For a while now, I have known that students aren’t reading nearly enough. Most of them read what they need to but rarely do they explore outside of the necessaries. Despite this, I am certain their consumption of words has dramatically increased. Unfortunately, I’m just as certain that the quality of these words is to be debated.
In this day and age, just about anyone can get away with writing whatever they like (me for example!) Students will be exposed on a daily basis to terrible grammar and a sever lack of apostrophes. Such exposure to this language should be limited and replaced. Of course my students need to communicate with one another and I’m one of the biggest fans of technology but at A level, students need to be able to express themselves confidently, clearly and with flair. They won’t get this by reading text messages, Facebook statuses and BBM.
In my efforts to raise their reading game, I have been putting a few things in place.
The first is a bookshelf erected to create a private reading corner in my classroom. There are a couple of beanbags to make it a little more comfortable whilst they’re studying. There are texts related to what we’re studying as well as many others that have been collected from library clearouts and colleagues.
It is also decorated with reading related posters to inspire. Students will add to these posters with their own suggestions. Their first contributions will be from my unwitting AS level classes when they create their ‘reading journeys’ in the first week.
These are all the instructions they will receive:
The reading journey should detail some of the things you’ve read in your lifetime.
They could be:
- Fiction/ non-fiction/ magazines/ blogs/ newspapers/ websites/ comics/ adverts
- Things you’ve enjoyed reading.
- Things you’ve disliked reading.
- Things that have had an impact on you.
You should explain for each text, why you’ve chosen to include it. You can present the reading journey in any way you choose. As long as it is handed to me (in person/ online) before/at the start of lesson 3.
It is an open ended task, which last year lead to some really creative examples. It’s also a really great way for me to get to know my learners and their reading history. Red flags are raised for me if all that’s on their journey is ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
Reading promotion this year won’t be all about books but it will be about texts that are of high quality are well edited and have reliable content.
As a Sixth Form, a board has been created by our ever talented curriculum coordinator, who should, by the way, become a teacher! We set it up before the summer holidays and it was designed to promote reading over the summer. Some of the recommended reads were placed into the Book Borrow Box and others were displayed on the board. I decided the books in the box should have a wrapper on them after feeling inspired in Waterstones! Some of my best ideas lately have come from spending time around shop displays. Teachers wrote personal messages on their wrappers about why students should borrow their recommended book. They also contained a book review bookmark that students would be encouraged to completed when they returned their borrowed book.
I have changed the way I’m teaching too. This year, I’ve twisted the AS course so that we’ll be starting with a number of weeks with spoken language, that will allow students to get to grips with much of the process of analysis. They will be required to read The Kite Runner from home in the meantime and will be given:
THESE questions to answer.
An exercise book for their answers
THIS guidance about how else they should be making notes.
In lesson 3 of every week, their answers will be glanced over and their texts checked to ensure this is taking place. I don’t want to take their reading logs in for marking because:
A) Much of it is about tracking their own personal responses and that certainly doesn’t need my approval.
B) I don’t need any more marking!
I am excited about the way in which this will force students to take a more reflective approach to their reading over a period of time.
Oh, and we will also make a display for the door with their favourite books.
Phew! Once more, I hope you will watch this space to see how it all goes.