By Katie Choate
As I was flipping through the Teach Like a Champion text, the words “The Challenges of Reading Aloud” caught my attention. How fitting for an English teacher, right? The problem is we all have different views on reading aloud in the classroom. Recently, I’ve heard from someone “up above” that teachers should never force a student to read aloud. Personally, I find that to be crazy. We’re talking about 14 year-olds or older! These students have been reading aloud since at least first grade. They’ve actually been assessed on their skills as far as reading aloud in their younger years in school. So why would we allow them to opt out of this as they become older and better readers? The answer they give is that it puts pressure on the student, makes them feel “put on the spot”, or demonstrates their reading flaws. I don’t believe this. I think these students have learned that “playing dumb” or announcing that they have self-diagnosed dyslexia will earn them a pass. If you watch these students, the second they are allowed to be skipped in regards to reading aloud, they tune out completely. They know they have won and that they will forever be able to do their own thing during this part of any lesson.
My personal philosophy: you will read aloud. When I call your name, you will read at least the paragraph we are on at a minimum. If you struggle, we will help you. If you have a legitimate issue, it will be documented somewhere and we will discuss that. I can honestly say I’ve never had a student officially diagnosed with dyslexia. I’ve had numerous students with stuttering problems or other speech impediments, and these students often do not have issues reading aloud…they’ve been working on their speech all their life. It’s something that stems from a self-conscious issue. Once these students realize I will not give them a pass, they are magically healed. I love that Lemov says, “The argument further assumes that struggling is a bad thing and that classroom cultures are incapable of making it safe to struggle and take risks “ (173). Isn’t this our job? To make them comfortable with things they are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with. I think hearing others read and encouraging inflection and enthusiasm during reading is great. You never know when you might be asked to read something aloud. Wouldn’t these students rather be rehearsed in this skill rather than proving that they struggle with something?
By Katie Choate
Reading about the double planning technique that Lemov suggests caused a very bright light bulb to go off in my head. It’s not a totally new or innovative concept, it’s just that I had never heard it named or described before. It makes complete sense. It’s also something I already do, but need to start doing better. Double planning is making sure specific details are worked out throughout my lessons on my side, but also planning just as intricately for the students. It’s all about anticipation! I need to be able to anticipate what the students will be able to handle, what kind of time frame they will need for something, how high expectations should be set, and how fast we can move through something. I need to be prepared for what, as my mom would say, “monkey wrench” they will throw my way. This concept does not in any way frighten me when it comes to 9th graders. I am so familiar with this grade level that I almost believe I think like a 9th grader sometimes (as I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog!). However, the idea that I may or may not have 9th graders in the near future has me looking closer at how this double planning actually is put in place.
Lemov breaks it down into 6 goals. The goals are basically 1) everything students need, needs to be in one place 2) pacing is key 3) students need to be accountable 4) checking for understanding 5) anticipate success and 6) adaptability. The example in the text discusses beginning this with a packet of work. The idea is that the students move through the packet seamlessly and the teacher can quickly and easily check for understanding and either pick up the pace or slow down as necessary without missing a beat. The students would really not even know the original plan had changed. Like I said before, I think I could successfully plan something like this for 9th graders. I’m glad to have read how to break it down now though, so I can successfully plan this for other grade levels or classes in the future. I do think one thing successful teachers do is anticipate what students will say, do, or how they will react to something. The lessons where it doesn’t work so well are the ones where the students behaved in a way not according to the original plan. I’ve never felt like my plan was what went south, it was always the way I anticipated the students reacting to my plan that didn’t go well. So being able to plan their reaction accurately will always make the class/lesson run smoother.
By Katie Choate
No matter what I do, I still find there are topics that I can’t make interesting for freshmen. Even if I’ve made attempts, many of them have it ingrained in them that school, English, writing, reading, etc. is “boring”. On some levels I can see their point. Let’s say I’ve managed to actually pique their interest on their current research paper. I’ve allowed them to choose their own topic and they are really into it. Now they’re ready to move on and take notes. For many kids, the very thought of notetaking, citing, outlining, drafting, and editing is the antithesis for interesting. This is where I lose a lot of them and understandably. I’m essentially ruining their “good time” that they’re having with that topic. One student actually asked me, “Why do I have to learn how to learn when I already know how to learn?” I get it…especially from a 15 year old’s perspective, but I’ve never apologized for my content. I am always trying to find a way to connect what we’re doing to the outside world. I try to find ways that it will be relevant for them. I don’t tell students we just need to “get through” something. However, I am guilty of luring a student through something by saying, “Once we finish this personal narrative, we’ll be starting Greek mythology.” I do this knowing it might perk them up.
“Making the content ‘accessible’” discusses how to introduce a topic. I like the idea of telling students that once they grasp something, they will know more than others. That means a lot to many of them. I think the majority of students do embrace challenges, but there is a percentage who never do. They want to be left alone. This is the percentage that leave me and other teachers baffled. And we tend to focus on those students more than the large percentage that are working and enjoying learning. That is something I personally want to work on: focusing on the focused students. I want to give more attention and concern to the students are enjoying the learning process and not fighting it. I think if students see that more of my attention is being given toward the positive, they might seek out that positive attention. I hope.
by Katie Choate
Teaching 9th graders can be both rewarding and challenging. They are at a strange age where they would still like to give their teacher a hug, but it’s really not the “cool” thing to do any more. It’s better for them to play the “too cool for school” thing, yet they really do still function like intermediate students. They are searching for positive feedback and they like to be told when they are doing something right. Because they act one age and are really “at” another age, I find narrating the positive to be very difficult.
I want to treat these students parallel to how they act toward me. However, this is not the right approach. It’s a tricky, little game 14 year-olds like to play, and I tend to fall into their trap. A student may shut down, sit and stare at the wall for 15 minutes while they’re supposed to be doing something else, and I will call out, “What are you looking at, Ayden?” In my defense, I probably only do things like this a small percentage of the time. The other half of the time, I am aware and follow the “warm/strict” approach to these students. Something more like walking closer to Ayden, looking at his work, and commenting on what he’s done right (even though that was 20 minutes ago). This gets him back on track and acknowledged to him that I noticed he spaced off.
I have to remember that I am the adult…they start to rub off on you after awhile!