Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reading Wellness- Authentic Reasons to Read Closely

Teaching is a careful balancing act that pushes us to reconcile our ideas for cultivating lifelong leanership with top-down pressures for accountability. Nevertheless, the reality is that, oftentimes, our intentions and our behaviors do not line up. This misalignment impacts our general wellness in and out of the classroom, and it can make us feel as if we have fallen out of love with teaching.

The two perceived "opposing tensions" of lifelong learnership and accountability are not mutually exclusive. It is feasible, and urgently important, to blend moments of balance between intention and necessity into our teaching, giving the term alignment new meaning.

So often children read because someone else tells them to. Rather than just telling our students to read, maybe we should think about what drives their desire to read. When we ask "What drives reading?" for our students rather that "What readers do?" we begin to think about reading very differently. 

Teach Children to Read as Jane Goodall Read

Jane was a reader. She read informational books about animals she knew and books about animals she knew existed but never saw in her backyard. She read stories that helped her imagine going to Africa to live with the animals. Jane didn't read because other people set goals for her. She read because she was driven by her passions. Her reading was joined to the things she loved. Reading should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather a vehicle used on the avenue to one's dreams. Burkins and Yaris suggest starting with students' passions and letting reading stamina and volume emerge as the joyful consequences of their self-directed exploration of things they love and want to do.

The Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet Lesson

1) Engage students in a close reading of a story with a character who is determined to accomplish a goal

Burkins and Yaris list Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell as one of their favorite texts for the Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet lesson. This is one of my favorite books too.

2) Read the book aloud and have students identify what the character loves to do (heart). What is the character's passion? What does he or she love to do?

Put on heart-shaped glasses. Explain to students that their hearts will help them develop a vision for their futures. 

3) Look for evidence in the text that indicates what the character imagines for his or her future, building out from the driving passion (head). Read the book aloud and help students make connections between Jane's childhood passions and what she imagined for her grown-up future. What was the character's vision for him or herself? What did he or she imagine for the future? 

4) Read and reread the text and have students think about what actions the character takes to realize his or her dream, citing evidence for each step or action (hands and feet). For example: students might cite evidence such as Jane observing the chickens in the henhouse and sketching the animals in her backyard. What choices did the subject make? What actions did he or she take to make sure the dream came true?

This is an example of the Heart, Head, Hands and Feet Graphic Organizer

5) Let students explore their interests- Get them talking about the things that they love. Help them explore their ideas. Then support them in documenting their passions on the Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet graphic organizer. 

6) Investigate informational topics- Bring in collections of books so students can gather information on their areas of interest and things that they love. Have them revisit their graphic organizers and add to or revise them. 
from Miss Herrin Says @MissHerrinSays

A few thoughts and tips... 

This idea of reading wellness, children reading about what they love, and staying true to my inner teacher is what I am always striving for. It reminds me a lot of Donalyn Miller's work. Donalyn has worked mostly with upper grades though. I love that this work has been used with younger students. The lesson ideas embedded in Reading Wellness are just what we need to be able to strike that balance between being our best teaching selves and addressing accountability standards at the same time.

While the examples in the book refer to first grade and up, I think they can easily be adapted to a kindergarten classroom through whole and small-group modeling and individual conferring.

Burkins and Yaris offer a few suggestions for putting it all together. 
1) The lessons in the book are presented in order. They build on one another, therefore it is best if you teach them in the same order.

2) Give students time to practice the ideas and vocabulary in each lesson before moving to the next. Ideally you will teach one lesson a week.

3) As you move across lessons, look for ways in which one lesson's ideas support the next.

A few suggested titles for Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet Lessons...

one of my all time favorites

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