Monday, March 1, 2010

dr. tatum and the long road to reading

Middle school, for the longest time hasn't been much of a challenge. In fact, it's been pretty fun--very little classroom management, very little to do besides let the kids go and be a great teacher. Except now I'm finding myself up against a new challenge: really noticing and assessing their reading abilities.

In a very revealing moment, I finally got to separate myself from my small group and talk to some of my straight-English speaking kids (mainstream, rather) about their reading. And they said to me, "I hate reading, I feel dumb when I read. That's why I hate all my classes." They don't have access to vocabulary, they can't keep track of the books they're reading, and it's hard for them to keep it all together. So what can I do when we start reading an equally, disturbingly hard text in the rBook, "The Fall of the House of Usher???" Oy! Our first page has words like "ease," "moat," "obliged," and many, many what do I do, kids? Again, I ask?

I'ma try and figure this out, because the ridiculousness of it is perplexing and really grinds my gears (to coin a phrase). But also, speaking of Dr. Tatum, I'm thinking of re-writing the text with small parenthetical phrases that give definitions of the words. For my other kids, I'm going to print out some pictures, I think--these'll be for my ESL students. Very important that they don't get too, too confused with these words an' trip up on 'em. Oh, I mention Dr. Tatum cause he's this dude who's pretty bad-ass, and is a wonderful reading advocate and teacher. I believe he's a professor at U of Illinois, Chicago, and worked with kids in Baltimore--talks a lot about transformative texts for black students. Anyways, he had mentioned this thing about building background knowledge, or at least allowing students who can't read well, to access grade-level texts. He showed us a normal text with parenthetical phrases giving short definitions of words, so that you don't have to dwell too much on explaining these things. So, that should be fine. Also, he stressed guiding questions while reading, so that the thing isn't so daunting. So, perhaps that will be part of my Wed. night preparation?

Oy, oy, be a reading teacher. In the meantime, I hate to admit it, but does anyone know anything about Oyster-Adams, Takoma Ed. Campus, or Stuart-Hobson MS? Or, does anyone know of any other interesting middle schools in DCPS that're looking for people? I wonder what this year's turn-over is going to be like in DC? Predictions?


Alison said...

We should spend a Sunday afternoon making an annotated of side notes (ie Folger-Shakespeare-esque) version of Poe. That would be fun--and helpful for me, too!

Reading the District said...

definitely! it's definitely going to happen wed--that's why i can't go to maybe sometime this weekend??