Last year was my first year teaching resource English and I was definitely experimenting with things and using other teacher’s approaches to test out what works for me. Overall I had a good year and feel like I reached a lot of kids and got several to like/read books and stories they would have never read but I also lost several that didn’t care about the whole class books and stories I chose which is why I’m moving more to a reader’s workshop approach this year with free choice independent reading being the focus.
Last year I did a pretty traditional English class model with a few changes. We started out the year looking at different reading strategies. I didn’t apply this to reading as much as I should have. We mostly just talked about the skill and why it’s important in reading. I didn’t give them enough practice actually using the skill. Then we moved to literary elements and I did the same thing–what is it with some examples but limited independent practice. After that I moved into choosing short stories or books and we’d do background info and vocabulary, read, discuss, take a test. Repeat with the next story. We read Of Mice and Men aloud in class and although I will not be doing the stop and quiz every chapter like I did in the unit I taught last year, I do think I’ll keep this in our read aloud cycle every few years (I teach most of the same kids for 4 years) because just about every student I had loved it.
After Christmas, we did a short poetry unit that mostly just focused on terminology and definitely not on enjoying and appreciating it. Then we read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Most of my students really enjoyed this but I lost some during this and it took us a long time to get through with all the stop, discuss, and quiz going on. It’s such a great memoir that would be so so much better as a free choice book or even a read aloud (in excerpts).
Then we moved into more short stories. Same process for them all: background info and vocabulary, read, discuss, quiz.
We read everything aloud. The stories and books I chose were too difficult for independent reading for most of my low level readers but I now realize without some independent reading they aren’t going to make much progress in their reading levels. This is why the free choice reading model should work better for my kids. They can start where they are. My kids on a 3rd grade reading level can choose books that work for them. Many YA novels that are popular are around 4th or 5th grade level (and many of my students are around 5th grade level so this is great for them. And as I’ve learned from reading books by Donalyn Miller, reading level of a book is not something that needs to be set in stone. A student’s motivation level to read a particular book can bridge the gap between the student’s level and the level of the book.
Like I’ve said before, I think that last year was successful for a lot of my students, but this year I’m aiming to reach all of them.