Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
– George Bernard Shaw
This is very true in education, but change is scary. We, my co-teacher and I, have decided to implement Genius Hour beginning after spring break. A detailed description can be found here: http://www.geniushour.com/. Basically the students get an hour every week to work on a project that they choose and are passionate about. There are few guidelines: it has to involve research, it has to be approved by the teacher, and they have to share their finished project with the class. This seems like a fabulous idea, but I am still unsure about how this will go…
“I’d like to be something more than alive,” Clay said fiercely. “I’d like to be the kind of dragon she doesn’t think I am – the kind they write prophecies about. that dragon would rescue her no matter how awful she is.”
This is a quote from Wings of Fire The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland. It is a book that one of my students recommended I read and even gave me his copy to borrow. That was several months ago, but I finally read it this weekend. He is right – it is a good book.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald
Yes, parents have a huge impact on their child’s view of reading and books. However, we can’t discount the impact teachers have on this as well. We want kids to read, but how many of us are avid readers? How can we expect children to follow rules if they see us breaking them? How can we expect them to read everyday if we are not doing the same? When we show students that we are readers, that books are fun, and that reading is not a punishment, a stronger message is sent home than just reading is important.
- AR – Books are not meant to just read and answer questions about. A ribbon once a month is a strong motivator to read books and test. Reading and testing doesn’t always go together and we need to show students that. In fact, I doubt that most authors write their books for the purpose of students reading them and then sitting in front of a computer and trying to remember what color the dog was.
- Endless worksheets with one right response. Would you want to do it?
KEEP or START
- Make books available! Put all kinds of books everywhere. Have an overflowing library at school. Keep bins of books in every room of the house – especially the bathroom!
- Read Aloud – Regardless of a reader’s age, listening to the right book is magical. In a classroom all students of all reading levels get to share the same experience. Students don’t have to worry about tests, questions from the teacher, etc. They just get to sit, listen, and enjoy. Many times a read aloud book can lead students to new books in a series or by the same author.
- Independent Reading with Choice – We know and research shows that students need to be actively reading in order to improve. However, this is not enough to get them to enjoy it. Students need to be given time to read books that they choose – books that are “just right” for them including interest level.
- Share your favorite books, current books you are reading, likes and gripes about books and authors. Students care!
We need to create a community of readers in our classrooms and our homes! What we do matters!
Is there one of us who is not haunted by the memory of a child we failed?
From The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
I know that as I grow as an educator, I realize how much I didn’t know just the year before. And as a result, I realize how many children I have failed. They may have left be better readers, but they also left without the love of reading.
I have always had the goal of making children life-long readers, but that is not the goal of districts that want high test scores. As a reading teacher, I serviced students who came to me in third grade already hating reading and far behind grade level. I was in a constant battle between what I felt was right and what I was expected to do in terms of curriculum and assessment. This year, with my district’s move toward reading workshop, I am finally doing what feels right. The student spend the majority of time READING books that they WANT TO READ! With modeling and guidance, students choose books they want to read and spend an average of an hour engaged in reading independently each day.
More and more students are realizing that reading and books are fun! We have not won over every student, but the year is not over yet!