Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Teaching the Kids to Read

The big picture: I tell them that right now, when they read from the textbook, I usually go over it with them in great detail and explain everything. But in college, they will read hundreds of pages a week and the professor will expect them to learn new material from the book with a minimum of in-class explanation. Did you ever read something, answer the questions, but know that you still didn't really understand it? Every hand goes up. How many of you used a strategy to try to make sense of it? Fewer hands up. Okay, well, my job is to get you from where you are now, where I do a lot of explaining, to where you have to be in college, able to learn from the book independently.

Previewing: Look at pages 98-100. Read the titles and headings, look at the diagrams and pictures, read the captions. What do you think we will be reading about? What do you want to know or learn from this section? What questions do you have?

Modelling: The kids read two paragraphs silently. Then, as a class, we practice the process of discussing it. I provide a couple of questions to help them pick out the important concepts and terms. We practice discussing without raising hands, responding to each other. When everyone feels that they understand the material, each student takes notes. I emphasize taking useful notes - some people like bullet points, some people like complete sentences, some people will need to write down a lot, others only a few key points. We will have to work more on this. I think I need to show them some examples of notes and have them evaluate which ones will be most useful for the student to use to study, and then we'll have something to emulate. I don't like note-taking systems. I don't have time to teach three or four different systems, and my experience is that some systems work better for some students and some texts, other work better for other kids, other texts. I'm hoping the kids can learn to identify key ideas and write them down in any fashion that makes the ideas personally accessible later on.

Practice: I put a transparency on the overhead projector which breaks the reading down into small sections and provides focus questions for each section. With a partner, they read, discuss, take notes, read, discuss, take notes. When both students are stuck, they ask me to explain.

We've done this for two days now; the first day's topic was work. The second day's topic was work, too, because it went a lot more slowly than I anticipated. Part of that was my extemporaneous speech about How College Classes Work. We nearly finished power, today, too. Tomorrow we will wrap it up, I'll go over a few key ideas to make sure everyone got it, and then, on to simple machines. There we will get to put to the test some of our understanding about work and power.


Blogger Polski3 said...

Good Post ! Don't forget the new vocabulary terms. As my students preview a new section of an assigned reading, I nag/harp on them to speak up regarding new vocabulary terms or any words they see (read) that they don't know or understand. This is especially important because most of my kids are ELL's (English Lang. Learners).

Keep up your Great Posts!

7:36 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

I stress reading a lot also. I come prepared with some large heavy book, drop it loudly on some poor kid's desk, and tell them when they're in college, some teacher will do that and say "Read to page 112 by Wednesday."

I tell them I'm making them do this so they can avert a certain heart attack when that moment comes. But really I'm just trying to seduce them into reading, which I think is perhaps the single most important thing I do.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought your lesson was well planned. I wished you had been my high school teacher before I went to college. The best part was your examples of what notes should look like. It is always good to have examples students can see and study. I hope you do this lesson again, this year. It never hurts to see it twice with new topics.

3:24 PM  
Blogger jcrit said...

Going to college unprepared is a burden. You are making it easier, and I am doing that too, in math. My only addition to the duscussion: use the tools we now have. That'd include: computers, calculators, internet, toys, authenticity. Purists may be offended by tools, since they aren't allowed to be used on our standardized tests, and some people say it's what separates us from the apes, but I say that besides helping to keep kids awake, it's just good, common sense.

Thank you.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Caz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

I agree with polski3. Volcabulary is a must! Most of my students have a very limited understanding of volcabulary and struggle to understand and do short answer questions.

8:54 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Thank you for doing that. I wish our content teachers took more time to support kids' reading. If I had a nickle for every time I had to say something like "That textbook is on a ninth grade level, this kid's being speaking English for three years... He's not dumb, he just needs help."

10:35 PM  
Blogger pseudostoops said...

I think it's a great choice not to teach a particular notetaking system. It's so tempting for some people to treat notetaking/outlining like some silver bullet- "if we only teach them THIS notetaking system, they'll all be Harvard-bound!" It's such a personal thing how people process and record information. It can be so empowering for kids to hear "if it works for you, then it's fine by me."

Also, I realize this is probably a given in your classroom, but I love how you're incorporating "college culture" -that it's expected, WHEN you go to college, to do this much reading, so let's practice.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Amerloc said...


Thank you.

8:29 PM  
Blogger kathianne said...

Your classes and mine sound very similar. I use the first 2 weeks of classes for the 6th graders, discussing how and why they need to take notes. I explain the same as you, that while many may be able to get by 6th grade without notes, that will not be true for most in high school/college when what the teacher may be discussing, is not in the textbook.

During the year, I keep going back and emphasizing that previewing helps them build a ladder from which they will be able to hang the details of what they pick up in reading and assignments.

By 7th grade the students know that I'm not going to remind them to take notes, though I still collect and grade their notebooks. When I do, I make sure to list their quiz grades and test grades along with their notebook grades-it doesn't take them long to catch the relationship. ;)

Rarely do I have 8th graders that are trying to 'get by', they have a serious attitude about getting into their choice of high school and honors classes.

I'm in my 7th year of teaching middle school and have had at least 20 former students come back and say that making them aware of how and WHY certain study skills will help them, made high school much easier. The kids do appreciate what we do, (though maybe not so much at first).

6:19 AM  

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