Last year, I was so overwhelmed creating curriculum and units for IB English IV that I felt like my 9th graders got a bit of a short shrift. I can coast through the 9th grade classes; I know the literature well that I can almost recite it in my sleep. Some real teaching did occur with them, in the second semester, as we did a Literary Circles unit and then, of course, with Shakespeare. But, otherwise, I felt like I was being too pedantic and penalizing in my instruction.
We're getting a different sort of 9th graders these days. They're less readers than before. I don't know if this is a city-wide or a nation-wide issue with the advent of technology, or if I'm just teaching classes with lower-skills level than, say, five years ago. But the change is real and I have to adjust accordingly.
This year is six days old but, for the first time, I wish I had a specialization in Reading Instruction. I'm already digging out my Cris Trovani books and reviewing what I need to be to be a good reading instructor for these kids who are coming in reading with extreme difficulty.
Today, I had the students read silently for fifteen minutes, shut their books, and then answer four questions based on the Ladder of Question (Literal, Inferential, Experiential). Some students, literally, got through just a page and a half, and still couldn't tell me what was happening. I was so happy to have one such young man come for Coach Class after school, and we slowly went through the story, meticulously, stopping after every sentence, summarizing, defining. He's perhaps the toughest kid I have so far this year, but he came after school with a dramatic new attitude and, well, it really just made me so happy. But also concerned, once I heard his reading skills up close. Someone has done him wrong. I'll work to right it.
Anyhow, here are some of my goals for being a 9th grade teacher this year:
1) Less assigning, more teaching. Less is more. Teach these kids how to read.
2) Focus more on the way we read, not about soaking up the content. Sometimes I'm so in love with the literature that I focus primarily on this, without teaching them how to take meaning from it like all good readers do.
3) Be less penalizing, more positive.
So far, so good -- except #3 is the toughest.
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