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Putting the 'Fun' in Reading Fundamentals

by Marlene Caroselli
October 23, 2012
photo: Enokson via photopin cc
Serious readers know that reading is a private affair. They engage their mind with an unseen voice that comes invitingly across those white pages with black symbols on them. Serious readers don't need lures, or need to be enticed to explore the pleasures reading can bring.

But what about unserious readers? Those who have not discovered the joy in letting one's eyes rove along verbal paths, sometimes for hours at a time?

Teachers can enhance the reading process so that, in time, the reluctant reader becomes what Urie Bronfenbrenner describes as a self-connoisseur—an individual who has found that learning is its own reward. Once "hooked," reluctant readers need no further enticements to listen to those unseen voices. They are driven to read and to learn for the sheer pleasure of discovery.

To facilitate such discovery, I like to use the pairs- or group-approach to develop reading skills. Here are a few examples of how I do that.

Have them determine MSF’s (Most Significant Facts).

Give students a few minutes to make note of the two most significant facts they have learned in the assigned reading materials. Then ask them to partner up and tell each other what they’ve written.

The next step requires the partners to find two other people who combined have written four facts, at least three of which must differ significantly from what the original pair of partners wrote. Once the four have formed their own team, give them some time to discuss what they wrote and why.

Use an outline.

Next comes the outline—a BIG outline. It should summarize the main points from a fact-filled passage each child has read. Attach the outline to the wall, and then have a representative from each team come up and write a fact from memory, related to one of the points on the outline. (No notes allowed!) If the writer gets stuck, he can call for help from his group members.

Option: This activity can be done in the form of a relay race. Each person on a team will write one fact, and pass the baton (colored marker) to the next person. The challenge comes after the first person on each team has written one fact: subsequent writers are not allowed to repeat anything that has already been written. Make sure each team has the same number of players. Award points and give the winning team a night off from homework as their reward. If a child writes an inference rather than a fact, the team loses two points.

Assemble and moderate a panel.

You can ask for volunteers. You can make appointments. You can require every group to participate. No matter how you get the people on the panel, though, the “rules of review” will be the same:
  • You will pose a question related to a passage the whole class has read.
  • The panelists will respond.
  • You will intervene if the debate becomes too heated or if any one person is long-winded.
  • You will call on those who are not contributing and ask for their opinions. (Tell them you are not doing this to force them to share their ideas, but rather, because you know that the best ideas are often found in the quietest people. Let them know you would appreciate their input.)
  • You will involve the audience at appropriate times.
  • You will summarize the work of the panel at the end and draw connections to the reading passage.
Tip: Master the art of the segue so you can make the discussion flow seamlessly and easily from one person to another, from one topic to another. It won’t be as easy as you think. Practice by asking a friend to carry on a conversation with you. At the end of his first sentence, you still step in. You’ll take the last word he spoke and use it as the first word in your response. Or take two totally unrelated words and find a common link between them.
  • Practice example: “December” and “memory”
  • How to segue between them: “T. S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month of all. But those of you who live in Buffalo, New York, have winter memories, I suspect, that show December has its own kind of cruelty.”
You might even take two unrelated words and ask for a volunteer to relate them in terms of a specific character from a book the class is reading. The rest of the class can decide if the segue was good, great, or golden.

photo: mbeo via photopin cc
Pop-quiz them.

Quizzes can be used for more than just finding out how much learners have learned. They can also be used to remind learners of what they should have learned. And you don’t have to take time to write the quiz out in advance: the “pop” should apply to both your and their willingness to carpe the diem.

Tip: As we cover the material in the book, handout, or curriculum, I pencil in a number in the Instructor’s Guide, next to a point I want them to remember. When I hit ten or twenty, I tell them it’s time for a pop quiz. Then, I just go back to the first penciled number and pop the question. Do all ten and you have an easy 100-point quiz, with each question worth ten points (five each, if you have twenty questions).

Draw the outline of a body on flipchart paper…

…and post it on a wall. Depending on the size of the class, have large groups go up, markers in hand, and write one fact somewhere on the body, a fact related to a reading passage they have all studied. First, though, explain what all of the body parts represent:

Head: Here they will record something that increased their knowledge of the subject.
Heart: Here they will record something about which they feel strongly, perhaps even passionately.
Hands: Here they will record a hands-on activity and what they learned from it.
Legs: Here they will record something that “has legs.” In other words, something that they will continue to use or will share with others.
Feet: Here they will record something that they will take immediate action on.

Tip: If you’re going to have students trace each other’s bodies on the flipchart paper, make sure to have them use pencil or washable marker—never a permanent marker (unless you’re ready to make some parents permanently cranky with you!)

Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D. writes extensively about education topics. Among her books on the subject are 500 CREATIVE CLASSROOM CONCEPTS and THE CRITICAL THINKING TOOL KIT.

© 2012 Marlene Caroselli. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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