. These students did not ride with enough clarity to understand that there was more to riding than just the speed of the horse, but also balance and intent, and quality of movement.
    Many students do not read with clarity, and do not understand that there is more to it than just speed of reading, but balance of types of reading, intent, and quality of how we interpret or comprehend text.
    When the instructor had to break down the pattern, she needed to also realize the skills the students were lacking so that they would be able to interpret future tests. So we as teachers must do when we assist our students with their reading skills. We must understand why they are having difficulty with reading an assignment, and which skills are not proficient. Only then will we and our students see the whole pattern.

  2. Most of the time, when I have students read articles and other materials for class, I have tended to focus primarily on the post-reading evaluation. Did the students get the information from the reading that I expected them to obtain? This course has shown me the importance of pre-reading activities. It is necessary to remind students of what they already know so that they will be able to relate to the reading. Anticipation guides are wonderful tools to get students talking about a topic before they are plunged into the reading. Many of the topics we discuss are controversial and having students open up and discuss their points of view before getting into the reading can also help remind students of what they know (or believe they know) to help them cope with the reading material. Pre-reading strategies can also help students determine what the purpose of the reading is. If they know what they are expecting to learn from the material, it will be easier for them to focus on the important parts.
    Vocabulary is another topic that some of my students struggle with. While they seem to understand the words during the topic we are discussing them, they forget them shortly after. Hopefully some of the vocabulary strategies I have learned in this class will help my students gain a long-term understanding of the important vocabulary words in chemistry.
    During reading strategies are also very important for students to learn. While students have been reading for several years, some of them still don’t know how to read effectively. I have struggled with helping them through this. During the past few months,I have learned some techniques that I think will be very helpful to them.
    I also believe that some of the post-reading strategies that we have discussed in this class will help make the task a little more engaging for the students. Using some of the internet tools that we have learned about in class will be much more interesting for the students than simple pencil and paper assessments. The more creative an assignment is, the more likely students will be interested in it and actually spend time working on it. I now have several creative ideas for post-reading activities that I believe my students will enjoy.
    This class has given me several techniques that I can use in my classroom to help my students become better readers. This will definitely benefit them both in my class, and in every other class that they will take. These reading strategies can be used for any type of reading and should be reinforced with other teachers as well.

  3. The danger with being a “veteran” teacher is slipping into the mindset of “Why change? It’s always worked.” I know that coming into this course at the tail-end of my twelfth year as a high school teacher, I was there. (Perhaps it was also part of my perpetually “cherubic” personality.)

    Now that the course is over, I can say that maybe things have not always worked out. Perhaps students’ difficulties with the chemistry course material may have to do with difficulties with the reading. Perhaps if I had taught them a little better how to read, or in a more varied way, they might have grasped it better. Perhaps it is not always entirely “their fault.” Nothing like flaying oneself a bit in public!

    Going back into the classroom in September for lucky year number thirteen, things will be different. (Famous last words?) Certainly, I will use some of the web applications to which we were introduced in the class. I also have numerous reading strategies to use for the problems students may have with the reading. Coding text? One possibility. Concept cards? Another one. I will be able to address students’ difficulties better than I could before this class.

    I also have the ability to vary things more. Writing assignments in Chemistry? Scandalous! That just might be the case, now, though. I already have some RAFT ideas. I am also seriously considering including more non-textbook reading into the course. Our discussions in class and the alternative text sources that classmates posted on our class wiki gave me some possibilities there.

    Things will not necessarily change 180 degrees overnight. I know that some things that I have been doing do work. (Being stubborn again, am I?) There is room for improvement, though. It’s all about breaking things into steps. Funny. Where have I heard that before?

  4. So much has changed for me about literacy. I see now how just being there, and giving students some tips on getting through a world problem or the text can be so helpful. So many teachers overlook this, like I did. Our students may succeed in English because they are used to reading and understanding a novel, but that same student may struggle in a word problem I assign. The ability to read and comprehend a word problem depends on recognizing key words and the ability to organize sentences into an equation. Students need to see that it is difficult, but once you learn how to do it, it will come easier. It is my job, and ours, to make sure we check up on our students, to make sure they are taking the appropriate steps needed to succeed.
    Lastly, I love the idea of using the treasure hunt in the beginning of the school year. This helps build that community that we all want in our classrooms. The questions we put in the Treasure Hunt can range from topics about oneself to concepts that relate right back to the key idea, MATH. Students need to see that math, and sciences as well, are used in the real world. Asking questions about owning a car or having a bank account lets students see they are already participating in the world of math. It is also so important to get students out there exploring math in different ways. I came across an article from http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson072.shtml that gives some great ideas for teachers who are interested in connecting their subject to current events.

  5. I find that quote to sum up exactly how I feel about literacy in the classroom. This class has definitely made an impact on my educational goals and professional practice. I have become significantly more aware of my skills as a reader which will in turn help me understand where my students are coming from and what to look out for. For example I would totally over look vocabulary without knowing I was doing so. If we had not done the “Think Alouds” and the vocabulary lessons I may still have not paid attention to them.
    Having that broken down and pointed out to me will make me a stronger reader. I can now make sure that I do that for my students. It is amazing on how much we take for granted because we are just so used to doing that. It really is like that example from our textbook about driving cars.
    I have also come out with a healthier understanding of the Web 2.0 tools and how to incorporate them successfully into the classroom. In the past I have not had great experiences with some of the tools out there, so I tended to want to shy away from them. Now, I have a fresh new look on them, a better sense of how they work, and their place in the classroom. I look forward to using them and watching my students develop their own skills.

  6. I’ll be honest – When I first heard I had to take this class as a requirement for my degree, I thought “Wow, okay, I’m going to have to cram SO MUCH into my classes already; Now I’m going to have to teach my students about reading?!” I haven’t started teaching yet, so learning about all of the basic requirements has been quite overwhelming, let alone the fact that I now have to help my students become better readers.

    Looking back on the Anticipation Guideline that we did the first day of class is a great example of how my thoughts have changed regarding this issue. There is so much for students to benefit from by actively reading, using Pre, During, and Post Reading strategies. I now realize that it is easy to incorporate activities like these into my content area. Not only that, but there are so many different ways to actively engage students that it is almost impossible for them to become bored with the material! Now that teachers have access to Web 2.0 tools and other 21st Century literacy options, why not make the textbook a thing of the past? Sure, it can be a good resource for looking up terms or models, but websites like Wolfram Alpha are updated with these things daily, whereas that textbook was likely published within the last 2 years, if you’re lucky.

    Students will have to read throughout their entire careers as students, and thereafter as adults, and so it is extremely important for all teachers to emphasize reading in the classroom. Whether students become professionals or just read the newspaper, cookbooks, or romance novels, they’ll be readers. We just need to help them become good, or better yet, great readers. I think this is greatly supported by teachers showing their own interest in reading (ie: book talks). This is a great way to connect to students and get them motivated.

    I’ve always considered myself and AVID reader, but after learning about literacy strategies, I know that I was not always an ACTIVE reader. I will not only use these tools in my classroom, but I will also use them to help myself become a great reader.

  7. Honestly, before this class I would never have considered teaching reading skills to biology and chemistry students. Literacy, I thought, was part of the English department’s problems. My main worries as a pre-service teacher were to get my students to pass the all-powerful Regents exam, and to master the content so that I could answer any question that a student might ask. My view of what my first year will be like, however, has changed.

    I believe now that students aren’t looking for me to be a fountain of scientific knowledge, but to be a facilitator; enabling them to develop the skills and thinking needed to compete in a global society. Empowering students to utilize the tools available to them today with the advent of the internet and web 2.0 technologies will prepare them to succeed in today’s world.

    Preparing them to pass a regents will not.

    Today, literacy extends past the ability to read and write. To be a literate person, one must also be fluent in how to communicate their ideas AND to be aware of the ideas of others. A term many people use for this (and one that I also personally like) is 21st Century Literacy.

    As a high school teacher, I hope that I will never have to teach a student to read/ write. I know that this is not a realistic dream, but I would like it to be by the time that I retire. In class we looked at some statistics on the demographics of low-literacy. The main thing that I took away from these statistics was that low-literacy cycles. It cycles through families, cultures, and communities. By helping students with circumstances likely to have low-literacy skills, trends in these statistics can be broken. Communities can be improved. Regents exams can be passed! (just kidding!)

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