Sunday, February 10, 2013

"What Do We See? What Does it Mean?"

Those are my favorite questions to ask.I know some students are much more comfortable with focused, yes-no questions, questions with only one answer. But I'm not interested in them. I just read a blog that challenges teachers to stop asking questions to which we already know the answers. That's always been a pet peeve.

The greatest compliment a student ever gave me was an exasperated, "You don't ask questions like other teachers do...the answer depends on lots of things!" I'd asked him who would be the better leader, Brutus or Marc Antony, from Julius Caesar. He continued: "If you want a wimpy, Jimmy Carter leader, Brutus is your man." LOVE that encounter...and you can tell it occurred several years ago. I try never to ask yes-no questions and pose one that give students the right and responsibility to THINK.

I've loved my project this year with the stickies...I've loved watching students place theirs on the white board, then re-place them, then re-place them. I saw students first semester take ownership in their attitudes about reading, and in being good role models. I was eager to do the same thing this semester.

I learned that I'll need to give students a chance to do that final 'vote' and reflection earlier in the semester. I waited too long last January and lost a great opportunity to let students REALLY reflect on the entire semester. See, old teachers can learn!

This semester I have more students -- and 155 votes on the board. Once we had most of the votes set, I asked students those two questions: "What do you see? What does it mean?" Students who'd been in my class before were much more comfortable with my vague questions, and they got right to work. When newbies figured out there was NO right answer, they reflected too.

A summary of their insights:

Sixteen, mostly returning students, said the seven people who hate books hadn't found the right book yet. I loved that, because I do believe that's the key. Jim Trelease, author of  Read-Aloud Handbook, called these books our 'homerun books,' and far too many teens have NOT found theirs yet. At least one student saw it as a responsibility of us all to find good books to read and share. Several students talked about the fact haters probably didn't even know the kind of books they might enjoy. Again, this is in line with what I know about the class...

They talked about choice. "If more people could choose what they read, then they would probably read more." And "There are a lot of people who need a good book" And "Some students don't know there are a lot of good books, you just have to find one that appeals to you."

While I look at this chart and zero right in on the 'HATE' column, feeling already like a failure, students put it into perspective for me. "Starting out, we have over 50 people who love to read. That's brilliant." And "The charts two largest categories are LOVE and love." And "Twenty-six students LOVE to read and only seven HATE it." I know I have at least one challenge: "The most important thing [about the chart] is where my sticky note it. It's on the HATE column." One student put it this way: "Lots of people...are experience readers and can help influence others who don't like it." I am so excited to see comments like shows my students understand we're building a reading community.

We made our reflections a couple of weeks after we placed our stickies, and several students talked about the fact that their attitude has already improved! Woohoo!

"Even after two weeks, I've grown to listen to those different authors I've never heard of or read before and now I want to read them."

"I think that over time people will enjoy reading more in this class. I know I already have."

"I feel like I already like reading more than I did when I first came here."

"I put, on the first day...a sticky... on 'don't like' to read. Now that I read every day, if I put on a sticky note, it would be on 'OK if I choose.' I used to hate reading but now I really enjoy it."

One of the things I love the most about these kinds of questions is I'll get the truth!

"The cynic in me wonders how many people actually LOVE reading."

"Maybe some people just wanted to please the teacher. Maybe some students said they hate it to be funny or make trouble."

"Some people may be trying to suck up a little."

The response that still has me reflecting is this: "...reading isn't a priority in our lives." How can we change that? I know my class, during the semester we're together, makes reading a priority, but what can we do as a school and a society to make certain every young person makes reading a priority?

No comments:

Post a Comment