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SSR in high school

Students between the ages of 11 and 18 are reading less frequently.  This is creating gaps in learning, and limiting the availability and use of vocabulary in everyday conversations. Research indicates that readers only become better readers when they practice reading. In response to this research, many administrators around the country have chosen to implement a Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) program.  Their hope is that by changing the curriculum and setting up a specific time for reading test scores will increase.  SSR is a program that sets aside 15 to 30 minutes of every school day for students to read whatever they choose, with no written assignments or activities to accompany the reading. The goal is to increase comprehension, fluency and vocabulary, rather than worrying about whether students finish reading the material.  Although there is limited scientific research to prove that this program works, many schools have implemented it anyway. Although some schools have experienced success, implementation of this program has raised some concerns with teachers.

Their main concern about the implementation of SSR is that it takes precious minutes away from preparing students for high stakes testing in the core class subject areas.  This places extreme pressure on teachers when they are trying to get through everything in the curriculum. Educators also worry about students who may squander their time by just pretending to read.. Being an educator myself I believe these to be valid concerns because students do tend to take advantage in any given situation if they can get away with it . A very real expectation is that educators must encourage students to become lifelong readers, but time is valuable and every year teachers are asked to do more with less time.

In many English classes around the world students are being taught in similar fashions.  The are all asked to read the same material, after which they are asked to complete an essay or another activity. The question is whether students are actually gaining something from these activities with regard to comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. Studies have been conducted that show students are not actually reading the material in its entirety. They usually read just enough to answer questions or to write an essay.  This is neither meaningful for students nor for the teachers trying to find ways to help them become lifelong learners and strong readers.

According to a study published in The Clearing House in 2010,  a survey was given to students to determine their attitudes toward reading, and to see how involved their parents were in the reading process. The survey ascertained that students who experienced parental involvement starting at a young age were more active readers.  Those who had not experienced parental involvement were behind.  The school used in the study asked parents to set aside a time at home for their student to read and to also participate in literacy activities. SSR  was implemented and used in the school for six months, and then the survey was given again. This time the survey indicated that forty percent of the students had changed their attitudes towards reading and that their interest in reading had  increased. This study shows that with parental support, changing a student’s attitude toward literacy doesn’t always have to be complicated.   I I I realize that many high school students are so involved that setting aside time to read may prove to be challenging.  I know that most attempts to change attitudes towards reading have been done at the elementary level because of this constraint.  I believe a study is a great way to demonstrate that SSR can be effective, but I think more details of the parental support aspect need to be clarified.

Noble High School, was another high school that was successful in implementing SSR. This high school increased state test scores by fifty percent, in addition to an increase in the number of books checked out at the library. Noble High School used a seven component guide to make their SSR program successful. These components include; Access, Appeal, Environment, Encouragement, Non-Accountability, Disturbance of Time to Read, Follow up Activities, and Staff Training. Most of the above components are easy to understand, however, follow up activities and staff training are needed to provide a piece of accountability. One of the follow-up activities used by this school includes having students share what they read at least once a week. This means that students have to read at least once during the week, which may be the most reading they have done on a sustained level in many years.  Educators are asked by administrators to share new ideas and provide SSR training to others.  It has to explain how the program is supposed to look, what expectations are possible, and how it should be followed to produce the best results.  Together, this should limit discrepancies in implementation  and provide more consistency within the school building.

I believe that SSR could be an effective way to help students increase vocabulary, fluency and to become lifelong readers. However, at the high school level this process could prove especially challenging for departments whose students have lower reading levels to start with. This is made more difficult when students are uncomfortable in the classroom. Personally, I instituted a silent reading time in my classroom. At the start of the semester, our Read 180 classes found it was difficult for students to read for any length of time.  As the semester progressed however, students got more into their books and are now  reading for  longer periods of time. Students have also increased their comprehension level by at least 5 points, and this degree of progress is especially encouraging.  This is exceptionally  notable in students who have a specific learning disability in reading, or for those who have mental disabilities.

Resources:

Perks, K. (2006). Fun, Easy, and Effective: Sustained Silent Reading as a High School Practice. Coalition of Essential Schhol , 1-4.

Siah, P.-C., & Kwok, W.-l. (2010). The Value of Reading and the Effectiveness of Sustained Silent Reading. The Clearing House , 168-174.

Strauses, V. (2014). Why Kids Should Choose Their Own Books to Read in School. Washington Post, 1-4.

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Final Exam Post

I gleaned many important concepts, factors and ideas about adolescent literature during this semester, but one of the most fundamental and compelling concepts is that students need to be able to choose what they read. This becomes a significant component to gradually and firmly establishing the value of reading. If we, as educators, make the right choices for each student then we can succeed at making them lifelong readers. Often we choose what we think students should read. We make everyone read the same book, at the same time, and we compound this mistake by forcing them to take turns reading out loud. This sets up students who want to read only the minimum amount required. It creates a pattern of doing just what they have to do to get by. Rather than being caught up in reading, they become disengaged and just want to pass the class. If students are given the opportunity to choose for themselves, and are even allowed to quit reading a book if they do not like the story line, they will not only continue to read but to enjoy the reading process. It may even cease to be a “process,” and instead become a real passion.

Until now, I was also unaware of the possibilities that social media offers. I had never before used http://www.goodreads.com, and I found that I could find reviews to help me determine whether a book would suit a specific reader. I also asked my students to use the website. They had to pick a topic that interests them and then they had to use the website to choose three books they might like to read. Afterwards, they go to the library and pick out books based on what they have read and written down. My students are currently reading these books independently during my class. I do walk around and my students are aware that they have to read to me when I sit down next to them. At the end of each class session, they complete a reading log that is turned in for a grade. At the end of the semester my students will use these logs for their final book talk.

Personally, I was unaware that adolescent literature could provide such a wealth of controversial topics. The book Speak provides a look into what a young woman’s life might be like after a rape. The rape catches her completely unaware, and afterwards she calls the police because she is desperate and confused and doesn’t know what else to do. When they arrive the police break up the party, but she never shares any of what happened to her. This leads to bullying at school because no one has any idea about what motivated the call. As a teacher and a parent this reminded me that teenaged girls can and do experience adult problems. It may make parents uncomfortable to know their students are reading this kind of story, but it emphasizes a problem that could happen to anyone, anywhere. It makes the reality of this kind of thing come to life. Lost Boy is another novel that may disturb some people. A young man, desperate to fit in, becomes ensnared in a relationship with his teacher. As scary as this all sounds, this fictionalization comes right out of today’s headlines.

Up until now I liked reading romance novels, and had never read much adolescent literature. I have a new found appreciation for this genre, and see why my students love it. These stories speak to them because they recognize some of the same problems from their own lives. Young adults are the target audience for this literature, and it is written for them specifically. However, as adults, we often forget, or choose to forget, how difficult adolescence can be. Reading these books helps us reflect back on what this time of life can be like, and it also keeps us in touch with the kinds of obstacles that students face today.

All this new information has spurred me on. I have made so many different changes to my classroom already and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, the students I teach do not adapt easily to change. A constant day-to-day routine lends security and stability to their world, so change has to proceed slowly. I use more technology now because my eyes have been opened to what a huge impact technology can have on the learning process. I am unable to use many social media sites because my school district blocks most of them, but I found my way around this issue. I currently use www.todaysmeet.com, which is similar to twitter. At the start of each class, I have students access this website to summarize their books. They have to include details from the story, and they must answer basic questions like who, what, when, where, the why of the conflict, and how they think it will be resolved. At first this was difficult for my students, but more and more they are catching on to how this works. I am also using kidblog.com to have student’s blog about what they are learning in small group readings. I create these groups based on reading comprehension level. The readings are actually graphic novels that the students picked out in the school library. While we are reading I ask questions so that I’m sure they understand the text. These questions help them when it comes time for them to write their blog.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning in this class and I now have a greater appreciation for adolescent literature. I also realize how useful technology can be as my students reflect, summarize and share what they are reading in a thoughtful manner. I think this class will make me a better reading teacher.

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Final Blog post reflection of the semester

finish-line

Throughout this semester I learned so much about literature and how it relates to adolescents. I not only have a greater understanding of how to help students comprehend what they are reading, but I also believe I gained an understanding of how to help them become lifelong readers. I actually read twenty different novels, although some were not new to me. I read some of them when I was younger, and rereading them brought back so many memories and reignited my love of reading. Of the required books, Speak was my favorite. I believe most students feel like the girl in the novel at one time or another. After something disturbing happens at a party, Melinda feels like she is no longer visible to anyone. Like Melinda, any student can find him or herself in an impossible situation, and may wind up a target. These are most certainly the result of youth and inexperience, and, unfortunately, like the young woman in the story, their choices can change their lives emotionally. I think this book sends such a great message to students about how cautious they need to be and how important it is that they think before they act. It reinforces the fact that one choice really can change your life forever, but it also offers hope that life can go on and that things can and do get better.

My favorite book from my independent reading was The Fault in Our Stars. Not only is it a great love story, but it also shows the challenges that people face while battling cancer. Thinking back to my own adolescence I remember believing that nothing bad could ever happen to me either; that was until my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Because the struggles that these two teenagers faced seemed very real to me, the story helped me to grasp something of what my mother may have gone through. While I understand that my mom was not a teen, I still believe the emotional rollercoaster that any cancer patient deals with is unique and difficult no matter what the age. However, unlike the young man in the story, my mom is a survivor. She was able to beat cancer not once, but twice. The message students can take from this book is that none of us ever knows how long we have on earth. We should live life to the fullest, while still being thoughtful and smart about it. The love story is another facet that lends perspective. It may help students to realize that taking the time to get to know each other before taking your relationship to the next level is always the best idea. More often than not, young people just jump into a relationship without thinking. They don’t perceive the implications or the possible consequences of their actions, and they certainly don’t consider how much they might get hurt.

I am going to suggest a book that I was not initially thrilled about. I even thought about abandoning it because it was so far out of my comfort zone. However, I think the message from the book is one that not only teens can relate to, but one to which professionals can also relate. The book Boy Toy by Barry Lyga reminds professionals that adults can influence teens to do things they would not normally do. Special attention of this kind can cause teenagers to relinquish their own judgment. If your entire being screams that what you are doing is wrong, then you need to listen. Falling victim to any kind of inappropriate relationship is something that needs to be discussed even when it makes us uncomfortable.

I wrote my favorite blog post after we researched social media. I used Facebook to see if you could find good book recommendations. I found that when I asked my friends to share what books they liked they did so grudgingly. Nevertheless, I did hear back from different classmates about what they liked, and I also followed pages related just to books. I found some of them myself and now I get alerts about the availability of different novels and where to find them. My book spending habit has increased by at least 85%! My husband is not thrilled about this but he knows that I will share them with both my students and, eventually, with my daughter.

I really enjoyed the blog by Ryan in which she shared a Harry Potter moment. The posts where nice to read and some were so entertaining. The blog also helped me to understand my little sister’s obsession with Harry Potter. I read the books and watched the movies, but my lack of passion seemed very unusual to my sister. The part I liked the most was that the posts related to reading, but they were also entertaining and were a great change of pace for the week.

I think I am going to read an adult romance novel next because I have missed them. I also have a long list of young adult literature that I’m hoping to get through this summer. Maybe I will even find a great young adult romance novel that I like. This semester really opened my eyes to how entertaining young adult literature can be.

The only question I wished you would have asked is: During the last semester, how far did your reading push you outside of your comfort zone? This was one thing I really challenged myself to do. To my surprise, I found that some of the stories that are considered to be controversial were not nearly as bad as I had anticipated they would be.

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It’s Monday What are You reading 4/27/15

book cover

In the novel Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, Trudy, now a professor of German history, decides to look into her past and discover where she came from, who her father was, and what the truth is about her own family history. At the end of the war a young Anna, Trudy’s mother, marries an American soldier, and she and her three-year-old daughter come to live in the states. One would think that the life of this young woman and her mother would be perfect, however as an adult Trudy has a lot of unanswered questions. She has seen a photograph of herself and her mother with a Nazi officer and she believes that she is the daughter of this man. This of course makes her deeply ashamed. Once Trudy starts her investigation she begins to understand why her mother has never shared the past with her.

The book, narrated from both women’s separate points of view, describes the struggle of a daughter and mother who have great difficulty communicating with each other. Many girls will be able to relate to Trudy because, for one reason or another, most young women have had some kind of conflict in their own relationships with their mothers.

The book is suffused with many accurate details of the Holocaust, which makes it a great resource from an historical perspective as well. Trudy investigates her mother’s past partly because she has begun a project that involves interviewing Germans who were in Germany during the war This is part of the impetus for her own investigation of her past. She discovers many details including the fact that her mother’s father was indeed a Nazi. What she learns about her real father and what her own mother had to do to survive the war, helps explain what motivated her mother to remain silent about it for all those years.

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It’s Monday what are you reading 4/20/2015

Happy Monday everyone hope all had a great weekend. I spent the weekend on the sofa resting because my husband and daughter were sick which gave me time to read, read, read oh and sleep. Anyway I hope all of you are feeling well and ready for a new week.

This week I read First Date by Melody Carlson. In this novel a group of young girls who have never been on a date before start a club in order to experience their first date. These young girls create rules for dating including what they should say to their parents and how they should act on the first date. After completion of the date the girls report what happened on the date to the rest of the club members. The idea behind this was to create the perfect date for the homecoming dance. However, the girls learn that more about boys than they cared to know and that no matter how many rules are put in place each dating experience is unique and different.

I thought this book was relatively entertaining even though dating is a private personal experience. These girls do make some interesting rules for dating and how they are going to act on these dates. Many of the things that I see as a teacher at the high school from young ladies and their dating issues. Young women everywhere would find this to be a great read and it could be used as a gateway to open the discussion for mothers and daughters to have the dating discussion.

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Second Blog Article Review

While reading the articles I discovered that many teachers are still teaching in the same way and expecting the same result. In the article titled Aim Higher, one teacher had to defend her way of teaching to gain support from other colleagues. I also found it very startling that this same article mentions that the sole basis for having students read a particular book was to keep up with a cross-town school. This does not even begin to make sense to me. Every school has its own dynamic and ability levels so comparisons would be arbitrary or perhaps even biased. I do have to admit I was the teacher who invented “clever” ways to have students show what they learned after reading a story. However, I found that most of the time students either shut down on me or provided work that was unacceptable for their ability level.

Another thing I found surprising was that many schools are still using strategies that are similar in nature, like Drop Everything and Read, to get students to read. Let’s be honest, many students just are not reading during this time. They have a book in front of them and are looking at the words, but there is little or no reading going on. I attended a high school where a similar program was used, and the only result for me was an increase in my ability to successfully hold up a book and sleep behind it. I read very little during that time, because, obviously, I thought I had better things to do than read. Yes, students do need to be given the opportunity to read, but it simply becomes a waste of time if there is no accountability piece in place.

I really found myself thinking about how we, as a school, can come to a consensus, and allow students to choose what they read. Reading just to get through a curriculum is self-defeating. In my classroom I have more freedom to do this, as I am not bound by state standards, but by IEP goals instead. Don’t get me wrong; I still have a curriculum that I have to follow so that my students have the skills that are necessary for graduation. However, I do have more flexibility and can employ different means to help my students become readers. I also wonder about students who have disabilities, especially those whose brain isn’t “wired” correctly. Reading is so difficult for them, and many actually enter high school as non-readers. I have these students in my classroom and have tried varied techniques to help. I taught using books on tape, phonics and other strategies when I teach, but they often prove fruitless because the kids still are not reading.

These articles did give me the feeling that I really am doing some things right in my own classroom though. As soon as I can figure out how to allow students who are non-readers to participate in a book talk I will set one up. It would even be acceptable to me if a few students listen to a tape, memorize the story and then record their talk. My students have reading levels that range only as high as 2nd grade, and that are as low as non-readers. Regardless, it is my pleasure to work with students who may simply need me to teach less, and instead allow more individual reading time to elicit the greatest benefit.

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It’s Monday what are you reading 4-13-15

Boy in pj's

This week I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. This story is about the innocence of childhood and the importance of friendship. The friendship that exists between Bruno and Shmuel begins in the most unlikely place, between two children who probably would never have met except for a cruel and extraordinary circumstance. They both are living within the sphere of Auschwitz, albeit on the opposite sides of the fence – literally. While they come from two extremely different conditions, both boys have one thing in common. They both are lonely in an adult world, and both need a friend.

Bruno has been uprooted from Berlin. He has to leave his big, beautiful home and all his school friends, and move to a remote location. Initially he hears that his family is being sent to “Out-With,” which sounds no more unusual to him than his new surroundings. Like all boys his age, especially with nothing to do, he begins to explore. He quickly finds that his curiosity goes beyond where he is allowed to go, and he goes to places that he has been warned are “out of bounds.” Bruno, whose father is in charge of the concentration camp, and Shmuel, who is a prisoner and a Jew, don’t seem to grasp the meaning of the boundary that separates them. Amazingly, the innocence of their childhood somehow remains intact despite their surroundings. Bruno sneaks food for Shmuel because he complains of hunger, and they both complain that they can’t play together. The death camp looms, and yet it is relegated to the background by the boys’ perspective of what every ordinary childhood should be about. This week I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. This story is about the innocence of childhood and the importance of friendship. The friendship that exists between Bruno and Shmuel begins in the most unlikely place, between two children who probably would never have met except for a cruel and extraordinary circumstance. They both are living within the sphere of Auschwitz, albeit on the opposite sides of the fence – literally. While they come from two extremely different conditions, both boys have one thing in common. They both are lonely in an adult world, and both need a friend.

Bruno has been uprooted from Berlin. He has to leave his big, beautiful home and all his school friends, and move to a remote location. Initially he hears that his family is being sent to “Out-With,” which sounds no more unusual to him than his new surroundings. Like all boys his age, especially with nothing to do, he begins to explore. He quickly finds that his curiosity goes beyond where he is allowed to go, and he goes to places that he has been warned are “out of bounds.” Bruno, whose father is in charge of the concentration camp, and Shmuel, who is a prisoner and a Jew, don’t seem to grasp the meaning of the boundary that separates them. Amazingly, the innocence of their childhood somehow remains intact despite their surroundings. Bruno sneaks food for Shmuel because he complains of hunger, and they both complain that they can’t play together. The death camp looms, and yet it is relegated to the background by the boys’ perspective of what every ordinary childhood should be about.