Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hold Students Accountable for Reading

This past school year, I showed a segment of a documentary called "Misunderstood Minds." In this documentary, a young man of high school age has difficulty reading. The documentary links his inability to read fluently and comprehend the material to his delinquency and eventual incarceration.

During the film, the young man is asked to demonstrate his reading skills. He stumbles over words, tries to guess at various pronounciations, and gets stuck numerous times on what seem like simple, common words. He reads in a monotone voice, and chops up even the simplest sentences.

At the conclusion of the segment, one of my students noted that everyone in high school reads this way. And he was right. It seems that year after year, the reading skills grow weaker and weaker. Kids just can't read very well. There are even students who read perfectly, at least to the common ear. They pause when necessary, raise and lower their voices to match emotion, and pronounce every word perfectly; but for some reason, even many of these students can't answer the most basic comprehension questions. The words just aren't leaving their impressions beyond the page.

Why is this? I have spoken to reading teachers, English teachers, speech teachers. Not one seems to be able to answer the question that is most pressing: How do we get high school kids to read better? Is Reading Plus an answer (click here for information on Reading Plus)

It seems that half the kids in high school are in reading classes, yet the majority of these students have repeatedly failed the FCAT. Are reading classes working?

One possible solution that I would like to offer here is the following: Let's, as teachers in the classroom, lean a little more heavily on reading. Let's expect our kids to read the chapters, read the worksheets, read the novels, and read the directions; and then let's base our methods of evaluation on these readings. Let's hold students accountable for reading and remembering what they have read.


Blogger Chiarra the Great Djinn said...

When we read a novel, for example, in our minds we have a "movie" of the book going on in our heads. I never thought that I'd have to teach students how to form and develop that internal picture of what they read, but over the years it's become necessary.

I'm not sure where the blame lies. If we knew, we could "fix" it.

And, yes, oral reading ability has little to do with comprehension. I can read Spanish orally, but I'm not bilingual.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an article by professor Naomi Barron called Internet vs Literacy that analysis the problems with literacy in the New Age

10:29 AM  

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