This article is the fifth in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The fifth strategy advocated for improving boys’ reading:
Let Them Talk
Initially, the strategy of letting them talk does not seem to be a viable reading strategy because if students are talking, how can they be improving their reading? I used to operate under the assumption that students must be quiet and focused on the printed page for reading and understanding to occur. I have always tried to maintain a quiet room so that students can focus; however, once I read about this strategy in Me Read? And How! I realized that I actually do use this strategy to a certain extent already. First, I do allow the students to speak in a large group format before we read as a pre-reading strategy, for example, asking a question to get the students to search their schema (prior knowledge) and to get them thinking about the current topic. What is there opinion on an issue? What do they already know about…? During the reading, if we are reading together, I stop at pointed intervals to question the students. My primary purpose is to determine their understanding of implicitly stated information or to clarify difficult vocabulary. After reading, however, I usually expect them to work in silence. I’m now considering readjusting my expectations to include activities that involve social interaction.
As a result of close reading this Ministry of Ontario document, I have created a “Reading Unit” in the my grade nine Applied classes. The students are permitted to choose their own books; they can read any narrative or informational book. They read for at least 20 minutes a day over three days and complete one worksheet. On the worksheet, they must complete a retell of what they are reading, write one extension paragraph (choose one topic from a list of ten), complete a verbal pair-share (documenting the share briefly filling in the blanks), and draw a scene from their reading. Finally, they have a computer period where they get the opportunity to be creative. I give some suggestions, but the options are nearly limitless! I suggest the following as a starting point: a poster, brochure, Glog or Bitstrip. When the students are asked to get focused on reading, several of the boys move their desks into semi-circles; during the ‘silent’ reading time, they often ‘whisper’ chat about what they are reading! I used to not allow this behaviour, but now I’ve decided to let it happen as long as the room is quiet enough for others to focus on reading! So far, it’s been going quite well. We uses the school library to get the books, and of forty-eight students, only a few had actually been to the school library and signed out a book since they started high school this past September. As a part of this unit, I’ve tried to incorporate goal setting, but it has not gone well. In hindsight, I believe that I need to give them a checklist of options as opposed to free writing their goals.
Suggested peer-driven oral activities to support student reading competence:
- reading conferences
- pair-share (before and after the lesson)
- reading buddies
- literature circles
- tell-it-back for instructions
- oral book recommendations
- book club
- incorporating physical activity with reading
Purposeful talk. “Accountable” talk. Simply talking is not useful. The students must have conversations about texts and respond to each other “to articulate their thinking” (Me Read? And How! 37). After having a conversation, students should rate their performance on using a particular talking prompt.
Modeling! Modeling is routinely done in Math but not always done in Language Arts or English class. Model answers to questions for students so that they can hear how an answer should be structured, in the same way that you would model writing forms on paper.
The idea I liked most from the document is the Mock Press Conference: “Direct boys to come up with questions and answers very quickly on a topic. This might become an improvised or rehearsed scene similar to some of the sketches on the CBC television program This Hour Has 22 Minutes” (37).
Next Boys’ Reading Strategy: #6 – Find Positive Role Models