Tag Archives: reading

Become a reading warrior

Joy of reading

Pernille Ripp said:

I declare myself a reading warrior, and I believe you should as well. No more reading logs to check whether kids are reading. No more levels used to stop children from self-selecting books they actually want to read. No more timed standardized tests to check for comprehension. Being a fast reader does not mean you comprehend more. No more reading projects that have nothing to do with reading. No more reading packets to produce a grade that stops students from talking about books. No more rewards; prizes, stickers, lunches with the principal. We cannot measure a great reader by how many pages a school has read, so stop publishing it. Don’t publish your test scores. Don’t publish your AR levels. Publish instead how many children have fallen in love with a book. How many recommendations have been made from student to student. Publish how many books have needed to be replaced because of worn pages. Publish that, and be proud of the teachers that dare to speak up to protect the very thing we say we hold sacred.

Be a reading warrior, because for too long we have hoped that the decisions being made are always in the best interest of a child when we know at times they are not. No child is helped when we protest in silence, when we protest in the teacher lounge, or in our homes. We have to find the courage to speak up for the very students we serve. We have to practice being brave. We have to allow students to read books that they choose, to give them time to talk about their books rather than fill out a packet, and to allow them to self-monitor how much reading they are doing and then believing them when they tell us their truth. It is time for us to stand up and speak up. It is time to take back our reading instruction and truly make it about what the kids need and not what others tell us that they need.

via http://pernillesripp.com/2015/06/17/enough

Image credit: Joy of reading, Lord Marmalade

Summer school for kindergarteners


Valerie Strauss said:

curriculum has been pushed down so much that kindergarten is no longer a time for kids to learn and socialize through play but rather for a lot of desk time with academic assignments. Sure, some schools break up the time so kids don’t sit there hour after hour, but the pressure on young children to learn to read and do math – even if they aren’t developmentally ready – and on teachers to ensure that they do learn – has become extraordinary.

Providing quality summer programs for young children is a laudable goal – and something school systems and city governments should offer. But requiring 5- and 6-year-olds to go to summer school so they can labor over academics is something else entirely.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/13/and-now-mandatory-summer-school-for-some-kindergartners

Image credit: Kindergarten, Here We Come, Howard County Library System

If you’re good, you get to watch a movie. If not, you have to read.


Jennifer Bradley said:

The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read.

via http://beyondthestoplight.com/2015/06/09/317

Leaving aside for now the very idea of ‘good behavior’ tickets, why is this school sending the message that reading is what you have to do if you weren’t good often enough?

Image credit: Yellow, Sizumaru

Forcing students to read certain books

Pernille Ripp said:

Why do we continue to force students to read certain books when that is the number one thing ALL of my students report kill their love of reading?

via http://pernillesripp.com/2015/03/21/can-we-discuss-the-whole-class-novel-for-a-moment

Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

85 questions assigned by a high school teacher to start off To Kill A Mockingbird… Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

  • Who is this book dedicated to?
  • How old was Jem when he broke his arm?
  • What is Jem’s full name?
  • Who does Scout believe caused the events to happen to lead to Jem’s accident?
  • Who does Jem believe cause the events to happen to lead to his accident?
  • How much older than Scout is Jem?
  • Is Scout a boy or a girl?
  • Is Jem a boy or a girl?
  • What is Jem and Scout’s father’s name?
  • What is shameful as Southerners?
  • How did Scout’s ancestor make his living?
  • Did the Finches at any time believe slavery was okay?
  • Who is supposed to live on Finch Landing? Who does?
  • What is in Atticus’s office?
  • How does Atticus feel about criminal law?
  • Who paid for John Finch’s education?
  • What name does John Finch go by?
  • How did the author describe each of the following Maycomb sites?
  • _____________________ town
  • _____________________ streets
  • _____________________Courthouse
  • _____________________Shade
  • _____________________ Collars
  • _____________________Ladies
  • How did people move back in the 1930s Maycomb, Alabama?
  • The narrator states that Maycomb had optimism because they had recently been told that they have “nothing to fear but fear itself.” To what is she referring?
  • Who is Calpurnia?
  • How did Scout and Jem view their father?
  • How is Calpurnia described by the narrator?
  • Who is the narrator?
  • Is the narrator a child or adult?
  • How old was Scout when her mother died?
  • How much younger was Atticus’s wife than himself?
  • How did Scout’s mother die?
  • Does Jem remember his mother?
  • Where is Mrs. Dubose’s house from Scout and Jem’s?
  • Where is the Radley house from Scout and Jem’s house?
  • Who lives next door to Jem and Dill?
  • How did Dill introduce himself?
  • How did Dill get the money to watch movies?
  • What kind of movies can you see in Maycomb?
  • When did Jem start to respect Dill?
  • What does “routine contentment” mean to Scout?
  • What did Dill become known as? Why?
  • Where would Dill stand to watch the Radley house?
  • How was the Radley house described?
  • What kinds of crimes had the Radley “phantom” been credited with?
  • What is Maycomb’s principle recreation?
  • By listing all the things the Radley’s don’t do, the narrator is telling us more about the town?  What do the people of the town expect from their residents?
  • What kinds of things did the Cunningham “gang” do in Maycomb?
  • What was the “gang” charged with?
  • How long has it been since anyone has seen Mr. Radley’s youngest son?
  • According to this person, Boo stabbed Mr. Radley with a pair of scissors.
  • According to Scout’s source, the sheriff wouldn’t put Boo in prison because…
  • How was old Mr. Radley described?
  • When Old Mr. Radley was dying, why do you think they put up sawhorses and straw?
  • Jem tells Dill three details about Boo haunting the neighborhood; what were they?
  • How does Jem describe Boo?
  • It takes Jem three days before he accepts Dill’s dare to go into the Radley yard. Dill goads him each day. What does Dill say each day? Day 1: _____ Day 2: _____ Day 3: _____
  • What happened after Jem touched the house? Was there any movement in the house?
  • Why was Jem “delighted” to take Scout to school the first day?
  • What is discipline like in Scout’s school?
  • What does Miss Caroline look like?
  • How old is she?
  • What does Scout know about Winston County (North Alabama)?
  • Why does most of the class know what the letters are?
  • How does Miss Caroline react when she finds out Scout can read?
  • What did Jem tell Scout about her childhood?
  • Do you think there is anything wrong with Scout’s reading?
  • How did Scout learn to read?
  • What does Scout mean by “One does not love breathing.”
  • What is the Dewey Decimal System of teaching? (You might have to look this up!)
  • What do you think Scout means by “writing?”
  • Is Calpurnia easy to please?
  • How could Scout tell by Walter’s face that he had Hookworms?
  • What is Scout’s full name?
  • Why won’t Walter take the quarter?
  • How did Mr. Cunningham pay Atticus back?
  • Why would the crash have hit the country folks hardest?
  • What is a WPA job? (You might have to look this one and #79 up.)
  • What did Scout think Miss Caroline wanted her hand for?  
  • What were Miss Caroline’s actions when the bell rang?
  • What did Scout do to get back at Walter?
  • How is Walter described?
  • How did Walter “almost die?”

Reader interest trumps passage readability?


Alfie Kohn said:

intrinsic motivation – has a huge empirical base of support in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. We’ve long known that the pleasure one takes from an activity is a powerful predictor of success. For example, one group of researchers tried to sort out the factors that helped third and fourth graders remember what they had been reading. They found that how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how ‘readable’ the passage was.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/25/actually-practice-doesnt-always-make-perfect-new-study

Image credit: Reading, John Flinchbaugh

Just read, you third grade slackers!


Peter Greene said:

Florida’s program is called “Just Read, Florida!” and that name really captures the cluelessness of the whole approach. Like many Reformster programs, this one starts with the assumption that these little eight-year-old slackers just aren’t being sufficiently threatened and browbeaten. They could read, dammit– they’re just holding out on us! Don’t tell me about your problems or your challenges or your background or your use of English as a second language or your cognitive impairments or how your life gets in the way of your school– Just Read, Dammit! Just do it! Because there is no better pedagogical technique than Insisting Strongly.


Because children should grow as they are told to grow, and they should all grow exactly the same way at exactly the same time. And if they won’t behave and conform and obey, they must be punished until they will.

Read the rest at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/05/rigorizing-eight-year-olds.html

Image credits: Punishments, Philip Howard

Reading logs aren’t learning, they’re obedience

Lisa Morguess says:

What is the point of reading logs, anyway?  Teachers want kids to read – I get that.  But a reading log says, “I don’t trust you to read, so you must prove to me that you actually read for the prescribed number of minutes by writing down what you read and for how long you read.  And even then, I won’t take your word for it, so have your mom or dad sign the reading log as a witness that you actually did said reading, because you cannot be trusted.”

Here’s what reading logs actually do: they turn reading into a chore.  They teach kids that time spent matters more than content or understanding of content.  Reading logs tell kids that they are untrustworthy and must continually prove themselves.  They send the message that kids cannot be independent learners – they must rely on Mom and Dad to back them up.

This is not learning – it’s obedience.

via http://hometownhomeworkchronicles.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/the-reading-log-the-quickest-most-effective-method-of-killing-a-love-of-reading

Will an emphasis on ‘close reading’ kill the joy of reading?


As most educators know by now, the new Common Core standards emphasize ‘close reading.’ It’s hard to argue with that as a necessary skill for understanding complex writing. As a professor I spent lots of time dissecting research articles, book chapters, blog posts, and legal cases with my students. Close, careful reading and discussion also have been a staple of English / Language Arts classrooms for decades, as have been the critical analysis of political arguments in Social Studies classes, of pseudo-scientific claims in Science classes, and so on.

BUT… I keep thinking back to some quotes from Kelly Gallagher’s phenomenal book, Readicide:

“What has gone wrong in our schools: the creation of readicide through intensive overanalysis of literature and nonfiction. Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals and, as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school”

“On my desk is a copy of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (2007) unit of study for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. This study unit, a guide to teaching Harper Lee’s timeless novel, contains overarching questions, chapter study questions, essay questions, vocabulary lessons, activities for specific chapters, guided reading lessons, directions for setting up a writer’s notebook, literary analysis questions, collaborative activities, oral presentations, handouts, transparencies, displays, quizzes, and projects. It also comes with an almost incomprehensible unit guide. This guide is 122 pages long – almost half the length of the actual novel! … If I were to follow this curricular guide step-by-step in my classroom, there is little doubt my students would exit my class hating To Kill a Mockingbird forever. Worse, students who have been taught to hate To Kill a Mockingbird will find themselves much farther down the road toward hating all reading. . . . No student ever achieved reading flow from analyzing every nook and cranny of a complex work. Students in these reading situations are not coming up for air. They are coming up for life preservers. . . . The overanalysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. . . . “As I look at the 122-page teaching guide for To Kill a Mockingbird, . . . the value in teaching this book is when we use this great book as a springboard to examine issues in today’s world. This opportunity seems to be largely missing in the district’s mandated curriculum. A golden opportunity for our children to read, to write, and to debate about relevant issues is buried under 122 pages of mind-numbing instructions.

“We would never buy a book at Barnes and Noble if it came with mandated chapter-by-chapter exams. We would never read a book so that we could tackle worksheets afterward. We would never begin a new read with the expressed goal of earning points. And we would never feel compelled to read if we had to complete a project after every book. Yet, as teachers, we do all of these things to developing readers. We subject them repeatedly to treatments that are counterproductive to developing book lovers. And we do it book after book, year after year. Worse, we rationalize our behavior by believing we must prepare students to perform well at test time. Shameful.” 

So I’m torn. I want students to be able to critically analyze what they’re reading but even more importantly I want them to love to read. When I taught 8th grade, a mom told me that she once found her daughter reading in the shower, one arm stuck outside of the curtain. Now that’s a love for reading! I’m worried that the more we emphasize the technocratic side of reading, the less we will celebrate and foster the pleasurable aspects of reading. It does us no good to teach kids how to read if at the end they don’t read because we’ve sucked the joy out of it.

I’m concerned that, like in so many other areas of educational reform these days, we’re going to tip way past what’s reasonable. But maybe I’m just making stuff up. Got any thoughts on this?

Image credit: Reading, Canon_Shooter

Text complexity in the early grades: Shooting ourselves in the foot?

Cozy reading spot

Here are some quotes from the most recent issue of Educational Researcher regarding text complexity in the early grades, one of the hallmark pushes of the Common Core State Standards:

the CCSS text complexity standards for Grade 3 appear to be aspirational, much like the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress targets (Shepard, 2008). The small set of studies that have examined text complexity over time does not show that text complexity at Grade 3 has deteriorated. Neither is there evidence that the accelerated targets in the primary grades are necessary for high school graduates to read the texts of college and careers. (p. 47)


Another potential indirect effect on students may be their motivation and engagement. The engagement of reading among American students is already low, as indicated by a 2001 nationally representative sample of fourth graders from 35 countries that ranked the United States 33rd in an index of students’ motivations for reading (Mullis, Martin, Gonzalez, & Kennedy, 2003) and 35th out of 35 countries in the revised index of attitudes toward reading (Twist, Gnaldi, Schagen, & Morrison, 2004). At present, there is research indicating that motivation decreases when tasks become too challenging and none that indicates that increasing challenge (and potential levels of failure) earlier in students’ careers will change this dismal national pattern of disengagement with literacy (Guthrie, Wigfield, & You, 2012). (p. 48)


Will the intended outcomes of higher levels of literacy for all students be realized by setting the bar arbitrarily at third grade? Our review suggests that the unintended negative consequences could well outweigh the intended positive outcomes. (p. 49)


Increasing the pressure on the primary grades – without careful work that indicates why the necessary levels are not attained by many more students – may have consequences that could widen a gap that is already too large for the students who, at present, are left out of many careers and higher education. How sadly ironic it would be if an effort intended to support these very students limited their readiness for college and careers. (p. 49)

Hiebert, E. H., & Mesmer, H. A. E. (2013). Upping the ante of text complexity in the Common Core State Standards: Examining its potential impact on young readers. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 44-51.

Image credit: “Cozy” reading spot

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