Reading Challenge in L2 – part 1 For more READING in our schools! Reading… Reading, what for? This seems to be an easy question with a straightforward answer – at least for us, adults, teachers, parents; for our teens, though, the reasons why they should read are not so obvious; we want those answers to be meaningful for the time being and want them to internalise those reasons for the future. It is useless to force them to read. They will have to be the ones to recognise the importance of reading, to feel motivated to grab a book and read it with joy. But how, you ask, how can we reverse this apathy, this lack of goals in reading, mainly among our teens, who face so many other (and far more attractive) challenges? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer and an isolated reason will not persuade these brilliant minds who learn what is wrong so fast but take loooooooong to accept what is good for them; much less, then, can they be convinced at our first attempt – if we ever manage to do it! It is not easy to get solid and varied reasoning to turn around a reluctant reader. Adults’ motivations are a whole lot different and therefore the approach that works with one student may not work with another and even so it is up to us, adults, to insist, reinforce, repeat. We cannot waste an opportunity to remind them of these reasons, cannot afford to let our teens forget them nor give up at the first setback. Some of the reasons I usually point out to persuade reluctant readers are Reading is rewarding: the more we read, the better we read and the better we write! Reading promotes vocabulary acquisition; its consolidation and extension take time and can only be achieved through more and more Reading The more Reading, the more knowledge, the more connections we are able to establish and the more sense we retrieve from the world around us Reading influences cognitive development: as I have already written in the last APPI JOURNAL, Reading for children stimulates their imagination and creativity; Reading during adolescence will enrich and will inevitably broaden their knowledge; when getting older, any person should keep themselves mentally busy to decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s or any other form of insanity. Reading also derusts our brain! Reading broadens one’s horizons, opens doors to different and diverse realities – even to college and prepares teens for the world of work. Ours is a fast changing world and neither schools nor Alexandra Duarte ©
curricula can catch up with this rhythm: it is up to the school management, school librarians and teachers in general to provide ways for teens / adult learners to read thus creating a society of critical thinkers and reading citizens, much better equipped to face the surrounding world. Reading also brings economic compensations! Reluctant readers have fewer opportunities to succeed and risk being left behind… reading and today’s academic achievement will make it easier for them to enrol in college, finish it and will definitely influence their economic future. Another question is then: - reading, yes, but where??? For a myriad of reasons, the majority of our students have no reading habits. By the time they reach secondary education, many students boast about never having read a single book - and I am not only referring to L2 as it applies to L1 as well -, but hold an unimaginable film culture of doubtful quality. For too many kids and teens around Soure where I teach, school is the only place where they can find variety and quality in reading materials; only at school do they have time and an adequate place to read: it is not expectable that reluctant readers read at home, either because they come from homes devoid of reading materials or because they have other priorities such as helping parents…many have no time, others are simply unwilling to accomplish their school tasks, much less to read. Are we, teachers, leading students by example? As a teacher, I often feel overloaded – with what I do at school and with what I take home. Understandably, we seize every opportunity to plan classes, to build resources, to correct homework or tests; understandably, we live our professional lives worried about managing long curricula and statistic data; understandably, we complain of tiredness and lack of time to read due to the demands of our job. But… hold on… shouldn’t we be setting the example for our students? What credibility do we have expecting our students to read if they don’t see us reading? Are we / you a reading teacher? When references lack at home, as in so many other situations, kids look for examples (and readers) at school, from teachers. I believe that all teachers, no matter their subject area, should not only teach their students specific content but also develop literacy. We expect our students to be able to identify and read a great variety of texts but we cannot expect Mother Language teachers to face the challenge on their own. Motivating to read cannot be a content-specific role or a single teacher’s task; this responsibility should be shared by all if we really wish more motivated readers and more reading in our schools.
Alexandra Duarte ©
What? Reading and in English??? In what concerns English and the classes I am teaching this year, I feel a greater responsibility: when students come to my classes, somewhat demotivated and unwilling to learn, I feel that my challenge is, throughout the year, to try and change their attitudes towards both English and reading: as they are attending the 11th grade, I may well be their last chance to develop a proficiency language level to allow them to overcome other obstacles later on in life.
Strategies to read in English So, what can we do to change matters? Here are some of the strategies I have been using since the beginning of this school year. As soon as I knew I would be teaching secondary, more precisely vocational classes, I integrated them in an eTwinning project called “Reading and Sharing” and when I put my eyes on my weekly plan back in September, it became clear that I had to take advantage of a 45-minute class on Fridays at 12.30 pm! As I was already counting on them being tired and asking to have lunch a few minutes earlier than the bell ringing, I suggested reading, yes, reading, they heard me well and didn’t even hesitate to agree perhaps because I made it clear that they would not anyhow be tested or evaluated; it was just some time to read, read what they felt like, read for the joy of reading. The next step was choosing and buying the right books, in other words, books for teens, young adult titles. Again I challenged the students to google a bit and to come forward with some suggestions and they did a couple of days later: books on music, musicians, biographies, Walking Dead series, comics… However, as you may understand, I couldn’t wait for their suggestions or for the books to arrive. So, knowing my students are no different from yours and that they wouldn’t be going to the school library by themselves to pick up books, the following Friday I took to the classroom the English books I had been buying for school for over ten years so that they could choose – oh and I took the book loan forms as well! They consist mainly of Graded Readers / Oxford Bookworms from grades 1 to 5 and I booktalked a little about each title: if it was a classic, fiction / nonfiction, the main ideas, if there are movies… I introduced the titles in a general way, not giving away too much to captivate their attention. How do I control what and if they are reading at all? Besides the book loan form from the school library, it was clear to me that I would have to produce my own resources to keep track of everything. First I have a book loan form myself (DOC 1), second, for myself but also for the students’ sake, I came up with a book review (DOC 2) - not to perform any kind of testing Alexandra Duarte ©
or evaluation (I do keep my word, believe me!) -, in which they introduce some personal data but also give their opinion on the book they have just finished reading. This way, I am also asking them to actually write something and to be critical, to reflect on that particular title. My students ignore it, but I am going to make use of these data I am collecting each time they accomplish the feat of completing their readings (DOC 3) for a prize and a certificate to be handed out to the one(s) who read(s) more titles as well as an article to be displayed on the school page and on my blog (including a picture!) praising that / those student(s). In the meantime, while collecting all this, I also google for what I may find related to what they are reading and send them links via email. This way, students realize I am following what they are reading, I am attentive and exposing them to as many and varied reading sources as possible. Just to give you an idea, when a student was reading “The Elephant Man” (Oxford Bookworms Library) I sent him an updated article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2085794/Neurofibromatosis-I-told-I-die-Brave-girl-18-describesgrowing-rare-condition-causes-tumours-grow-body.html and another from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Merrick ; or when reading “The Coldest Place
http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/14/9442843-roald-amundsens-south-pole-featremembered-100-years-on - this last link with short text entries and great photos but, what is wrong with that? One just needs to browse and that is an attractive way for students to show them we care. And you know what? It works! With time, students are starting to do the same with the books I read and sending me links.
Curious about other strategies? Well, sorry to keep you waiting for part 2 in the next APPI JOURNAL… In the meantime, though, why not sharing (y)our experiences with reading?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and / or leave your comments at http://www.clubeinglesoure.blogspot.com as well as your book reviews and recommendations at http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/myreadings Thank you!
Alexandra Duarte ©
Again and again: the relevance of reading in our schools, not only in L1 but also in L2. Some strategies to instill reading in teens and mat...