"Readicide"I just finished Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide.  I could not put it down; I was in "the reading flow" (to quote Gallagher).  While I have always thought that "teach to the test" is...

"Readicide"

I just finished Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide.  I could not put it down; I was in "the reading flow" (to quote Gallagher).  While I have always thought that "teach to the test" is wrong, I cannot believe how much more I am against it now.  The book speaks to how we, as teachers, are killing student interest in reading through the ways we are expected to teach.

This being said, how are you trying to insure that your students are reading for the right reasons?  Not the wrong ones?

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vmoriarity's profile pic

vmoriarity | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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I agree that state tests are certainly requiring English/language arts teachers to focus more on excerpts  and reading skills, yet I can't help but wonder if this won't actually strengthen our students reading abilities.  I am starting to focus on excerpts to teach the specific skills, anchor texts to practice those skills in small groups, and book talking a lot to interest my students in longer novels.  I find students to be most engaged when involved in reading/literature circles, so it makes sense to use reading circles to practice the skills taught in direct instruction.  Hopefully, I will somehow strike a balance between "teaching to the test" and strengthening students' thinking skills.  One thing for sure; I will be one tired teacher at the end of the year - I just hope I will also feel the year was successful.  

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The key to making students into effective readers is to model good reading habits and teach them. I have found that there are three keys to helping students become good independent readers: accessibility, readability and accountability. First of all, the students have to have access to a wide variety of books. Easy access! This usually means searching garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets, but it pays off. I found that unless I had the books actually in my classroom, it didn't really happen. If a student finishes work early, he or she can get a book. If a student says he or she doesn't have a book, I can help pick one out. That leads me to the next important point, and that is having the right book. I teach kids how to choose a book, and how to know if it's the right book. These leads to less frustration and more success. Finally, I use different ways to hold them accountable. It depends on the grade level. Some work at many levels. I use student or teacher conferences, journals, book report projects, graphic organizers and sometimes computer programs like Accelerated Reader. Make reading important in your classroom, and it will become important to your students.
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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Whilst I agree with other editors that the strict government and state regulations does do a lot to shape the overall aim of our teaching, I still believe that there is always room within this overall aim to be subversive and interesting in how we present literature to students. Some excellent strategies have already been indicated above, but one of the best strategies I find is to work hard in how I present texts to my students before we start reading them. The best way of doing this is to present issues and themes from the novel and get students to respond to them from their perspective, and encouraging them to debate amongst themselves why they believe what they believe.

For example, before studying Much Ado About Nothing this last somester we discussed the power of deception, and whether it was always bad or could be used for good. We discussed times that we ourselves had been deceived and how we felt after such experiences. This of course prepared the class to discuss the key theme of deception and whether it can be good (as in the way that Beatrice and Benedick are tricked into falling in love with each other) or whether it is always bad (as in Don John's deception of Claudio and Don Pedro). Having studied the play, we revisited the idea. I have found that establishing bridges into the lives of my students is absolutely invaluable for generating student interest in texts.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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As most posters have noted, most of us are bound by whatever guidelines are set, either state or federal. Many of us follow a rigid curriculum, and lit circles may be the only way to to combat that. I have a colleague who has been carrying his copy of Readicide with him to every dept. meeting, staff meeting, and professional development. He has his students read books of their choice for 20 minutes every day. Unfortunately, most educators do not have the time to devote to such a schedule! However, the fact remains that if we teach students the skills, they can apply those skills to any text. So, if they read a book for pleasure, we can still get some educational use out of it, if you'll allow me to be so blunt. Research shows that the more students read, the better they perform. They build vocabulary, strengthen their critical thinking, etc.

I work at a public school, but I have been very lucky to have a great deal of autonomy within my classroom, which means lots of class discussions on deeper issues sparked by the literature. At a workshop I attended last week, a colleague from another high school in my district said that the 10th grade English classrooms have to devote 6 weeks to CAHSEE prep (the CA High School Exit Exam, which students take in 10th grade). Let me repeat that- 6 WEEKS. I would go insane. And I know my students would hate every minute of it.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I make a clear difference between reading a text and studying a text with my students. I am honest with them, explaining that the way we approach a text for study can open up possibilities but can also push out some of the enjoyment. Then we have texts we -or they- just read. No credits, just discussion in they choose to, and sharing of the experience. It is a sad reality. However, looking at why a text is worthy of study canhrlp students become more discering in their less-structured reading.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The only high school teaching I have done has been at a very small, private school, so I have been lucky.  What I have always tried to do is to connect the reading with something the students feel passionate about, even before we begin our reading.  This can be politics, pop culture, the ethnic background of particular students, their family situations, or their own love lives or friendships.  I guess I feel that if I can't help them make personal connections, why are they reading in the first place?  It is that personal connection that engages them to begin with, and then I can build in all sorts of meaningful directions.  If I could wish for something for all teachers everywhere, it would be that all teachers would have the support they need to be able to teach this way, not the wretched system that seems to have overtaken school districts across the country.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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What has killed a lot of student interest in reading here is the Accelerated Reader program the kids are forced to go through in middle school. Under this program, the books in the library are rated according to their difficulty, and to pass each grade level, students must read a designated number of "points" each year.  Under this system, students find reading a drudgery...a "have to"...in order to pass. Also, students often read 10 easy books below their reading level just to get it done, rather than to read a more challenging book that they might not finish in time for AR point gathering.  I have had more than one student tell me how this killed their love of reading.

In the high school, we use lit circles which helps some because the students get a choice in their reading...but it still doesn't tackle the problem of how to get students jazzed about reading the classics (which I think is necessary).

I try to work in hands on activities like movie making, and debates, and students teaching students to help...but I would still love more ideas.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Well said! I just find it so disheartening that the policy holders are not looking from our standpoint. From what standpoint they are looking form, I have no clue. While I always knew that districts were forcing us to do the right thing the wrong way, I never really realized how it was affecting our students. Do they complain about test-taking lessons? Yes, but they also complain about any work they are given. I just cannot grasp what has happened since I was in high school (89-93). My children love to read, but this is because it was instilled in them at a young age and they never lost the desire to read on their own.

Is it really the way that we are teaching that makes students hate reading? What are your thoughts?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

As long as educational policy is determined by politicians who only understand measurable numbers, teachers have no choice but to emphasize those matters that will appear on standardized tests. I don't think any teacher out there will disagree with you on the wrongness of teaching to the test; however teachers are not the problem. It is those who control the educational budget, and are results oriented. Many years ago, there was talk of "teacher empowerment." That has gone by the wayside with No Child Left Behind. So, if we could mail a copy of the book to every legislator in every state and force them to read it, we might get somewhere; until that day, however, teachers will be forced to "dance with the one what brung them."

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Here in Florida, where new state laws place a teacher's employment and salary in direct relation to how their students fare on the FCAT, it is virtually impossible to avoid the "teach to the test" doctrine. Classroom teachers are forced to do this by the administration, allowing only a minimal amount of individualism for teachers of reading and English. Luckily, the state's private schools are not under such sanctions, so those teachers are able to exercise a bit of personalization within their lesson plans and teaching techniques.

ymsmith's profile pic

ymsmith | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

What has killed a lot of student interest in reading here is the Accelerated Reader program the kids are forced to go through in middle school. Under this program, the books in the library are rated according to their difficulty, and to pass each grade level, students must read a designated number of "points" each year.  Under this system, students find reading a drudgery...a "have to"...in order to pass. Also, students often read 10 easy books below their reading level just to get it done, rather than to read a more challenging book that they might not finish in time for AR point gathering.  I have had more than one student tell me how this killed their love of reading.

In the high school, we use lit circles which helps some because the students get a choice in their reading...but it still doesn't tackle the problem of how to get students jazzed about reading the classics (which I think is necessary).

I try to work in hands on activities like movie making, and debates, and students teaching students to help...but I would still love more ideas.

I teach high school and we use the AR but we do NOT use the points.  In fact, the AR people say to no longer use the point system.  I have had wonderful success getting many of my reluctant readers to read several books each year (and do well on the tests).  AR is a good program if you use it wisely. 

 

I also teach social studies and I have found that my students are "jazzed" about the classics because they don't have the history/social background firm enough, so I spend time before I start a novel giving them that background info and throughout while we are reading a novel.  My student's overall scores have increased in the past 3 years on novel units. 

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