Friday, April 8, 2011

Absolutely Nothing to do with Plants or Animals

Unless you count teenagers as animals, which, I suppose is debatable.

I have been beating my brain on my reading strategies class today.  All of us are choosing to read today - you are looking at my blog.  I am not picture heavy, so you are reading.  It's a good bet all of us are pretty much on the automaticity level for reading.  I am a secondary teacher.  I have never been taught to teach anyone to read, and the literature out there is pretty overwhelming. Over the years, I have taught myself, through research, trial and error, pure determination, to teach secondary age non-readers to read. It is not the same as teaching a 6 year old to read, it really isn't.

Most reading text books for secondary level kids say things like, "Set purposes for reading" or "Use what you already know to make connections".  Makes sense, right?

Struggling readers don't even know where to start.  They think that good readers just read - the words go by their eyes and they can answer all the questions.  They don't know that there is a whole host of things that go on between the eyes perusing the text and the pencil moving over the paper.  In fact, good readers couldn't even tell you what they are doing.  It's so automatic, the steps have become invisible to them.

At first glance, teaching someone to read, after the basics of phonics and basic words are out of the way, is like teaching someone to breathe.

"First, you breathe in.  Then you breathe out."

Just think about all the muscles and nerves involved in breathing in and out.  Think about trying to tell someone how to do each muscle in order.

I know I have told countless students to "Visualize when you read."  I didn't even think about all the skills involved in visualizing:  sequencing, identifying the setting, making an inference about why a character would do and say something in particular, and connecting those ideas to other ideas and experiences.

It's been a mind-bending but fruitful thinking day.  I didn't grade, make copies, or do anything else that would be normal on a prep day, but I sure made my brain smoke with thoughts.  Time to put that on the back burner to simmer while I change over to "farmer me".  Simmering has always brought out unexpected results - just like simmering a stew brings out the flavors.  Hopefully, my students will benefit.


Leigh said...

Very interesting post. Having been a homeschooler, I am so aware of what you say about children learning to read. I am so fortunate that my children were natural readers. They really didn't have to be "taught" they just read. I realize though, what a challenge it would be to teach someone who needed to be taught the skill. I'm sure your students will benefit! Sounds like you're on the case and will find a way soon.

NancyDe said...

My kids learned to read without much problem, and I am a reading addict, so it's been quite a learning experience for me to figure out what kids who are struggling aren't doing that seems so automatic to me.

On the plus side, after tossing and turning over it until well in the night, I thought of a strategy at about midnight. I am pretty excited about going back to work Monday and trying it out!