How to tame school readings

June 5, 2019

How do you read at school

Do you remember what the first lesson from discussing the reading was like when you were a student? I remember perfectly well. During the first lesson, the teacher gave us blank pages, asked us to hide the books and take out only pens.

Then she dictated questions about the content of the reading, which we had to answer in writing. From the fourth grade of primary school to the end of junior high school this is how we started our “adventure” with the book. Here the tragedy began. Actually, it was the second tragedy, because the first one was the process of reading itself.

In order to understand the content of the book, students reach for the summaries. Do we really want students to know the content of the book? I understand that the exact knowledge of some texts is required for exams, but such reading (who did it, to whom and what) is most valuable? It is the recreation, the extraction from memory, or the understanding of the text – all these activities come from the lower taxonomic levels of bloom.

This is quite normal, because I guess none of us like to do something that MUST. And are we able to change anything about it? Not really, but! We can give students a choice when it comes to additional readings, which may come from the proposed list or be completely different. Let’s take advantage of this and let them feel that their opinion is important, that they influence their own learning process.

Little time for independent home-reading

This is something that the students repeatedly mention. Is there not much we can do here either? I have a solution. You’ll read more about it a little lower.

These are other reasons why reading is very unpleasant. Most canonical texts are “outdated” for children and young people. The obstacles are the language itself (difficult, old) and outdated topics in which the students do not find themselves. Does reading alone help in this situation? Do young readers know what they can do or how to read to overcome these obstacles?

When I think about my school reading experience, I wonder what the content pages were supposed to do. To see if students have read the book? And have you ever wondered what kind of attitude you are teaching when you make a reading card in the first reading lesson? Will this actually make the students enjoy the books? Does this introduction encourage you to continue working with the text? Do you remember everything about independent, silent reading?

There’s no way I’m allowed to make my students wander off with their reading alone. There is no permission for them to reach for the abstract because they do not understand the content. There is no consent that we read books only for the exam. There is no permission for my students not to take notes while reading. There is no permission from me to do so, so that reading is a sad duty.

This was a way to find a way to read books with students that would create a community of readers. There is nothing more satisfying than that you can talk to someone about something you are experiencing, something you like very much, something you have mixed feelings about or completely dislike and you know very well why you don’t like it.

The possibility to discuss the book was also often mentioned by the students surveyed as something that is missing in Polish language classes. After all, books are read to broaden one’s horizons, but it’s not just reading that makes it possible – it also gives the opportunity to discuss and learn about others’ views on the same subject. How much it teaches openness.

What is a Reader

A reader is a notebook designed for reading notes (reading as a process). You can put it in any booklet, in the format that suits you best. I have my own private one in A5 format.

What do you take notes? What is important for you. First of all: reflections, thoughts on the characters’ behaviour, descriptions, fiction, own comments. Secondly: questions, questions to the text, to the author, to other Readers. Thirdly: important/intriguing/ funny/ sad/ incomprehensible quotes. It is worthwhile to complete the notes on an ongoing basis, i.e. while reading. Yes, it is time-consuming.

However, this time-consuming activity has one advantage, especially for those who complain about a problem with concentration or lack of understanding. When you’re reading and feeling tired or feeling that your thoughts are flowing in a different direction, make a stop-and-file note.

Opportunities and threats

Working with a Reader requires the teacher to think and prepare in advance. The students, on the other hand, have to read carefully. Thanks to careful reading, they can make bold hypotheses, ask questions, write down important/intriguing/weird/unusual/unusual quotes – reading becomes really active.

All collected notes with evidence from the text provide a good basis for discussion about reading. Difficult, incomprehensible things are immediately explained – not necessarily by the teacher, but by another reader/student. An additional advantage is that students learn the habit of taking notes.