Life is Just Crazy Silly!

Apr 14

My in-progress non program reading program

I’m in the process of developing a new non-program reading program. By this I mean that I want to develop a program to encourage reading that doesn’t feel like yet another formulaic reading program. The reason I am doing this is because I feel that the current leading reading program being used in the majority of our schools here in the United States is having a negative impact on our students. Creating this non-program is something that will take me some time to develop. I need to interview students, observe their reading habits, and keep at the forefront the ultimate goal of what a reading program is supposed to do. What is it supposed to do? A reading program is supposed to encourage an intrinsic desire to read, learn, relate, and to think critically. But, currently, this is not what is happening.

What I have witnessed is a disinterest and disengagement in reading unless there are extrinsic rewards for doing so. I’ve heard about students “working the system” by reading sparknotes and passing the quick quizzes in order to earn their rewards.

As of today, thus far, my proposal for the non-program reading program includes the following:

1) Allow children to choose any book that interests them; this is to include books that are above their “reading level.” Why? Because it’s ok for a student to challenge him/herself. If the vocabulary is too difficult, then the student can be taught how to try to figure out the meaning, and/or how to look it up in a dictionary. I fully believe that if the student is reading something that is interesting to him/her, they will figure out how to understand it. It’s human nature to learn about what interests us personally. Further, reading for one’s self is something that is supposed to be enjoyable. As such, reading is something that is personal, but can also be a sociable event. It’s personal because reading reaches into our souls, hearts, and minds. It’s sociable because we humans like to talk to each other about our interests and for the most part, we like hearing about the interests of others. Or, if it’s a shared interest, we like to compare thoughts, questions, and ideas.

a) Considering the personal aspect of reading, I feel it is critical that reading material other than books be available to students. I believe they should be able to read about their topic of interest using newspapers, magazines, websites, Twitter, etc. I do not believe they should be limited to books.

b) Considering the social aspect of reading, I think that students should be allowed to participate in reading clubs based on books or topics of their choosing. This can be grouping up to read magazines about motorcycles. Or, grouping up to read “Harry Potter.” Or, grouping up to research a popular singer/actress on the internet. Or, read what real people are saying about hot topics by following the hashtags on Twitter. All of these options (of course there are many others I have not mentioned) are all ways to which the students can read, learn, think critically, and then relate what they’ve learned to their own lives. The students should be able to have the class time to either read or to discuss what they’ve read.

2) There will be no extrinsic rewards for reading. Once rewards are given out, reading for the ultimate goal is diminished. Alfie Kohn says, “Scores of studies have confirmed that rewards tend to lead people to lose interest in whatever they had to do to snag them.” He continues, “every single study that has examined grades and intrinsic motivation has found that the former has a negative effect on the latter” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/nonreaders.htm).

a) When I asked the sixth grade students who said they didn’t like to read if they would read even if there were no points or rewards, one student said, “Yes, but I wouldn’t read books.” Another student said, “Yes, because [reading websites] would be more fun.”

b) When the same question was asked of the students who do like to read many of them answered that they would still read because they would be allowed to read anything they wanted including sources other than books. They also said that reading is fun. One student says she would read because it expands her vocabulary.

3) There will be no more testing of what the students read. Testing is a wonderful way to zap the fun out of anything. Let’s not do it anymore. Instead, allow the students to share what they read and learned. Allow them to share their investigations, questions, and thoughts with their fellow students. It is in allowing this that we will see the students thinking critically, exploring ideas, learning new things, and getting excited about it. But, they need to be able to share in whatever way works for them. They can sing a song, create a short film, build a website, make a poster, create a comic or cartoon, etc. The possibilities are endless!

The bottom line is that we need to make it enjoyable for students. We need to let them have the freedom to initiate their own exploration and learning. We need to give them agency and ownership of their own minds. We need to give them the power to be creative in the way that they are able to be. We need to stop trying to roboticize them. We need to stop trying to standardize something that is supposed to be exciting, dynamic, and interesting. Let’s allow these kids to express their individuality.  

I encourage and welcome suggestions for adding to this non program reading program. Please feel free to comment. Thank you.

Reasons NOT to use Accelerated Reader.

For several years now, I have not been a fan of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program that is used by many schools throughout the United States. However, I only just recently realized why I don’t care for the program. Initially, I only saw AR through the eyes of a parent of a child who already loved to read and read regardless of incentives for doing so; and, this child, my son, has also always been advanced in Language Arts and Mathematics. Over the last couple of years, I have been witness to its effects on my daughter; she is not advanced in either subject and she has struggled with reading. She is in fourth grade and has just this year gotten to her grade level (according to AR anyway) for reading. The purpose of this particular post is for my expression of why I don’t think AR is working and helping to attain the ultimate goal—an intrinsic desire to read, learn, relate, and to think critically. I have another post which is about what I think should be implemented in place of the AR program that does help with the ultimate goal.

The first thing that I don’t like about AR is that my children were not allowed to go above their reading level. The reason I didn’t like this is because if a child wants to read a book, shouldn’t that child be able to try to read it even if it’s above their AR determined reading level? If there is vocabulary in the book that the child doesn’t understand, this is a good thing! This is the teacher’s and the parents’ opportunity to teach the child how to try to figure out what the word means and/or to teach them how to use a dictionary.

Contrary to not allowing children to go above their determined reading level, they are allowed to go below their reading level. What does this accomplish? The student goes below his/her grade level because it’s easier and quicker to get through the book and he/she is more likely to score higher on the AR test. This is merely teaching the children how to “work the system.” In speaking with some of my classmates, I learned that what they used to do is read about the book on sparknotes.com and then they’d answer the AR questions and score well. One classmate said that she would win medals and other rewards all the time and she never read one single book all the way through. This is just another example of the students learning to “work the system.”

The second thing I don’t care for with AR is the rewards system. I personally do not believe that rewards for reading are a good way to instill an internal love of reading. What the rewards system does do is to instill an “I’m-going-to-do-this-only-because-I-will-get-something-for-it” attitude. I also believe this creates competition in an area where there shouldn’t be any competition. Furthermore, if a child is a slow reader, that child will not be able to obtain as many points as many of his/her classmates will. Therefore, if the class loses out on whatever the reward was for the whole class earning a certain amount of points, the other students will blame that one child. Why would we want to encourage the ostracizing of a child for something like this? And, yes, with the way things are currently set up for the AR program, the other students are fully aware of how many points one another has earned.

Alfie Kohn says, “You may succeed in getting students to read a book by dangling a reward in front of them for doing so, but their interest in reading, per se, is likely to evaporate – or, in the case of kids who have little interest to begin with, is unlikely to take root — because you’ve sent the message that reading is something one wouldn’t want to do. (Duh. If it was fun, why would they be bribing me to do it?)” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/nonreaders.htm). Precisely! I’d like to add to this thought by saying that by constantly offering rewards for reading and other things, we are creating a generation of narcissistic drones.

I recently interviewed 44 sixth grade students who all participate in the AR program. These students are forced to participate whether they are interested in reading or not. One of the questions I asked was “If Accelerated Reader did not exist, would you read on your own at all? Why?” Interestingly, exactly half (22 students) of the students said that they would not read on their own. Here are a few of the answers I received:

Michael: “No because I do not like to read.”

Yessica: “No because it’s boring and I hate reading.”

Francisco: “No, I would not read because I won’t get points or double lunch.”

Brittany: “No, because personalie I don’t like to read.”

Chris: “No because I would not feel the need to read if I don’t get anything out of it.”

Julius: “No, because I would be reading for no reason.”

The general consensus among the students who said they would not read if AR didn’t exist is because reading is boring and they wouldn’t get any prizes for doing so. I would need to do further research with each child so that I can figure out why they don’t like reading. Is it because they haven’t found a genre they are interested in? Is it because they are limited to reading only books? Is it because they struggle with reading fluently? There are many possible reasons why they don’t like reading and I will be investigating this further.

Contrast the answers of those students who don’t like to read with the students who said they would continue to read if AR didn’t exist:

Helen: “Yes, because before AR, I was reading very much and I still would.”

Madison: “Yes I would read because reading helps you w/ your vocabulary and speech.”

Soraya: “I would read if Accelerated Reader didn’t exist because it helps you read hard words.”

Erica: “Yes I would because reading helps you learn.”

Angel: “Yes, I would read on my own because if I wasn’t forced to read a book I would read one when ever I want.”

Joshua: “Yes because reading is part of my life.”

Isaac: “Yes, I would read but only comics and funny storyes. I will not read boring books.”

Note the differences in the answers: those who do not like to read have answered with one (or both) of two answers—it’s boring and there would be no rewards for reading—they have learned to read only to satisfy the external purposes of winning rewards and do so only because of extrinsic reasoning; those who like to read have a wider array of reasons for reading—they have learned to intrinsically enjoy reading and they continue to do so for their own internal reasons.

What is it that we want the end result of students reading to be? Do we want them to actually enjoy reading or do we want them to read only to get a reward? Or, do we want to them to develop a love (or at least like) of reading? Do we want them to read to help further their vocabulary, to open their minds, to read for the sake of learning and enjoyment?

The third thing I disagree with is that these students are tested after they read a book. Supposedly, they are tested on their reading comprehension, but they are actually tested on their ability to recall a few things from the story. Memory recall is definitely not the same thing as reading comprehension. Additionally, are we seriously going to take something that is supposed to be done for enjoyment and turn it into something that is forced and then tested?

The fourth thing about AR that I don’t care for is the fact that kids are limited to reading only books. Reading newspapers, magazines, websites, and other sources are not included in this program. Not everyone likes to read books and this is ok. I believe that limiting these students to only books is detrimental to the ultimate goal.

The fifth issue is that the point calculation doesn’t make sense. For instance, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” rates only seven points whereas “Monster High” by Lisi Harrison nets a student eight points. Really? Even adults have a tough time understanding Shakespeare and reading his work garners fewer points than the easy to read “Monster High?” If a student is able to read, actually comprehend, and think critically about Shakespeare, that’s quite the accomplishment!

I’ve had the opportunity to observe two classes of sixth graders. Additionally, I’ve been able to see other classrooms of various grades over the years. What I’ve witnessed these last few years in regard to their silent reading time is that many of them don’t want to read. They are all forced to be silent and sit in their desks and read. Some of them are forced to read books they aren’t interested in because there is a very limited supply of books available to them—or they just don’t like to read books at all. Some of them have a hard time reading while it’s so quiet. Some of them just may not be ready to read when it’s forced at a certain time during the class period. Some may need to be anywhere other than at their desk in order to be comfortable and to be able to focus on reading. There are a multitude of reasons. Regardless of the reason, if a student is being forced to read silently in class, that student is more likely to disengage from the book and is more likely to begin to think of reading as a chore to get through.

This quote is a great expression in regard to my dislike of the Accelerated Reader program our schools are using— “Language acquisition proceeds best when the acquirer is ‘open’ to the input, not ‘on the defensive,’ not anxious about performance.”—Dr. Stephen Krashen. Why make the students feel anxious by inducing competition and testing them on something that is supposed to be recreational, enjoyable, and personal?

For more information about the negative impacts AR is having on our students, please go to:

1) http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/the-18-reasons-not-to-use-accelerated-reader/

2) http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/does_accelerated_reader_work/ does_accelerated_reader_work.pdf

3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/28/AR2007012801173.html

Apr 02

"Ations" by Shel Silverstein

If we meet and I say, “Hi,”

That’s a salutation.

If you ask me how I feel,

That’s consideration.

If we stop and talk awhile,

That’s a conversation.

If we understand each other,

That’s communication.

If we argue, scream and fight,

That’s an altercation.

If later we apologize,

That’s reconciliation.

If we help each other home,

That’s cooperation.

And all these ations added up

Make civilization.

(And if I say this is a wonderful poem,

Is that exaggeration?)

Mar 29

theyuniversity:

 

theyuniversity:

 

(via theyuniversity)

Yo, Grammar: What’s Up With “Farther” and “Further”?

theyuniversity:

imageimage

We hope this post provides a simple explanation on the difference between “farther” and “further.” If you have additional questions on this topic, feel free to ask, or tweet us @The_YUNiversity. Cheers.

(The source of the Spider-Man GIF is trans-par-en-cy.)

(Source: theyuniversity, via theyuniversity)

How to tell if one of your friends is becoming a writer.

authorlife:

image

This is funny! :)

(via wilwheaton)

Mar 22

(via crazy691)

Aug 30

wilwheaton:

GPOY.

I loved this line!

wilwheaton:

GPOY.

I loved this line!

(Source: thedorseyshawexperience)

Jul 11

Psychodirect

I’ve created another word, “psychodirect!!!” Do me a favor and go give it a thumbs up on Urban Dictionary!

The other word I had made up is “scrabblejacked.” Go give that one a thumbs up too, please!

Mar 12

Things Students Write

I’m grading papers for a high school teacher and I’m coming across some stuff that is just too funny to keep to myself.  I will share with you. :)  These are direct quotes from their papers; I’ve maintained their anonymity.  Therefore, there will be grammar and punctuation errors.  I have added comments which I’ve italicized.

"a lot of people say [my mom] look mean .  .  . even though she’s not, I think its just the makeup." Wow! That must be some extreme makeup!

"kids back in her days were wearing some weird stuff like parachute pants and bellbottoms." Those are definitely not the weirdest things from that time.

"He had a great relashinip with her but didn’t like how it was going." It was a great relationship, but going badly??? Interesting.

"He also got to know that His bio dad lifts his bio mom." Does he lift her on a daily basis?

"[My grandpa] is an ant small but strong, he would always help carry the big things .  .  . " Ants, like your grandpa, typically are very strong and they do carry things which are many times their own weight. 

"To see Teja .  .  . is to first notice her eyes, placed right above the center of her face." Isn’t this a normal spot for eyes to be?

"Teenager who can kill must be way more mature than an average teenager as if they’re an adult." Yea, because killing is totally what determines a person’s maturity.

"The solutions is let your teen experience life but keep the bad things away and harm them." Please, harm your teenagers!

"Teens like to kill people, because they play lots of videogames." Video games are the absolute sole cause of murderous teens, mental instability has nothing to do with it.

"Teens should be having fun, going out to parties not killing people." This is an important lesson teens, don’t kill people, have fun instead.

"Success to Mayra means if you’re out there with a real job not selling yourself for your money then you’re pretty successful." So, as long as you aren’t a prostitute, you are successful.

"The most motivation that she has is to get money save money and then when you need it, it’s going to be right there for you to waste." Save your money so you can waste it, don’t be responsible with it, ever.