Start where the students are. Don't assume they all know something. This is becoming increasingly more difficult with the digital generation who doesn't read like previous generations. This generation simply isn't exposed to the words (via reading) the way previous generations have been. Thus they lack some of the content knowledge previous generations have. It is what it is. Regardless, we need to meet them where they are and move them forward as far as we can.
Speaking of finding out what students already know, here is an interesting read/link to an article: Reading Teacher Priority One: Getting to Know Your Students as Readers. I get to know them quite well as people but not as readers. Here is a quick rundown of the ways to get to know them as readers.
1. Kid watch. If you have free reading early in the year, monitor the students. What subjects do they select? Who zones out? Who can't put their phone away? What titles and authors are popular?
2. Invite reflection. Ask kids to reflect, whether it's in reader journals, short talks, impersonal observations, or reader response starters. This will tell you who has analytical skills and who is struggling with comprehension.
3. Make the rounds. And this is one I struggle with. Too often when I have free reading time in class, it's time for me to get extra grading done. Instead, I need to be an active presence in my room, noting who is reading diligently, who is hiding their phones in their laps, and who is working.
4. Prompt for quick jots during read aloud.
For fluent writers (typically grades 2 and above), ask students to come to the gathering area one day with a clipboard or notebook stickered with four post its. Have them put their initials on the upper corner of each one. Then, read aloud a favorite short story or short picture book. During the reading, ask them to stop and jot four times. If it’s fiction, you may have them jot once for Plot and Setting (Why did X happen? What problems is the character facing? Retell the most important events so far. Describe where the story is taking place.); Character (What kind of person is X? How is X impacting Y? How is X changing?); Vocabulary and Figurative Language (Explain what X means in this story.); and Themes and Ideas (What lesson can you learn from this story? What does X symbolize? What are some social issues the author is writing about in this story?) Then, collect the sticky notes and sort/rank them. Put those students with the strongest answers to the first question in one pile, those with the most simplistic answers in another. You’ve got your first several rounds of small groups planned right there!
5. Listen to them talk. This works well in CC. I love to hear students talk about their novels. One student raves about In Cold Blood while another compares it to To Kill a Mockingbird. And here is my time to add that Dill is really Truman Capote in TKM, and he helped Harper Lee decided to publish a loose collection of stories from her youth, which would later become TKM.
Now I need to use this more in CC 1 and 2. This is why we read The Element, Outliers, So Good They Can't Ignore You, and Linchpin.
The real problem with this Venn diagram is that we think we can logically go about achieving this. But as Cal Newport notes in So Good They Can't Ignore You, most people who have a great passion or "love" for their work didn't follow a clear, linear path. Instead those people who have a great passion or "love" for their work stumbled upon their careers by developing rare and valuable skills. In that way, passion is a by product of being an expert at something.
People have remarked about my passion for teaching. But it wasn't always that way. I did follow a pretty linear path through college. I was an English major all the way through (I did briefly contemplate switching to as social studies major and then a journalism major). But I stuck it out.
But during my first three years of teaching, I didn't have a passion for it. At all.
In fact, during the middle of my second year, I filled out an application for the UPS. I routinely looked in the want ads for other jobs.
But after my third year, I went to graduate school, where I developed some skills (particularly how to go about teaching students to write). I have never been the same.
That was my mission for a long time. Now that mission has shifted a bit, the more I read and grow, toward helping students discover their elements and become curious, life long learners.
Though I'm not a huge fan of his books, namely his parables, I do love listening to him live, though. He's a great presenter.
Shane shared this with us recently. Lord knows, I can use all the help I can get when it comes to determining what students are missing from each lesson.
I have become addicted to the podcast, Lore, by Aaron Mahnfke . One of the first ones is on one of my all time favorite subjects, werewolves.
Here is the 'true' account of the Werewolf of Bedbug. Not nearly as interesting (or terrifying) as the beast of Gevaudan in France. But still, this is why history is often more terrifying than fiction.
I was just writing about this when it came to getting to know my students as readers. So much has changed over the generation (well, almost a generation) that I've been teaching.
This article examines how (or if) our practice has kept up with the changes in learning.
The author notes that these are the most important skills students can develop in our classroom to prepare them for the world:
1. Oral Communication - something I need to work a lot harder on in my classroom.
2. Collaboration - the dreaded "group work" - well, coming from students. I do plenty of this, especially in CC 2, but do I do it effectively? That is the question.
3. Work ethic / self-discipline. This is one reason I'm toying with adding Cal Newport's Deepwork to my CC or CC 2 reading load.
4. Written Communication. Now we're talking! This is more down my alley than anything else on here.
5. Crucial Thinking / Problem-Solving. Just like #1. I can use so much more help with this one.
Speaking of Deepwork, here is the author elaborating on it. And this is something WE all can use help with, not just our students, for we all live in a world dominated by distractions.
At the very best, this is what happens in my classroom (albeit far too often) -