So much goodness here! I'll start with "Concern 3: Recreational reading is all but ignored" (54-55). These reminders that NOT prioritizing recreational reading makes everything else meaningless are welcome. After all, as Gallagher points out, "it doesn't matter how good the anchor reading standards are if our students don't read" (55).
There's a teacher at my school who always wonders why, in the SOLs, reading on grade level isn't listed since that's a prerequisite to everything else. While this isn't the point that Gallagher's making, I do think that the reading and writing tests have MANY prerequisites that we have to acknowledge and prioritize BEFORE we can get to the refinement of the more easily emphasized skills. (It would be like expecting a student who can't add 2+2 to pass the Algebra test.)
So, to go back to Chapter 1, we should be asking, "How do you fit in all of the standards around your writing [and reading] instruction?" if we actually want to make a different for students (7), which is why we must value and prioritize reading (and writing) themselves.
The concerns stated in this chapter are concerns we've all discussed extensively and/or battled internally on a regular basis. Even in reading the comments on some of the other chapters, there has been a disproportionate push toward nonfiction reading (and persuasive writing) nationally in recent years. Everything I read in this chapter reaffirmed the way I teach and the way I feel about education in general.
My biggest takeaways from this chapter were the "My 10" chart to create accountability with independent reading and the support of reading literary works. It's easy to get into the habit of cutting content that we perceive as valuable in order to "cover" all of the standards, but reading the research allows us to see that we should stay true to what we know works with our students.
This chapter helped me remember that I need to get back to helping my students read for enjoyment! I'm so glad he shared the "My 10" sheet and want to use that next year as a plan for my students with their independent reading. So often, I almost feel guilty for assigning independent reading to my students where they get to choose what they want to read, so I attach some type of SOL related questions or assignment to it in order to feel like I'm still "meeting the standards." Next year, I'm going to try to move away from that and just use the "My 10" sheet instead.
I also agree with what Gallagher said in "Concern 6" with the misinterpretation of the amount of informational reading we should be doing with our students. The past few years we've had to concentrate more on informational reading and nonfiction selections to mirror what we're seeing on the tests, but it makes complete sense that the 70/30 includes what students should be seeing in their other subjects as well. I will happily include more novels and poetry next year in my teaching!
Finally, I also agree with Concern 8 where Gallagher talks about using examplars too often in class in lieu of longer works. I definitely see in my students the inability to focus on longer selections and novels and to dig deeper and reflect on what they are reading. I will remember this concern next year and make sure I don't use too many short reading passages and get caught up in the stress of making sure my students are prepared for testing... I want to make sure they are prepared instead for a life and love of reading.
Interesting that I just ran across this article after reading this chapter!
Hey, Stacie... I actually corresponded with this person earlier this year when she had an article in the post pointing out how ludicrous the sample reading items (back before they released.. those earlier ones) were on the EOC test; I plan to get back to her soon as she invited more discussion!
Oops.. I meant article in the Post. I like his emphasis on recreational reading and think I like his My Ten, too, Lindsey; I've always struggled with how to hold them truly accountable for what they say they've read (I'm a cynic... without something, kids will say they have read when they haven't), and my logs that require some summary become a chore. I see though that he confers with them about what they are reading; I've dabbled in that although I always let it slip away. I used to get into it with Tamyra Jetton (remember her, older (relatively older) ones? She was an advocate that they should NEVER have to account for their SSR reading, but how else do I check to see that they are comprehending? It's got to be a fine balance of having to show/discuss something and just listing pages... sorry, but I've had too many kids lie over the years and also tell me they don't read unless they "have to." I want to make them all readers, and many thrive on choice, but there are those handful in most classes... well, you've all taught them. Of course, we all have avid readers where we can just move out of their way, but we all have kids, too, who need the structure of accountability in some way. They've learned to fake it well even when I take the time to really offer great options at their levels. Conferring with all of them is a noble (and best) method; I am just not sure how he can do this on a regular basis. The lowering of the grade one level might be an incentive for some to stay honest....
Dee- I agree with your struggles on how to hold kids accountable to the reading we "hope" they are doing... I go back and forth between attaching an assignment to their reading or just having a log. I do always require parent signatures with each book they say they've read, but then it's between their parents and them whether they're being honest or not. :-/ I don't know... I wish they all came to us with the love of reading!
Dee, I've struggled with this balance myself. As with almost EVERYTHING in teaching, I find myself moving always too far to one side of the spectrum or the other. Sometimes, that move works . . . and sometimes not. I had one brilliant year of "no accountability" with English 11 beyond just discussions. I think almost *every* kid grew as a reader that year. This year, that approach was an utter failure. I do think, however, about how resistant I am to posting a review on Goodreads in response to every book I read, so I identify with the idea that such a requirement might be off-putting for students. (And, during the years that I required at-home journals, they became slogs for students *and* for me.)
Sigh…. OK Dee, I am probably the only "older one" that knows who you are talking about. I loved Dr. Jetton, but I also didn't go along completely with her idea of never asking students to be accountable for their independent reading. Instead, she gave me a stripped down, easy combination of researched-based responses to reading that I could--and have--defended to parents and administration. Nothing earth-shattering, but we can all say that research proves that reading comprehension is increased when students clarify, summarize, question, and predict. No arguments there. So, I stick with a stripped down, easy and short temperature check for their reading.
So, for this chapter, I love that Gallagher starts out by stating that telling students to simply stick to the text is "ludicrous." Love it. The whole point of reading is to make connections--just can't even go there. I also felt that he said it well when he wrote about assisting our students as they venture into reading. "Students also need to be gradually released into the 'wrestling matches' necessary to make sense of difficult texts…they need to be led there by a teacher who expertly walks them into the work, especially if the work they are about to read is far way from their prior knowledge. The more unfamiliar the work, the more scaffolding will be needed to prepare them…" I would argue that the texts we teach in class, largely, are "far away from their prior knowledge" and so, we as good teachers should be helping them jump into the book and doggy paddle until they can comfortably swim on their own. Yes, they should struggle with difficult ideas and text at times, but with a safety net put there by an invested teacher.
I had a conversation just a few weeks ago with teachers in my department who shared that the favorite books of the year, as noted by the students, were the most difficult ones--the ones taught to the class, the ones that we would expect them to hate. )Yes, this is code for even a Shakespeare play.) I think that shows what we are talking about.
Hahahah, Renee- you're not alone- I remember the Tamara Jetton workshops when she came to our school and we had those paid sub days to learn her reading strategies. I'm an oldie now too, I guess! :-p
Renee, you are right, we do know what we're talking about. I have also experienced what you said about difficult books being favorites. My students love a particular nonfiction series, despite the challenging vocabulary and text structure. At first I thought it was just a status book thing (they were constantly asking to borrow my copies), but when I started talking to kids about the books I realized they were so mesmerized by the books they were putting in the extra work required to read them. Choice is a powerful thing.
What really resonated with me (beyond what you all have already mentioned) is Concern 4: There are no reading targets. I have worked really hard (especially this past year) to allow time & space each day for students to read, read, read. It's tough to give up the time I normally use for curriculum, but Gallagher is right: it doesn't matter what skills you are teaching them if they are not reading.
I know it's nearly impossible to convince a 16-/17-year old who already hates reading that he/she will learn to like it again, but I haven't encountered as much resistance to SSR time as I expected. I think they really do enjoy reading - they just don't necessarily want to admit it.
I agree that Concerns 3 and 4 are huge. I fully support recreational reading, but I abhor reading logs, reading journals, and reader’s response letters. They are tedious for me, and certainly for my students. Yet, there must be some sort of accountability. So, I talk to students about their books – we conference one-on-one and they sometimes share with partners or the group. I know that some of the students are attempting to fake it, but I can usually pin them down and we agree on a reread or they abandon the book in favor of something more interesting. I believe that making it a regular part of our instructional time sends a strong message to my students. (Reading is important. Talking about what we read is important.) It is hard to fit my preferred type of accountability checking into the instructional time I have as well as carry out the type of instruction expected of me. The My 10 seems like a great fit for what I want to do and the parameters within which I am operating. Our school theme this year is “Dream, Learn, Do” and I’ve been thinking about how I might work with students to set some reading goals. The My 10 seems like a realistic, attainable goal for students that I can successfully manage within the time I have.
I am in agreement with everyone about holding students accountable for their independent reading. I have been struggling with what to do this coming year. Stephanie – I like your idea and feedback about conferencing and am leaning in that direction. At the risk of repeating everyone, I really connected with the concerns. Again as an elementary school teacher, pre-reading activities are key especially for the many concepts that are new to students. Interestingly enough, the first time I heard that some folks advocated that students stay “within the four corners of the text,” I thought I misunderstood the speaker. I can’t imagine reading without making connections.
I’ve felt the pressure to increase the nonfiction readings in the library, not so much from within my school, as from professional journals and blogs. I have made every effort to increase those while still continuing to select and be aware of current young adult fiction. Students do quickly adapt to their teachers’ expectations and reading preferences- it becomes apparent rather quickly whether an individual student feels his teacher is invested in his recreational reading and that student is far less likely to just grab the first short book he sees on the shelf.
Kimber Tate, Coordinator of English, Reading and Libraries