Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ELA Teachers: Students Fighting the Mid Year Blahs? Fire Up Your Readers Again!

The beginning is so great, isn't it? Your students look up at you with wonderment, their eyes sparkling with all that might lie ahead. You are so excited to bring your best everyday, too, knowing that you are ready to change lives and create readers! But, now, as Christmas draws near, you look out at your students to see only dull, lifeless faces, painfully grabbing their novels for personal reading time. Yes,  there are still a few that look to you with hopeful eyes, and that offers some inspiration, but you know deep inside that something has to change. It's time to step outside the box.

I set out to create a reading and writing community within my classes this year. It started out great, and many of my students have already read 30 books or more.  For some, the fire ignited and they are reading for pleasure for the first time ever. Awesome! But, many still see it as a chore, which bothers me.

Now, I am a big believer that it is never too late for change. So, I've been thinking, and here's what I've decided.

First, there is no silver bullet: Just offering time to read is not enough to create a classroom of readers. Making the students write reading responses, book reviews, etc. will not create readers either. In fact, sometimes, it does the exact opposite, because it can cause reading to be a chore. Who enjoys chores? Not me. We have to mix it up. Instead of a book review this week, I'm having my students bring in one item (drawing, picture, or thing) that connects to what they are currently reading. We are going to go to the media center, sit on the floor, and share with each other. I may have to change this every week. I don't know. But, I do know for kids to stay excited about reading, repetition has to go!

Secondly, students need to show off what they are reading: I saw this post, and loved it! Check it out at http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/muggles-can-make-magic-too-turning-non-readers-into-readers-and-writers-by-dennis-jolley-with-justin-jones/

I loved the idea of taking pictures of the kids with their books and posting them on bulletin boards. I'm going to do this, because I think it will be exciting to them to see it in the halls, in my classroom, and on my teacher website. I believe it could create a sense of identity, and something to talk about.

Integrate technology: I created a wiki for for summer reading program, and I would like to do that again. It helps to faciliate an online discussion about what students are reading. Students can post when they like, and I can respond when time permits. I am going to do that again. I will also create a classroom blog where the students can write and upload their book reviews. They can add pictures or book trailer videos. I'm going to research into Skype, and see if we can't have some authors visit us in the classroom via the Smartboard. I believe we have cameras. My first contact will be Mike Lupica, author of Million Dollar Throw or Karen Hesse, author of the novel, Out of the Dust. Why did I not think of this before?

Sometimes, in our desperate attempts to get students to learn, I think we forget that learning is supposed to be fun. We've got to put ourselves in the shoes of our students. We must keep asking ourselves, how can we connect the content with students in ways that will be memorable?

Wishing all ELA teachers a happy journey as we embark on the second half of the school year. Remember, it's never too late!

~It is never too late to be what you might have been.~
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeelio161679.html#OVPryEV3oG6FwTH2.99

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