Friday, February 25, 2022

Lord of the Flies Lesson Plan

 A friend of mine shared this with me this morning so I thought I would pass it along.  It is going to be my new lesson plan for Lord of the Flies this year!

The comic comes from The Jenkins Comics blog.

If you don't teach this book, consider it.  It is a great book to get struggling and reluctant readers into, though you will need to probably skip a chapter here or there to keep them from losing focus.  The symbolism is over the top, so many of them get that "A-ha!" moment when they finally understand what symbolism is all about.  Plus, the characters of Jack, Ralph, and Piggy resonant with the students. 

While you are at it, if you teach Lord of the Flies, try out my interactive survival game at the EET Store.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Quick Reading Aloud Tip

 Reading aloud is an important modeling tool for teaching non-readers how good readers read.  When it comes to reading dialogue, you may want to avoid reading different voices if the character is a different gender or race than you as it could be seen as mocking, stereotypical, or insensitive.

So does that mean it you can't differentiate between voices?  Of course not.  

One trick is the direction in which you read.  For instance, I was just reading today the dialogue between Christopher and Mrs. Alexander in the park in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  When Christopher spoke, I looked to the left.  When Mrs. Alexander spoke, I looked to the right side of the classroom.  When neither of them spoke, I aimed my voice right down the middle of the class.  It is a nifty trick for giving a difference between voices and I do not have to point out that I am doing that with the kids. 

It's a small thing with big results.

If you have any reading aloud tips, please share them int he comments!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Teaching Inference with "The Chaser" by John Collier

John Collier has an excellent short story for teaching inference to high school students.  It is called, "The Chaser."

You can get a copy of it here:

If you've never read the story, do so now.  It won't take you long.  I'll wait.

For lower reading level classes, I like to put groups in teams and let them read it together and figure out why  the glove cleaner does.  The story is short (the version I found above has it in three pages, but the hard copy of the one I use in class is one page front and back) which is important to me.  I need my works short so we can focus on the matter at hand.

The story itself is fun. Now, when you or I read the story, we immediately see how this old man is setting up the younger man.  We understand that this "love" he will experience can only be solved with the "glove cleaner", but the students don't.  Especially 9th and 10th graders.  They struggle. 

So I let them try and figure it out as a competition.  The first group to figure it out gets a prize (homework passes or team points).  The second group gets a little less. The third group a little less.

I also have hints that they can buy with their team points (but you can maybe use something else if you aren't playing a game in your class).

How long will it take?  Well, it depends on how good your students are.  I always have a homework assignment that they should work on while waiting for the other teams to finish.  It usually takes about 30 minutes total, but I've had it last for over 45 minutes before.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

One Idea to Get Kids to Volunteer to Read Aloud More

 I deal with seniors who, for the most part, hate to read.  Many struggle.  We do some reading aloud in class because my intonation helps them to follow and if I can get them interested in the book, they are more likely to try to read on their own when that time comes.

However, I do like for them to take part in the reading aloud.  That is not an easy task.  I usually have at least one person who will volunteer, but I want variety.  

What doesn't work - calling a kid out to read.  The stress level for some of these kids are through the roof as it is.  Adding the random picking of kids will increase that.  You are likely to see your most shy students suddenly need to use the bathroom and mysteriously stay out for an extended period of time.

So, I combat this in two ways.  First, near the beginning of the semester, I tell them that one of my jobs to teach reading comprehension, but to do that, I need to know that my students can, in fact, read.  The only way I know for certain that a student can read is hearing words from a page come out of their mouths.  This is the point where my students who are scared to read show it all over their faces.  Then I say, "But I know that the ability to read well and the ability to read aloud well are two different things."  I go on to poke fun of the things that we all do from time to time when we read aloud - stumble on an easy word - read the same line twice - skip a line - etc.  So I tell them that I need to hear everyone read once and we are all likely to make those mistakes along the way, which is perfectly fine.  I then tell them that all I need is one sentence.  They will read just the first sentence of the paragraph.  That's it.  It's my compromise with them.  I give them a fairly easy story like this prose version of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" and we start to read.  I read the first paragraph and starting with the second paragraph, each student (I go down row by row so that they can get ready) each student reads the first sentence.  I finish the paragraph.  

Why does that work?  Well, even the scared students usually find that one sentence is OK and not too much to ask.  Plus, since everyone is doing it, they feel like they are not being singled out.  That's much more important than you might would think.

What happens if someone refuses to read?  I have only had that happen twice and it was in the same class.  Don't make a fuss about it.  I tell them that they need to see me after class and move on.  When they see me, I want to find out what the issue is.  In my case, it was two students who could speak English just fine, but had never learned to read it.  That was important knowledge for me to have that they would never have volunteered.  

After that, I try to only pick volunteers.  Since they have already read once, it is a little easier to get them to volunteer (and I never ask for a lengthy volunteer read and usually allow them to stop when they are ready to stop).  

So what's the other way to get them to read? Bribery.

Well, with team points.  We play a game in class and teams can earn points.  One way to is to volunteer to read aloud in class.  Works pretty well.

If you have any tried and true methods to get students to read, leave them in the comments!