Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making reading not suck.

I'm a teacher.  I teach middle school and my job is awesome.  Seriously I mentally mock anyone who doesn't get to stand up in front of 25 kids every 45 minutes and spew all sorts of knowledge on them.

Problem is, my kids HATE reading.

You know why? Because we teaching them boring and crappy books that are WAY too hard for them.
1) Frankenstein in 8th grade
2) Watership down in 6th grade
3) Roll of Thunder hear my cry in 7th grade (this isn't too hard for them, it's just sort of a boring book)
4) Romeo and Juliet 8th grade

All of these books are wonderful works of literature... but really above the head of any 10 year old. Add to that, comprehension checks, vocabulary drills, projects, class discussions and wow could you possibly suck the fun out of reading more?

Teachers why do we do this?

Well we need grades.  Yep it's true.  A HUGE part of our teaching lives revolves around a score.
We also need to know if they kids understand teh material... but let's face this fact too, if they don't understand there's not a lot of time to go back and reteach.

This year I told my students up front-- sorry guys, the stories we read in class are going to be LAME.  Sorry.  It was out of my control.  I didn't make up the curcilulum.  But to make sure you don't hate reading I want you to read outside of school.  Good books.  Books you care about.  Hunger Games, Gone, Twilight, Maxumin Ride.  Whatever book you enjoy.

Everytime I read a book I share it with the class.  I will tell them I read Little Brother and it's really for mature readers.  I will be upfront if the book has a sex scene, or mature language or whatever.  I tell the kids that if your reading a book for a sex scene you will be SADLY disappointed because it's like one sentence and if you're reading a book for one sentence, you've missed the point of the entire book. 

If I don't recommend the book, that's cool.  Not every book out there is going to be amazing.

I'm keeping a list of everybook I've read all year, online. 

Students are going to keep track of the books they've read all year.

Students will do book reviews online about books they've read.

I think book logs suck.  I think keeping track of how many minutes you read a day is bull.  I think having parents sign off on it is a joke.  A kid is going to read or they are not.  It's really just fostering a community of liars instead of readers.

This is what I want to do.

I want the parents to keep a list of books they are reading and post them online.

I want kids to recommend to EACH OTHER books they've enjoyed.

I want student's grades to be based off of how many kids enjoyed the book they recommended.

That's what I want.

Let's see how it goes.


  1. Good luck with that. I remember when I was in middle school we had a mandatory 15 minute session each day where the entire school read. The 15 minute period rotated each day so all classes got cut (which was great when it was gym class!) and we got to read any non school book for 15 minutes. Of course, I loved reading so it wasn't a problem. Not sure how the other kids went for it.

  2. Such a great point. I'm a reader now, and probably a writer too, because my parents just wanted me to read, they didn't care what. So i read comic books Voraciously. One thing led to another and by the time I reached high school I had branched out so I'd read anything I can get my hands on. I say just get them reading first, then introduce them to he "good stuff" later.

  3. I had read all of these books by the end of fourth grade, personally. And, honestly, it depends on which class you're going to ask. My FAVORITE part of reading books in class are the discussions and projects and vocabulary, since I LIVE to argue with people. Also, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was part of the non-AP curriculum last year but I read it anyway before that xD It was really lame, though -_- I was totally bored. And I love historical fiction. xD