So one of the problems on my campus is the fact that students don’t read. Oh, I know some do, but by and large, the majority of our students are not readers. As a school we are struggling with this new problem of practice, trying to define “complex language.” We’ve spent hours with this already, and have yet to come to a consensus. In frustration last week, after discussing this for two and a half hours, my colleague wrote on the bottom of our PD group’s thinking sheet: “Could we just get students to read and write in all content areas?”
Really. It could be that simple.
A few years ago, our campus began whole-school reading. Built into our daily schedule is a 30 minute Advisory time, where a good number of minutes could be used for independent reading– if only teachers would enforce it. Most students like to read when they are given their choice of the right books. But if teachers are not reader themselves, it’s no wonder they don’t care if their students read.
Mine do, but that’s not surprising. The students in my English classes read for 10 minutes at the beginning of every class. So, if their advisory teachers are mandating reading, my students should be reading at least 25 minutes during every school day. That’s not a lot, but it is something.
Of course, independent reading will not solve all our problems. Students need to think deeply about texts, not just increase their fluency, and non-readers will abandon a book rather than struggle through it. That’s why if we really want to get our students to develop complex language skills, we must get them to practice complex reading. This is the kind of reading teachers must do with their students. You know, modeling close reading, modeling thinking about a text? And I think English teachers who know how to do this need to be given the opportunity to teach math and science and choir and business teachers how to read closely with all students.
We can talk about complex language all day as a staff. We can define it and put the definition on the walls of our classrooms, but that won’t do a thing until all teachers in all content areas start reading complex texts with their students. (And maybe it’s too much to ask, but imagine the growth if every student wrote in every class every day, too.) Hey, friends in other content areas, I’m glad to show you how.
Does your school have a wide reading program or other reading initiatives that include reading and writing in all content areas?