Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Topic: Finding Time to Read

10-second review: Student says he never reads books because he does not have the time.

Title: “Reading and Writing Differently.” NCTE. Council Chronicle (November 2008), 15 – 21. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote. Greg Bukata, high school student: “I never read books. I’ll be honest. I can’t remember the last time I read a book. Nowadays, people are so busy that they need to get summaries of it, like Sparknotes…. It’s a legitimate source. It pays enough attention to detail that you can get the assignment right, and you can read the whole book in a matter of minutes.

“I’ve actually never read, like Romeo and Juliet, so I read it yesterday in five minutes. I feel like I’ve kind of cheated it. I kind of feel like I owe it to myself to read some of these books, but I just don’t have time. I mean if there were 27 hours in a day, I’d read Hamlet. I really would. But it’s only 24.” p. 15.

Comment: Greg, the student, is right. Sparknotes summarizes each chapter of The Scarlet Letter and he will be able to read The Scarlet Letter in fifteen minutes by reading summaries. Sounds to me as if his teacher assigns the reading outside of class.

It is my belief that people who can’t find time to read will read books if they become immersed in them. They become immersed in reading when they read actively by raising and answering questions.

I’ll start with novels. Before reading a novel, the students preview it. First, students read for ten minutes near the beginning of the novel. They tell what they have learned and raise questions to which they want answers. The teacher records the questions using key words on the white or black board. Better to have them read for ten minutes rather than a certain number of pages because with the number of pages, you’ll have to wait for slow pokes. Reading for ten minutes means everyone finishes at the same time, no matter how many pages they are able to read.

Second, students read for ten minutes in the middle of the novel. At the end of that ten minutes of reading, the students tell what they have learned and raise questions about what they want to know.

Third, students read for ten minutes about ¾ way through the novel, again tell what they have learned and raise questions.

Finally, the students read for ten minutes near the end, but not the end, tell what they have learned and raise their final questions.

The teacher and students reorganize the questions into questions of fact (can be answered from the text), questions of interpretation (why?), and questions of criticism (author’s style, etc.). The students now read to answer the questions. The teacher can add questions that the students don’t ask. And a lot of questions and answers will be discussed before they begin to read the novel from beginning to end. A sort of teacher cheating the student who would cheat by reading Sparknotes.

And another tip: if students become bored with the novel as they read it, tell them to read a paragraph a page until they are once again immersed in the novel and want to read everything. The paragraph a page will keep them reading, will pick up the pace and maintain an understanding of the plot when they are tempted to quit. RayS.

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