I have a nine-year-old daughter who loves to read. She would, most likely, choose reading over any other activity. Her third-grade teacher expects 70 minutes of reading time at home for the week. This past week, my little book worm, read 496 minutes. I think you get the picture…
A couple of months ago, I was sitting in a reading workshop with a fellow educator. The trainer said, “The children who read the most, are the ones who are read to the most.” I turned to my colleague and said, “I don’t read to Sydney anymore.” It just dawned on me that because I had raised such an independent reader, I know longer got that “lap time” with her. My friend said, “Choose something that is above her reading level and read it to her.” Great idea! We decided on The Chronicles of Narnia. I was excited to begin since I had never read these classics either. Little did I know, that our Narnia time would become beloved by not only my daughter and myself, but also by my five-year-old (rambunctious!) son, and my husband. The interesting part is that while I have been reading these seven volumes to my family, I am reading many professional books at work about the importance of reading aloud, building background knowledge, and the importance of vocabulary instruction. Like most great activities, what began as a fun family time, turned into a rich educational experience for my children . My five-year-old frequently interrupts my reading to ask what a word means, to inquire about a character, or comment on the setting (I must admit, sometimes it’s so frequent that it causes the reader to react in a somewhat annoyed tone – ahem).
As I write this post, I am in the middle of creating a presentation to share with the secondary content area teachers at our junior high and high school. I will be sharing some reading strategies that they can take to their classrooms. Guess what I section I just finished…Read Alouds. By reading Narnia to my children, I am able to add to their vocabularies, expand their knowledge on England during that time period, share information about knights, dukes, kings and queens, tie the books to Biblical references that they are learning about during Sunday school and our nightly devotions, and model fluent reading for them. Even more, we are having good discussions about the text we’re reading, which research shows increases their learning and solidifies the new content into their knowledge base. In a time of electronics and digital media, cracking open a good old-fashioned book is invigorating. Having my two favorite children pressed up against me is a feeling that can’t be matched. Knowing that I am helping them become life-long readers is invaluable.
I only have one problem…we are on book #6. What do we read together next? Any suggestions???
As a new curriculum director, one of my areas of interest is professional development. I’m a big believer in using “in-house talent” when possible. Our school system is blessed with outstanding teachers that have a wide-range of knowledge and gifts. I’ve recently begun an after school professional learning community (one of those new educational buzz-phrases). We have looked at using Bio Book Bags to introduce the importance of reading and real-world literacy experiences. We have explored the use of blogging as a means to professional reflection/growth, and how to use blogs with students within the classroom. We have seen how easy it is to set up, use, and share Live Binders (one of my personal favorites!). I love this time of collaborating and learning with one another. I sat down to write this blog and was originally going to write about this particular group. As I began typing the title, however, a different view came to mind. Can students form professional learning communities, too?
Research after research indicates the importance of student conversations about what they are learning. These solidify their thought processes, and settle this new material into their knowledge-bases. This dialoguing looks different depending on the teacher, the students, the classroom and/or the content. They might “turn and talk” to a partner about their writing during writer’s workshop. They can “turn and talk” about their reading in any subject area. They might moodle, blog, or respond on wikis about a piece of literature they are reading. They might work in groups to determine and solve a math problem. But, how else is student collaboration happening in K-12 classrooms?
Are we allowing students to split into groups of their choice to learn from one another about a particular topic? In a third grade class we have an expert on Denmark (he was born and lived there the first six years of his life), one who knows a lot about Peru (having spent a few weeks there one summer), an expert on Ethiopia (she was born and lived there for the first six years of her life). Could we allow the students to choose which country they wanted to study and join that “community” using one of the student-experts to lead the group? Major components of a seventh-grade social studies class involve the development of Africa, Asia and the Southwest Pacific from ancient civilizations to modern times. Why not let students decide which area they want to focus on, let them study different aspects (i.e.religious institutions, trade and cultural interactions, political institutions, and technological developments), and then let them teach the rest of the class in their area of expertise? Student-learning will increase when they have an authentic purpose. Students will practice multiple 21st century skills (wow – two buzz-phrases in the same blog) including collaboration, leadership and responsibility, initiative and self-direction, and communication. The teacher takes the sidecar and lets the students do the driving. It’s a win-win!
As I get back to work after Christmas break, blogging is almost last on my “to do” list. So, I post something from Charles Swindoll that is good for each of us to remember…
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of
attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important
than the past, than education, than money, than
circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what
other people think or say or do. It is more important
than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or
break a company. . . a house. The remarkable thing
is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude
we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our
past. . . we cannot change the fact that people will act
in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we
have, and that is our attitude. . . I am convinced that
life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react
to it. And so; it is with you. . . we are in charge of our
– Charles Swindoll