Thursday, July 21, 2011
Question: What can teachers do to counter student’s not reading the books they assign?
Answer:: Makes it clear that our students are not reading assigned novels. The first thing the students do is run to the Internet. “The Great Gatsby yields 2.5 million Google hits; The Scarlet Letter more than 1.2 million; The Old Man and the Sea, a puny 589,000 hits.”
The author urges teachers to assign student reading journals in which to respond to what they are reading.
Comment: Try this. Have students read for 5 minutes near the beginning of the novel. What have they learned? Record key words. Do they have any questions? Record key words.
Now the students read for 5 minutes in the middle of the novel. What have they learned? Record key words. What questions do they have? Record key words.
Third, they read for 5 minutes three-fourths through the novel. What have they learned? Record key words. What questions do they have? Record key words.
Finally, the students read for 5 minutes near the end, but not the end. What have they learned? Record key words. What questions do they have? Record key words.
Students have said to me when I have used this technique that it gives away the plot and therefore they have no reason to read the novel. The fact is, this technique gives clues to the plot but mainly raises questions about all sorts of thing, character, theme, language, etc.
Reorganize the question key words into questions of fact, questions of interpretation and questions of criticism. The students read to answer their questions.
Another suggestion: If students encounter dead spots in reading the novel, have them read a paragraph a page until they are caught up again in reading all of the text—and they will become caught up again in reading the text. The paragraph-a-page technique speeds up the process of reading and keeps students current with the plot.
This sampling provides any number of advantages. The students have a taste of the author’s style. They become motivated because they themselves raise the questions. They have a purpose for reading, to answer the questions. They will learn the advantages to reading the text instead of someone else’s summaries and comments. By the way, I always conclude our discussions of the novels by having the students gather critics’ comments in order to compare the students’ insights with the critics’. When I suggested this technique to one of my English teachers, she said, and I quote, “I couldn’t shut them up” in contrast to the dead silent response to her introduction that emphasized quizzes and quiz dates and pages per night requirements. RayS.
Title: “Not Reading: The 800-Pound Mockingbird in the Classroom.” WJ Broz. English Journal (May2011), 15-20.