Sunday, January 29, 2012

How do teachers get their students to do the required reading?

Getting students to complete the assigned reading is becoming more and more of a problem for teachers these days. Teachers spend hours creating a fantastic lesson around the assigned reading only to find out that over half of the class didn't read it. This has happened to me to often to count. How am I supposed to complete a lesson with my students when they don't even read the assigned chapters in the novel?

For example, during the second nine weeks I taught To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to both my ninth grade regular and honors classes. The majority of my former students have loved the story about Scout, Atticus, Jem, Boo, and Tom Robinson. I tried to create some interesting activities to go along with the story in hopes to get them to read.

  • At times, students met in small groups to discuss their reading, other times we discussed the story as a whole class. 
  • We mapped out the town of Maycomb using clues we found as we read and learned how to properly cite the information. This was one way that helped curb the urge to copy the map from the internet. If they did not have the clues to back up the placement of a particular location then they did not get the point for that location. 
  • Students researched information from that time period, Jim Crow Laws, the Scotsboro boys, the Great Depression, the Dustbowl, to name a few. 
  • Students created their own questions to try and stump their classmates and me. 
  • Finally, students participated in a Socratic Seminar, which they loved and want to do again. YEAH! 

The honors class spent about three weeks on the novel, reading, writing and discussing the story. For the most part the majority of my honors students spent time both in the classroom and outside the classroom completing the required reading assignments. They had much more to read each night than did my regular classes, and they came to class prepared. This didn't surprise me out of honors students who care about their grade. Not to say that my regular students don't care about their grade. Some of them actually do care.

My regular class spent roughly seven weeks reading, writing, and discussing the novel. Well, not much discussion took place because my students did. not. read. I began the novel by reading out loud in my best southern accent while they followed along in their own books. At first there were some giggles, but my twang southern charm got their attention and they listened. I would stop periodically and ask questions to make sure they were paying attention and understanding. No problem.

When they began reading independently, I assigned questions for them to answer while they read, thinking this might help them continue reading. I'm not crazy about using study guide questions because anymore anybody with half a brain can find the answers online. When I give study guide questions as an assignment, I only give completion points for the grade because I also believe the little darlings love to share their answers with each other. During discussion my students were fantastic at answering the questions I gave them, but when it came to extending their answers or discussing something that wasn't on their study guide most of them did. not. have. a. clue. Gee. I wonder why.

I then resorted to pop quizzes, which after awhile were no longer "pop" quizzes because they knew they were coming after each reading assignment. These quizzes were pretty easy if one read the assignment. Many of the little darlings' grades sunk to extremely low levels. Even then, they. did. not. read. Instead they asked if I was going to offer extra credit. ARGH! Pirate speak for frustration.

These kids are on the internet 24/7 reading Facebook, Twitter, email, and on their phones reading their text messages. Why won't they read a BOOK?

The next novel I'm teaching is The Count of Monte Cristo.  Holy Cow! If they didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird which according to them was a "fat" book. How am I going to get them to read about the count, which is in FATTER? And how can I teach the lesson if they do not come prepared? What do I do with those kids who did not read?

What are your thoughts? Does anyone have ideas that have worked for you? Please leave a comment and share how you get kids to read their assigned reading.

1 comment:

  1. I posted on this very topic last year, and got some great responses! You will find them here: