Monday, May 18, 2015

#YourEduStory: Getting students engaged in reading class

As a former high school English teacher, I can vouch that getting or keeping students engaged in reading is not the easiest of tasks. Though, in most high schools - like in the one I taught - reading is not its own class anymore. Instead, it's lumped all into the all-encompassing English class. And, in English class, the reading is not centered around reading engagement, but on analytical and critical thinking. This is one problem. English class is not reading class, but reading is a critical skill in it. Reading is essential in all classes.

Problem 1: There is not enough time devoted to reading skills in high school. It becomes an expectation of the English classroom, but English texts are aimed at producing critical thinkers. The engagement factor can be low.

Problem 2: There are many tools available to help students access a text or make it easier to comprehend. However, there are not many aimed at increasing student engagement. At the end of the day, engagement is more of a human issue.

Problem 3: Time. It's always difficult to allocate additional time to promote engagement.

Though, problems 1 and 3 are deeply ingrained in our school system, there are several tools that can help increase student engagement. Remember, though, problems 1 and 3 can sometimes outweigh the solutions to problem 2. Despite all of the tools in the world, if a student needs more time and support, a tool will not improve engagement. The other elements must be fixed first.

Tools that help students find articles or material for their reading level are great at not only improving comprehension, but engagement. Think about it: are you very engaged in reading a car manual? No - it's boring. It speaks different than you do. If you set that same car manual to a comic book, you'd probably be more like to read it or at least be more engaged in it. Reading level is a big factor. Curriculet and Newsela both have features for finding texts based upon reading level. Currently, Google Search does as well. However, there are rumors it is going away.

Summaries help as well. I use the Chrome extension, TLDR, often to scan an article and see what it is about. Your engagement is low when you are having to sift through information to get to the gist.

Parental support is critical. I've taught many students whose parents were not readers. They either could not read or were not engagement readers. This impacted students. Edutopia has a great article on tools to help with vocabulary. Vocabulary is often a barrier in engagement.

Teach Thought also has a list of 20 apps for the iPad to teach reading. Again, these are targeted at comprehension, but improving comprehension can also help with engagement. Likewise, Scholastic has a decent list of apps for teaching reading to kids (young).

And, just as critical is choice. Students need some choice in order to keep up engagement. This often goes back to problem #1, though. English classes have required reading because they usually do not teach reading. Students need to be able to access reading that is at their level.

Austin Kleon has a great post with 33 thoughts on reading that all students and teachers should read! Those are the key to reading engagement.

What are your suggestions for improving reading engagement?

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
    Check out "Book Love" by Penny Kittle