Reading passages for low-level studentsI have two sections of students who have been placed in a prep class specifically for the English Regents.  I need ideas for literature passages that...

Reading passages for low-level students

I have two sections of students who have been placed in a prep class specifically for the English Regents.  I need ideas for literature passages that emphasize the use of literary elements and techniques.  These students have very little ability and very little motivation.  Any help?

Expert Answers
dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Reading passages for low-level students

I have two sections of students who have been placed in a prep class specifically for the English Regents.  I need ideas for literature passages that emphasize the use of literary elements and techniques.  These students have very little ability and very little motivation.  Any help?

I would first check every student to see if they have an IEP on file, in that way you can assess their individual needs. With regard to their motivation, you have to find what I call a 'hook', they have to trust you, meaning that with you it's a new day. IEP's can offer insight into a students' learning styles which might help you help them. Students that have an IEP might be eligible for additional time, have the exam read verbally to them, take the exam one on one, and even have additional explanation of the questions, documents, and essays. Having said that, this is one learning strategy I implement to motivate special needs students:

1. Literary techniques can often times be explained by utilizing sound. For example, Poe's The Raven, I'll read the poem aloud and then have individual students read it aloud one after the other.  after a few run throughs the students will begin to 'hear' the 'sound' of The Raven, the meter, its rhythm. I actually have a small tom-tom drum that I tap lightly as each person reads the poem.  (I never force anyone to read aloud however, it is important that you take note of the students who choose not to read. This is where the 'trust' comes in...this is what I do....after class I ask them to stay a moment, then I ask them why they do not want to read a good listener here it could make or break you in your effort...after they finish affirm your understanding of their feelings. Now put on your salesmen shoes!! Ask them if they would be willing to read just two lines aloud the next day...if they agree to that your lesson plan has just changed....the next day each student reads two that way you have motivated that one student and included the rest of the class...the student who was apprehensive about reading aloud in class gains a little confidence without the class recognizing any individualized instruction because everyone did the same thing. If the student says no, accept the response but explain to them that you will ask them again in the near future, and hope that they will trust in you...then let it go for a week... Believe me although the effect of this technique differs from student to student, I can tell you that the majority of students were receptive to it and at least willing to try it. Like I said with some students an educator has to find that 'hook'...

2. For the purpose of an exam such as the Regents, students that have learning disabilities I choose reading passages that all teenagers can identify with, The Pigman and My Darling My Hamburger by Paul Zindel come to mind. These books offer any student several universal themes that could be applied to the 'Critical Lens' portion of the Regents.

Good Luck in your efforts!!

mike-krupp eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Response to #12:

Sounds like your kids need motivation more than other things. That's easy to say, but I have the impression that they are separated from you and most everything else by a long-established wall of resentment, apathy, alienation, and prejudice.  I'm probably not saying anything new.  Polonius had the same problem.

Your students are bound to be passionate about something, and if you can enlist that passion you might get somewhere.  Every student will have a different passion, and some may be reluctant to admit something so intimate.  With a large class you have quite a challenge.

I have heard of teachers who would start with anything their students did like to read: illustrated books, comics, the sports pages, favorite teams or athletes, personal bitching, risque material, whatever.  It might work if you could persuade them they are rebelling against the system, rather than remaining slaves to it.  Vive la Revolucion!

Such an unconventional approach may, of course, be dperecated by the orthodox, and you may not have enough time to move from Manga to the exams.  I rather like the idea of your students as enthusiastic outlaws persuing themes of their own.

All my sympathy, and good luck.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For students like you describe, I used to like to combine reading passages with video clips. The Perfect Storm is an excellent selection that is high-interest for boys. I would pick reading sections from the novel, but show the clips first. (One clip, then an activity based on the clip, then a reading passage, then an activity based on the reading.)

You can teach literary elements and techniques, such as foreshadowing and irony, more easily with film, which is nothing more than "visual text," as you can with print text. Once the students' interest has been engaged by the film clip, it's much easier for the teacher to introduce the literary instruction. By the time you get to the reading passage, you have prior knowledge instilled in the students that you can access easily.

Good luck with your students, and best wishes to them on the Regents' Exam!

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What about music?  I use lyrics in my room all the time to emphasize the use of literary elements...try Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Sting (a former English teacher, by the way), and other classic rock musicians.  You can then move to more modern stuff, having the students bring in lyrics suitable for school and to your purposes (for instance, ask them to bring in ballads--plot, dialogue, reading between the lines, tone, voice, etc.--, or a song which uses simile, metaphor, or whatever other literary element you are tackling at the time.

I agree with Auntlori about the Ted Nancy letters...they are hilarious!  If you have more mature readers, you might also try some of the satiric writings from The Onion...but I would not just let them peruse these publications on their own...some of these are not very appropriate for school.

Good Luck!

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've also found All Quiet on the Western Front to be a fairly easy read, but just FULL of literary elements.  Each chapter can independently focus on a different element and you will have no problems finding plenty of examples.

I also encourage you to read texts aloud with the class.  This is beneficial in any class with any level of students.  A few principals have looked down on this practice in my personal experience, but I have consistently found success with it.  There is certainly something to be said for combining visual and auditory learning.  There is also a HUGE need for teaching students how to think.  Modeling reading and thinking aloud has never failed me.

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

(The Absolutely True Diary of a) Part-time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, would be my recommendation.  It is funny, honest, easy to read.  The novel, told from a young native American boy's perspective, traces the narrator's determination to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that pervades the reservation.  His decision to go to high school in a more privileged, predominately white area creates incidents that are sad, humorous, but most of all engaging. Alexie's fresh style of writing, short chapters, easy vocabulary, and mature themes make this work a good novel to teach.  There would be plenty to discuss.  I think all readers would enjoy this book.  I did.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You know, I can't think of any one specific work at this moment, but I'm thinking humor might be your best bet.  I'm thinking of someone like Dave Barry, who presents his ideas in humorous and often satiric ways but is also a very literary writer.  If you have a lot of sports-minded students, there are many sports writers who do some fine writing--especially, I find, in an editorial format.  In contrast, perhaps something like Letters from a Nut by Ted Nancy would give you some interesting opportunities for a class like this.  So thankful they have a teacher who cares enough to want to capture their interest as well as teach them. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two books I like to use with really struggling readers are The Giver and Holes.  Both books are relatively low reading levels, but contain complex themes and story lines.  They have rich characters, plenty of symbolize, and a lot of foreshadowing.  They are also highly engaging, and students will be hooked enough to want to read them.  Of the two, Holes by Lois Sachar is the easier read.  There are some words that might need to be defined in The Giver, but it is an easy story to follow.  The Giver also focuses on adult themes, making it ideal to use with low-level older students in middle or high school.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I read Love that Dog by Sharon Creech to try to get unmotivated students to appreciate and broaden their minds to poetry: it worked pretty well. Using the writings of the narrator in tandem with the stimulus poems was fun too.

As passage based texts for reluctant readers I would try to tailor things to interest the audience. Hemingway may appeal to some, opening chapters of crime fiction texts can work well too (I have used Patricia Cornwell, Harlen Coben and Thomas Harris).

A last point, consider what elements and techniques you would like your students to understand: this may guide your text choice still further.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the post by amy-lepore (and I like all of the musicians mentioned), but much of that music would be a turnoff to younger students. You might suggest bringing in some more recent song lyrics from their favorite musicians. Naturally, you will have to set down some ground rules, considering the vulgarities that fill much of modern music. They should be able to explain their own attraction to the words and discuss the meaning behind the song.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Have you thought of something like House on Mango Street? One of the reasons why I like it is that it is written in short fragments rather than lengthy chapters and each chapter provides so much scope for discussion and analysis. It is a very simple introduction that can be used for a variety of levels and to discuss a large range of issues such as identity, culture and growing up during adolescence etc.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How about Tuesdays with Morrie or The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven?

Indian Education is pretty fun. Anything by Chris Crutcher is usually good. Each of these pieces have great chapters that can be done as read-alones.

Have you considered listening together to a book on tape? Sometimes an engaging tape with a good text help those guys buy in.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper is a popular work at this town's high school and very relevant as each year it seems one senior is killed in a car wreck.  So, the short, easy-to-read novel is relevant.

rhadzima | Student

Thanks to all of you who replied to my call for help.  These kids continue to present real problems. The post about teaching them to THINK really resonated with me.  They really don't want to think and don't know where to start.  They resist it at every turn.  It takes them at least twice as long to complete ANY type of assignment of give them, and I am attempting work with them at all different levels.  They treat any deadline as absurd or negotiable, and I have been as flexible as possible, while still expecting them to get work done. The classes are too large; I can't get around fast enough to help the few who really want to try.  The rest of them want to sit and talk, or complain and ultimately do nothing.   I have at least one colleague who is experiencing the same problems.  One example is their inability to use/apply skills and info that I know the whole dept. has been teaching for years:  literary techniques and devices, etc.  I am re- teaching with limited success. With the emphasis on pass rates for Regents exams, I am very concerned about their inability and unwillingness to help themselves and I feel intense pressure about how they will perform.  They specifically need practice on the tasks needed for the new exam.