16 December 2011

Deja Vu - So, I'm a Teacher

As a part of the blogfest Deja Vu, hosted by Lydia Kang, DL Hammons, Katie Mills, and Nicole Ducleroir (check out the launch page here as well as each respective blog), I am re-posting "So, I'm a Teacher" from last year. The idea of the blogfest is to give a bit more attention to an old post - a great idea, I thought. So thanks to our hosts!

I hope you will read the post below and see how I was first inspired to launch the independent reading program in my classes. I have continued with the program this year, and I'm finding it very challenging and rewarding. Enjoy!

So, I'm a Teacher

I teach 7th grade Language Arts. This is my first year. If you've taught at all, you know those words are pregnant - ready-to-pop pregnant.

State assessments are about a month away. All the material that I haven't taught yet is pointing a fat finger at me, and all the lessons that flopped over the last few months are rolling around on the ground laughing their heads off. (Would my students be able to pick out the figurative language I've used in this post so far? Ah, good question.)

So, what will I do with the month that's left? abcsdefgnnjhijkjkkklnmnloopqrstuvvvvvvwxyz. (Just a brief interlude by my son who's learning his letters. It probably won't be the last.) Where was I? One month to go, right.

For Christmas I received a book called The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.  And, wow, I was so convicted about my methods up to that point in the school year, that I'm now (as of yesterday) taking much advice from the book. Miller is an experienced 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Texas, as well as a consultant with the North Star of Texas Writing Project. (Article about Miller here, her blog here.) The gist in one sentence: in order to improve reading, wait for it, students have to read (cue light bulb above head). The simplicity gets you, no? Especially since I KNEW that already. Because, as a reader, even as a student-reader who hated assigned reading, I know that I still loved to read the books I wanted to read.

Independent reading with instruction that will help students engage their own books - that's what the rest of the school year will be like in my classroom.

And even though the state assessment just might make me puke before it's all said and done, I will push for the end of the year goal of 20 books per student. I'm gonna do it too. And maybe, just maybe, I'll inspire some non-readers to become readers, and some already-readers to read better and better literature.


Juliann Wetz said...

I'm having so much fun reading through Deja Vu posts and was intrigued by yours.

My husband is a high school English teacher and we are both avid readers, so we were dismayed when our daughter seemed to have little interest in reading. We think part of it stemmed from her 2nd grade reading teacher insisting that because she was a strong reader, she read more than the other students. It seemed to turn reading into a punishment and definitely took the joy out of it.

I'm happy to say that now that she's in 6th grade and has more choice in the material she chooses to read, she's started to read more for pleasure and not stop after the required 30 minutes a night. I credit her teacher with much of this turn-around and hope you're having success inspiring your students as well.

Helen Ginger said...

I tend to stick to the same category as well. I used to read almost all mysteries, but I've branched out over the years and now read a mix

Lydia Kang said...

Ha ha, I liked the abc interlude.

I admire teacher so much for pushing their students and inspiring them.

Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

DL Hammons said...

Good for you! My son's teacher (he's 12) allows the students to pick the books they'd like to read, and then rewards them with points when they achieve certain goals. It's worked for him because his reading skill have improved dramatically and so have the number and maturity of the books he reads.

Keep up the good work!!

Lost_without_a_Map said...

My son is 9 and it's like pulling teeth to get him to read. I don't understand it. My daughter and I are avid readers. Well, I pretty much suck at this grammar and punctuation stuff, so I'll conclude this (with you being an English teacher and all). I'm following you, though; so, I'll be back =D (Oh, I would like to teach high school history, someday…)

LynNerdKelley said...

I love this post. Thanks for the heads up about The Book Whisperer. It sounds great. If you need a tool for teaching alliteration, I did a YouTube video (it's on my blog or here's the link on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPqn-EDgp94, titled "Cyclops Clyde - Creepy Story" told by Ma Cob. It's also a short story in an ebook (testing the eBook waters). This is so unlike me to plug one of my stories, but if you're teaching figurative language, I just couldn't resist. I did a school visit last year and had a sixth grade teacher tell me the kids weren't learning about figurative language yet, and I was like, huh? I guess it depends on the teacher? Anyways, I love your repost. Very inspiring!

Kristy Shen said...

Kudos to you! Teachers are some of the most amazing people in the world. I'll always remember my English teacher for encouraging me to write.

Great post! Count me in as a new follower. Hope you can drop by my blog

Sarah said...

Hahaha--sorry, love the interuption from your son. My son is just learned to read, and it's been hard for him, but I hope he'll start to enjoy it, because I know reading so much is how I learned to write. Great (re)post, and nice to meet you!

Nancy Thompson said...

I wish someone had pushed me to read when I was very young. I didn't start in earnest until I was 14. Funny how that correlates with the time I first became a straight A student.

I love that line about in order to improve reading, one has to read more. The same goes for writing. If you want to write better, you have to read more. Funny how that works, too!

Colin Smith said...

One of my younger kids was having trouble reading. She was behind for her age and just didn't seem interested (we homeschool btw). So, I took her aside a few evenings a week and started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with her. We might get through a paragraph, perhaps two on a good day. But we would read until she was ready to stop, and then pick up again the next time. Needless to say, her reading skills improved by leaps and bounds. Let them read what they love. It works.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was the worst thing about school - being forced to read books I didn't want to read. I hope your plans were successful.

Man O' Clay said...

Thank you all for your comments - I'm looking forward to visiting/reading all your blogs!

Lyn, thanks for the resource - I'll check it out.

It is amazing how it seems most reluctant readers view reading as a mystery, when in reality they've just not been exposed to good books or haven't had positive reading experiences.

Another good book about reading is called The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease. He gives some good evidence for reading as the best tool to improve reading, and, obviously, the aloud kind.

Thanks again to you all!

Alison Miller said...

Good luck to you! I remember my first few years of teaching (I'm on my 20th) and I think if they could bottle up my verve, that'd be a bigger money maker than any red bull.

My daughter is in 7th grade now and I love the challenges her teacher puts on her for reading.

Glad I got to meet you through the blogfest!

Margo Kelly said...

I'm a new follower, visiting from the DejaVu Blogfest. Nice to meet you!

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