Sunday, August 12, 2007

Read and Weep #2 - Special Reading Program #1 

Because students were very homogeneous in the first school, we read the assigned text and always used the advanced activities. In the second school, I grouped students by ability. I had a small group of below-grade readers. The below-grade students got phonics and other techniques to work through words. They did more oral work than on-grade and advanced students because they needed to make the connection between the written symbol and the correct sounds. For the above grade students, I established a research reading program.

These advanced readers were given a topic: animal, country, famous person, invention, etc. We would meet for a class and brainstorm the kind of information they would need to find to write about the topic. They were given 3 x 5 note cards. On the top of each note card, they listed one of the subtopics. They were then sent to the library for two weeks to find information about the topic. They had to use three information sources but only one could be an encyclopedia article. I taught them how to use indexes and tables of content to find the data they needed. The librarian knew they were coming, what the topic was, etc. so she could help them. If they got stuck, they came to me and we worked through their concern. They were not allowed to write in sentences on the index cards, they had to take notes. After two weeks, they turned in the cards, I reviewed them, made comments on content. Next they wrote a rough draft, including a bibliography and indicating where they would put footnotes. They turned in the rough draft, got it evaluated, then had a week for the final copy. They LOVED this project.

In fact, this reading research project was so successful, my on-grade readers begged to write one. I made a deal with them, "We get through the functional work we need to do. If we accomplish this ahead of schedule, you can do one of these papers." It worked. They pushed themselves to complete the text early. By the end of the year, all but a few students had done one of these basic research papers.

This program simply showed what could be done. Students want to learn to read and to apply reading. Their minds are like sponges. If we provide them with the right attitude and incentive, they can produce fantastic work and be proud of it. My students set goals for themselves and then discovered they could push themselves and accomplish something outside the ordinary.