When I became a teacher, I was excited to share much-loved stories with my students. I learned that the student textbooks held only excerpts of novels, and they had to complete five pages of worksheets as well as a test for each story. I was appalled, but accepted it as the way to teach reading. For years I read the story aloud or had students take turns, then handed out worksheets. And each year I watched all interest in reading die in most of the young people in my room.
During the summer of 2011 I happened to read The Book Whisperer by Donalynn Miller. In the pages of that book I found my people–the people who love reading and love to share it with young people. Miller knows that worksheets and excerpts don’t create avid readers. Showing a passion for books creates avid readers.
In the ensuing two years, I have devoted my time to creating passionate readers. I tossed out the worksheets and I encourage students to select books that interest them. They read in class for 45 minutes to an hour each day, after a mini lesson I teach that focuses on how to think about their reading. Once a week they write a letter to me about what they are reading, and I try to conference with them as often as I can to talk to them about reading.
First let me say that the school where I teach sends me new sixth graders that know the basics of reading. They can sound out words and comprehend the literal story. I don’t have to deal with way below grade level readers or even second language learners. That helps. The students that come into my classroom are ready to learn that books can be amazing.
When given the ability to choose, I find that students read much more than they are assigned and they enjoy it. With no test, they try new genres and feel okay about abandoning books they don’t like. These students improve at reading because they practice it constantly. They share books by word of mouth and blog, and they always have a book in their hands. Reading is exciting in my classroom (as is writing) and it makes my mornings magical.
Now I have to figure out how to do that with math.
On my Kindle: Fate War: Alliance by E. M. Havens