Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Readicide: Avoiding the Tsunami (week 3)

It's week 3 of our blog hop book study! If this is your first visit and you want to start at the beginning, my chapter 1 post is  here.

In chapter 3, Avoiding the Tsunami,  Gallagher discusses how teacher guides (ie. the step-by-step approach) for novels like To Kill A Mocking Bird are one of the leading causes of Readicide.

 As I read this chapter I immediately thought about Brandi from The Research Based Classroom.  She wrote about how her oldest daughter hated To Kill A Mockingbird. The reason she detested the novel was due to all the stopping and analyzing of the text she was being forced to take part in. It was ruining the flow of the book for her. You can read more about Brandi's daughter's experience with Readicide here.

"Students who never experience reading flow are students who will never become readers." Readicide (p.65)

My big take away from this chapter is that we need to stop breaking up novels into little piece and asking the students to analyze every single page. Getting "lost" in a book is an amazing feeling. Unfortunately students are not given the time to experience reading flow in school. 

"...philosopher Kenneth Burke, who says the reason young people should read books is that it provides them with "imaginative rehearsals" for the real world. When children read books, Burke argues, they are not just reading stories. They are being given an opportunity to understand the complex world we live in (1968)" Readicide (p. 66)

When you think back to when you read To Kill A Mockingbird, what stood out to you? What was your "take away"? I know for me I couldn't believe that such racism could exist in the world. I think back and think I must have been living in "LaLa land". Can you imagine how timely this novel is today? Have race relations improved at all? What amazing conversations this novel would produce in an ELA class if given the chance. 

Instead we are requiring students to take notes, highlight examples of figurative language, complete comprehension questions and write reflective essays. We break the book up into so many tiny pieces they are unable to identify with it anymore.

My goal for next year is to read more novels with my class. We read only three novels together this past year (and one read aloud). With those novels I am guilty of requiring my students to use sticky notes to summarize chapters, notebooks to keep track and analyze characters and worksheets to make text to self connections. Now these are all things I need to teach my students (it's part of the curriculum) but I can do it in a way that doesn't break the flow of these novels. That in itself should create more time to read!

Now hop on over to Learning to be Awesome and see what Erin has to say about chapter 3.

Then be sure to return next week when we discuss chapter 4 Finding the "Sweet Spot" of Instruction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Readicide: Endangered Minds (week 2)

It's week 2 of our book study blog hop. If you missed week 1 you can check it out here.

I am absolutely loving Readicide by Kelly Gallagher!  In our data driven teaching world, it always amazes me when we ignore the data and continue doing things the same way. As if all of a sudden we are going to finally get the results we want. Chapter 2 is packed with research that  again and again shows one thing "students get better at reading/comprehension by READING." So why are children reading so little at school?

I don't even know were to start. There is so much I want to say about this chapter. 

            KEY POINTS: 
Students Need Authentic Reading
There is a Dearth of Interesting Reading Materials in Our Schools
Many Schools Have Removed Novels and Other Longer Works to Provide More Test Prep
Students Are Not Doing Enough Reading in School

Students Need Authentic Reading

Gallagher suggests that students should be exposed to a mixture of reading experiences. Students should experience longer challenging novels, works of nonfiction, as well as lighter recreational reading. 

In my school we are strongly encourage to use our anthology series each week that focuses on nonfiction text and excerpts from novels. Very few of the stories are of high interest to my fifth graders. I do have a few class sets of novels but it is hard to fit them in to the ELA block with all our other "requirements".

There is a Dearth of Interesting Reading Materials in Our Schools

I have been teaching fifth grade for ten years. My classroom library has grown tremendously over that time but it is still lacking. I have a lot to improve on. Our media center is in a small room and most of my students have read the majority of books on the shelves. In my own children's school, there will not be a media center/library next year. They need that room for a classroom. Media/library class will consist of a few books on a cart, wheeled into the classroom. I don't worry about my children because they  both have a bookshelf in each of their bedrooms that are packed and we go to our public library at least once a week. My concern is for those students whose only access to books happens at school. We are failing them.

Many Schools Have Removed Novels and Other Longer Works to Provide More Test Prep

Our novels haven't been removed but they are definitely collecting dust as we are encouraged to do way more test prep each year.

Students Are Not Doing Enough Reading in School

I can remember when D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time was the "big thing" in school. Time to enjoy reading what you liked to read. Reading for the sake of reading.

This is again something that has been pushed aside to make way for more test prep.

Gallagher's connection between Olympic swimmers and reading was perfect. "An Olympic swimmer swims hundreds of thousands of laps before being judged in a medal race." "We put (students) in the "race" (in this case, high stakes reading testing) and ask them to perform well. However, there is a big problem: these students have not been the "pool" very much."

I also love how this chapter takes you step by step through ways to begin to solve this problem.

My two favorites:

Establish a book flood zone
 Don't expect students to go to the library, bring the books to the students.

This is something I started doing last year for my students. If a student gets "hooked" on a book series and I only have the first two novels, I will go to my library and check the next ones out for them. If I have two students that want to read the same book and I only have one copy, I go to the library and check out another copy.

Recognize and fight against summer reading loss.

My current 5th graders will leave on summer vacation at the end of the week with a novel in hand. I usually order 20+ copies of a novel to give it out each year. Then every year I have one or two students who look disappointed and I find out they have already read the book. This year I took a different approach. I spread out a box of 30+ books and gave each student a slip of paper. Everyone wrote down there top three choices. This way, each student not only goes home with a book they have never read, but one that they are interested in.

I am still processing all the information in chapter 2. I have a lot to think about and many changes I want to make next year. Now I just need to figure out how to do it.

What are you doing to prevent Readicide?

Hop on over to Erin's blog and check out what she thinks of chapter 2.

Check back next week when we discuss chapter 3 "Avoiding the Tsunami".

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Readicide Blog Hop: The Elephant in the Room

I am very excited to be involved in the summer book study and blog hop for Readicide. For the next five weeks, those of us from Focused on Fifth will read and reflect on Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide.

First off, chapter 1, The Elephant in the Room

This first chapter really spoke to me. I have been teaching for over 20 years and I am saddened by the continued emphasis on high-stakes testing. This year I opted my own children out of our state testing. It was my way of protesting the shift from "teaching to learn" to "teaching to take/pass a test".

I love  author Anna Quindlen's quote "constant testing will no more address the problems with our education system than constantly putting an overweight person on the scale will cure obesity".

More testing is not going to cure what is wrong with education, more/better teaching will!

I am beyond thrilled that Massachusetts Teacher's Association just finished a week long mission to get the word out about the negative impact high-stakes testing has on students and teachers.

It is frustrating when your school's administration focuses on test scores. When you are strongly encouraged to use the system wide anthology to "teach" reading.  An anthology that gives the students a piece of a novel, most of the time leaving them hanging at the end. Very often not enough of the story is shared to leave the students able to identify the theme or to analyze the characters. It is frustrating to know that something is not working but to have your hands tied as to how to fix it.

Even though my district insists that we use the system wide anthology, I manage to incorporate several novels into my teaching each year. This year my students and I were involved in Global Read Aloud. We read The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm and then created a virtual book club by blogging with another classroom in the US. It was a great way to get the students invested in a novel. You can check out my blog posts about GRA here and here.

What's your favorite read aloud?

Now hop on over to Erin's blog Learning to be Awesome and read her thoughts on this first chapter. 

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