Perhaps I’ve been prolonging writing this blog post because I simply couldn’t figure out a way to begin.
For the third time, I have a cohort of young people that I’m bringing along in my sophomore English class with the goal of preparing them to move into advanced/Honors English classes. I’ve been successful with the previous two cohorts, so successful that I decided to actually document my work as part of my Heinemann Fellowship. (I won’t write too much about the genesis of that question, as I’ve written a post for Heinemann that I’ll link to when it’s up to provide that background).
This third cohort has confounded me, though. In a moment of feeling like an absolute failure, my colleague (@emilytwo) reminded me that documenting what isn’t working will help me to answer those inevitable questions we all ask when we are teaching: what do we do with the kids who “don’t get it”?
In short: I have never had a group of kids who didn’t do the independent reading that is their assigned homework. Their nightly expectation (seven nights a week) is to read their independent choice reading book for 20 minutes.
We are nine weeks into the year, and there are a few kids who consistently do not complete their reading. They are apologetic sometimes when they explain that they have other work to do, or practice, or they forgot, or…
Sure, a missed assignment here or there isn’t going to be detrimental, but when it keeps happening and nothing changes, we.have.a.problem.
When I ask the kids, they say they know reading is important. They know that it’s tied to increasing their overall reading comprehension and fluency and enjoyment. They love the books they’re reading, even! It’s just that, when they’re faced with read a book outside of class (THAT THEY CHOSE AND GENERALLY ENJOY), they simply don’t do it.
What I’m getting at is that I’m trying to figure out what it will take for them to just do it. I want reading to be as natural to them as breathing. We’ve tracked the way they use time in the day to find gaps. We’ve set reminders on phones. We’ve brainstormed ways to get in the reading, even breaking it up into chunks.
If reading is a habit we develop, how are these kids going to develop a habit if they don’t do it consistently?
I’ve been able to figure this out for so many years.
And it’s the not knowing how that keeps me awake at night.
Image credit: https://media.isl.co/2015/05/drake_7.gif