Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Reading 'Workout'

I consider myself a struggling exerciser. It’s hard to get myself going, I want to see immediate results, I feel better after but not enough to maintain a routine, and sometimes I simply don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It’s not even that I don’t like to exercise, I just have so many excuses for why I don’t. In these ways, I feel the passive frustration of my ‘non’-readers. How can I as a teacher, knowing the multitude of benefits for reading, also cultivate the more sophisticated pleasure that comes from discipline that will help my students become lifelong readers?

By the time many of my students reach 10th and 12th grade, they have established non-reading patterns that I have to work to re-negotiate. Especially with my struggling students, the attitude ‘I don’t like to read’ becomes ‘I’ll just go on Sparknotes’ or simply ‘I don’t read.’ My goal becomes to embed motivation in what they do with the reading, with the intention that ultimately my “instruction builds the skill and desire to read increasingly complex materials” (Ivey & Fisher, 2006). For me, the ELA classroom provides a theoretical space for lifelong literacy but needs attentive construction to effectively build a culture of reading within and beyond its walls.

In the classroom, I have the opportunity to construct reading routines, especially ones focusing on the persistence, self-reflection, and pleasure in reading necessary for independently motivated readers. This year, my ‘aha!’ moment came when reading Kelly Gallagher's text ‘Deeper Reading’ as he contrasts how much scaffolding and in-class support middle and high school ELA teachers devote to writing instruction, with the homework ‘to read.’ Gallagher presents different ways to chart understanding, self-monitor comprehension, and then ‘second draft’ read to not only understand but to revel in thinking more deeply. This approach assembles a multi-layered reading process (paralleling the writing process - it seems so obvious now!), and I’m better able to work with my students to engage, encourage, and maintain their reading and critical thinking habits. And, if all goes well, everything culminates in the satisfaction we’ve all felt after a good reading workout.

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