I’m of the opinion that a love of reading is the first doorway into a lifetime love of learning. Books are the food of voracious learners, who cannot wait to turn the page for a new perspective, a new story, a new idea, or a new inspiration.
Unfortunately parents and educators increasingly find that students have a great dislike of reading. They are not interested in the stories, they have difficulty engaging with the characters or topics, and quite simply- they would rather be doing something else. Instead of books being seen as exciting or eye-opening opportunities to escape into a story, they are perceived as chores that must be completed as part of daily academics. Students are being asked to close read, analyze, highlight, predict, and compare stories at every stage of the reading process. Instead of being able to read for the pure enjoyment of a story there is this constant pressure placed on students to perform academically. While I understand that these are important skills to have, I can’t help but think that implementing these practices without balance creates the risk of teaching children to hate reading.
My biggest fear is that a generation of children will leave the education system without the desire to ever pick up a book for personal learning or enjoyment- and I think that would be a frightening world to live in.
So what can we do to bring back a love of reading? How can we walk this fine line between teaching necessary skills and fostering positive attitudes towards literature? These are the issues I would like to address through a new weekly link up “Story Sunday”.
For a while I’ve been posting Book Talk Thursdays, where I’ve highlighted some of my favourite books. But recently I’ve wanted to delve deeper into these issues. I no longer want to limit posts simply to book reviews, but rather expand the conversation to how a love of reading can be fostered in children, and how this passion can be ignited in the classroom.
Is there a certain book your students have loved?
How do you make novel studies enjoyable for your students?
Do you have a story about a tricky student who hated reading? How did it work out?
Do you have any great strategies for encouraging a love of reading in your classroom?
What are you reading in your classroom right now?
What activities do you use to engage students with a story?
What books have personally inspired you as a teacher?
How do you plan an engaging classroom library?
How do you make reading exciting for your students?
How do you encourage reluctant readers?
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them when you link up during Story Sunday.
Today I’m linking up with Comprehension Connection for Thematic Thursday! This week’s theme is historical fiction, and the time period I want to explore is the Middle Ages. This is one of the most engaging historical periods for students, who love learning about a system of daily life so different from our own.
I’ve done a full blog post previously about the best books for a Middle Ages unit study. You can find that post here. But I’ll feature three of the best ones here.
Activities and Ideas
There are so many things you can do surrounding the study of the Middle Ages. I include many ideas and interactive components in the unit. It provides a general overview of daily life in the Middle Ages in an engaging way that presents the information as a fun narrative. Students are transported back in time to the Middle Ages and produce a hands-on notebook with interactive components. They follow the diary entries of a professor, creating crafts, foldable notes, and other activities for each entry and topic.
Have a medieval feast and compare the food of commoners vs. nobles.
Divide the class into the social hierarchy of the Middle Ages for a while: have students discuss why they like or don’t like the system, and who it favours. (Example: the students who are the nobles get to decide on an activity while the commoners have no say).
Make a stained glass window with tissue paper for a piece of fun classroom decor.
Many teachers might have started off the new year with goals on what they could do to improve their teaching. That’s good, that’s how a great teacher evolves. But by this point in the year some of those goals might have fallen through the cracks, leaving you without energy and feeling down on yourself. “If only I stayed up later to work on the lesson”, “If only I were more patient”, “If only I could get through to them”… These negative dialogues are part of the process of self-judgment.
Teachers can be the worst culprits for self-judgment. At the core of the profession is the idea that teachers need to be selfless in order to help their students to the best of their abilities. In part this is true. There are few other professions where you arrive at work each day and become responsible for the formation, education, and future of 30 odd children. So when Harry struggles with reading, Kate is acting up again, and Joey just ate glue- teachers feel the omnipresence of the “I could be doing more” narrative. They feel stressed, they second-guess themselves and their abilities, and experience feelings of insecurity personally and professionally.
The system of public education is not set up for every student to do their best. As much as teachers might try, it is exceedingly difficult to give every student 100% of what they need. There will always be the sense that “I could be doing more”. We tell our students that grades are not a reflection of their self worth. Yet how many teachers judge themselves based on an administrator’s report, or the success of their students on a standardized test?
All this is not to say that teachers should stop striving to do better, but rather that they should recognize the difference between wanting to improve for the sake of furthering their knowledge as an educator, and self-judgment for perceived failure.
Don’t waste your day stuck in negative narratives of self-judgment. Step back and take a breath. Though your class might still be struggling with fractions, though Lou still asks when recess is every five minutes, and though your administrator walks in right as your carefully planned lesson falls apart- you are trying, you approach each day as a new opportunity, and that’s the best you can do.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense”. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Lets make snow angels”, said Stella. “With wide feathery wings”. “Do snow angels fly? asked Sam. “Do snow angels sing?”. “Of course” said Stella. “Can’t you hear them?” “Yes!” whispered Sam.
I love all the Stella books. In Stella, Queen of the Snow her story takes a chilly turn as we follow Stella and her little brother Sam into a snowstorm. Its Sam’s first snowstorm and he is very curious. Can you eat a snowflake? Is the snow cold? He asks all sorts of questions- and Stella always has an answer. As always, her imagination, curiosity, and energetic character comes through loud and clear.
The best descriptor for this book is whimsical- the writing paired with the beautiful watercolours make it a great read-aloud for a snowy day.
Looking for winter writing activities? Read a snowflake poem and complete a snowflake writing activity with your students. You can get this freebie here.
If you link up…
1. Add a link to your blog post in the Inlinkz at the bottom of this post.
2. Place the Book Talk Thursday button somewhere in your post linking back to this post.
3. Explore! Come back to this post to see what other bloggers have shared.