I am determined to get these kids to give reading a chance.
More realistically, I want to get them to think differently about reading than they do now, which is that reading is a boring activity that teachers force on innocent children. This Literacy Community project is essential for meeting that aim.
This week I introduced the students to two new long term projects that we will be working on together through the end of the year. The first is a series of book talks which the students will give in class. They were immediately opposed to the idea because they are incensed any time they are asked to speak while standing. On Wednesday, I modeled the book talk, emphasizing that the point was to share a book you like with the class, and a synopsis so the other students can decide if the book might be something they might like reading. I told them that as a class, we seemed like we are in something of a slump when it comes to finding things we like to read. I used The Hunger Games to model what they are supposed to do when they give their own. After I was done, many of the students were asking me if the school library has copies they can read, which I took as a sign that they will respond positively to book talks. [If I can find the video of me modeling it, I will post it below]
I decided that three students will give talks every Friday afternoon. I told them I would let them volunteer, but that everyone had to go by the end of the year. In all three periods I had enough students volunteer to cover the first and second weeks, which surprised me. The student book talks went really well, and I was shocked when some of my students who are the least engaged on a normal day were the first to volunteer. I was also pleased that the other students were respectful and clapped for the students who talked to the class.
The second project I introduced is a class discussion forum on librarything.com. I wanted to use goodreads.com, but its blocked on the school’s network, so we make do. On Friday I had the kids sign up for accounts while we were in the library. My idea is that I will post discussion questions on our class forum and the kids will have to respond once a week. The first question is, “Who is the greatest character in a book of all time?” My hope is that if they spend time on there, they will be exposed to the vast variety of literature that is available in the world, as well as to a social world of people who enjoy reading and willingly engage in discussions about what they read. Unfortunately, the website is not very user-friendly, and I the kids were a little bit frustrated trying to use it. That project is certainly in the experimental stage.
The bottom line is, most students associate reading with homework, and have it in their heads that they don’t like to read. Which means that even when they come in contact with literature they might like, they ignore it. I am endeavoring to institute projects and opportunities in my classroom that break down that attitude, and encourage students to change the way they think about reading.