Welcome back for chapter three of Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. I am so glad that my new fifth grade collaboration group, Focused on Fifth, chose this book for our summer book study. I feel like the author is speaking straight to my heart. So let's talk about what hit me in chapter three.
Overteaching a book does three things to our students.It prevents them from experiencing the place where all readers want to be - the reading flow. If you read my first post, I talked about my daughter's experience with one of my all time favorites - To Kill a Mockingbird. When I wrote that, I had no idea that Kelly Gallagher would be also using it as an example. In our zest to teach it all, we have literally put too much into each novel. The author's district uses a 122 page teaching guide for a book that is 281 pages. If you stop that often to discuss, make notes, respond to the book, you have definitely interrupted the flow of reading.
It creates instruction that devalues the meaningful in favor of the trivial. I love the author's recipe for killing a book. If we know what is killing our students, why do we continue to do it?
It damages the chance of our students becoming recreational readers. We all want our students to become lifelong readers, that means we have to quit killing great books. It also means that we need to give our students "access to great books and large doses of uninterrupted time to read." (page 73) In fact studies show that "the most powerful motivator that schools can offer to build lifelong readers is to provide students with time in the school day for free and voluntary reading." (page 75) My brain is screaming why did we get rid of SSR or DEAR time????!!!!
So how do we teach a novel without killing it? The author has some advice for us.
Start with the guided tour and then end with the budget tour - By the time our students are halfway through a novel, they should have already had enough time to work through their confusion, difficult language issues and so on. By the second half, they should be taking the journey mostly on their own.
Augment books instead of flogging them - The real value in reading is finding value for the real world. If the central theme is what happens to a government with too much surveillance power, then find current articles that go with this topic for your students to discuss. Make it relevant to the real world of your students.
Create flood topics - This goes right along with augmenting books. But if your book deals with social injustice. Find articles that tackle both sides of a social injustice topic. Let your students come to understand both sides of an issue.
Take a 50/50 approach - 50% recreational reading and 50% academic reading. This doesn't mean that you can't hold your student accountable for their recreational reading. Just do it responsibly. I loved his one-pager assignments. Students turned in one of these assignments each month about a book they read by choice. I think this could be a great resource for accountability, conferring and recommending books to other students. I am definitely going to toss this idea around and see how it can fit into the fifth grade classroom.
This book really makes you want to talk to others about how to help students become lifelong readers. If you haven't read this yet, consider putting it on your to read list or better yet, start a faculty book club with this one. And speaking about good books, guess what came in the mail on Saturday? Some of the books that were recommended in the comments. I can't wait to start reading. Thanks for the suggestions.