Interactive Novel Study Reflection


7th Grade Interactive Novel Study “Reflection”

The Pigman by Paul Zindel


First, as a middle school teacher, I tend to lean towards a cooperative student centered learning environment, and stray from the traditional teacher lecture centered classroom. I strive to create opportunities to experience learning rather than focus on taking vocabulary tests and completing worksheets. My philosophy revolves around making Interactive Novel Studyconnections, building background knowledge and experiences, while developing lasting relationships. “Fostering the development of healthy relationships in any school can help build a positive school community where teachers, students, and school staff can work with one another in a culture of learning and affirming” (Carlisle, 2011). This concept supports the idea that students need to feel respected, supported and valued by their teachers and feel like they belong within the educational system as a whole. The overall culture and climate of the classroom needs to “address adolescent student needs for school social support to improve life satisfaction of individual adolescent students” (2011). It is important to understand that a positive sense of belonging is directly correlated with a student’s ability to be an effective member of the school community, participate in positive behaviors, and demonstrate the positive attributes needed to engage in healthy relationships that stimulate higher levels of learning.

It is obvious that students learn more from each other when the learning environment allows them to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, critical thinking is enhanced when students are encouraged to question and discover answers together. Life is not always filled with right and wrong answers, life is often filled with challenges that require us to look deeper than the surface, determine what side we agree with, and identify evidence that supports our thoughts and ideas.

The last three years, I have spent working through a variety of novel study units, in search of the best way to share a novel with my students while facilitating learning and mastering standards. Some of the novel study methods were too long and drawn out. The core of many novel studies tend to be very heavy and thick with worksheets, graphic organizers, and vocabulary assessments where the true reading experience gets lost and students start to disengage. At the same time, with a wide range of learning needs, and reading and writing abilities in the classroom it is even more challenging to maintain a novel study without losing students along the way. Educators strive to meet the needs of all students within the general education setting; however, creating a learning environment that matches the developmental abilities and needs of young adolescents is extremely challenging when students are not reading proficiently or unable to express themselves adequately through writing.

According to Stevens, author of Integrated Reading and Language Arts Instruction, the goal of the middle school organization is to create a learning environment that matches the developmental abilities and needs of young adolescents through the integration of reading and English classes in large urban middle schools (2006). This concept can be used as a model to develop a Language Arts program that uses the cooperative learning processes to take advantage of the cognitive, social, and motivational benefits of students working together on reading and writing. The Integrated Reading and Language Arts Instruction article provides data that supports the use of integrated instruction that actively engages students.

My mission was to find a method of reading a novel directly with the class, with no required outside independent reading, eliminating the need for differentiating the novel text. Reading aloud to students while they are following along not only increases comprehension and language, it builds a foundation for background knowledge and cooperative learning. Dorn and Soffos concur that the read aloud and follow-up conversation allows teachers the opportunity to help students develop background knowledge and connect concepts so that all children can begin to clarify their thinking during their discussions with their peers and teacher (2005). Allington (2001) agrees and writes that in order for children to develop thoughtful literacy, they must be given an abundant number of opportunities throughout the day to demonstrate their understanding and to practice using comprehension strategies under the guidance of the teacher. Read aloud also stimulate curiosity in children as they are invited into a safe environment to marvel at the concepts being presented (Harvey, 1998).

The Interactive Novel Study provides students at different reading and writing levels the opportunity to read the same novel together and participate as a whole learning community. With everyone experiencing every word, phrase, image, and feeling every inch of the storyline together, the interactive novel study becomes a way to impact each individual student personally as well as academically. Tying academic skills and standards into the novel study results in an “interactive life experience” and not an “I have to learn this just because” educational moment. Author of Using Read Alouds in Today’s Classroom, Reba Wadsworth reminds us that, “given the body of research supporting the importance of read alouds for modeling fluency, building background knowledge, and developing language acquisition, Allen (2000) writes we should remind ourselves that those same benefits occur when we extend read alouds beyond the early years.”

The Interactive Novel Study brings everything that I have been looking for together. This includes connecting to students in a modern era of technology. The technology savvy adolescents of today seem to have created a dependency on feeling connected (Crittenden, 2002) in both social and academic settings. They multitask, performing tasks at the same time (email, IM, video games, etc) and have created an expectation for speed and immediacy of response or information (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2006). These adolescents prefer learning by doing and are more comfortable with image-rich environments rather than with text (Tapscott, 2002). Brainstorm and experimenting with using an online platform to facilitate a novel study is how the concept of Interactive Novel Study immerged. Technology has become part of the way we interact in our microsystems of family, friends, and school by expanding on-line access and instant communication (Russo, Fallon, Zhang, Acevedo, 2014).

This year is the beginning of the Interactive Novel Study, and now I have the basis to refine and build an experience that allows students to grow socially, emotionally and academically. The key to the Interactive Novel Study is using questioning and encouraging students to learn from each other. Fostering independent thinking and hunting for evidence to support thoughts and ideas is crucial for growth. Students come to understand that when sharing experiences and cooperative learning, in general terms, there is no right or wrong answer, there is evidence to support your thoughts and ideas. This approach allows students to become more comfortable with themselves and sharing what they are thinking. Providing students opportunities to increase their confidence and develop the skills to support what they are thinking, allows them to grow and master content that is put in front of them.

On the other side, it is essential that students understand that when there is a right and wrong answer, getting the answer wrong can prove to be a greater opportunity to learn. When we are presented with a wrong answer, we work together to understand why an answer is incorrect. What evidence can we collect that will help support determining the correct answer? As students learn to discuss and debate, why they are selecting an answer, they can help each other enhance their ability to think critically about questions, evidence, and answers.

The Interactive Novel Study is one piece in the world of secondary learning. The Interactive Novel Study satisfies the student’s personal need to belong and to be validated. The Interactive Novel Study fosters critical thinking through questioning and reasoning while providing academic enrichment. The interactive Novel Study provides the educator with a platform to differentiate, assess, and adapt to individual student needs without creating additional work. The future of the Interactive Novel Study, effective teachers with engaged students.

References:

Allington, R. (2001). What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Carlisle, Mariko (2011). Healthy Relationships and Building Developmental Assets in Middle School Students. Canadian Journal of Education, 34, 3, 18-32.

Crittenden, S. (2002). Silicon daydreams: digital pastimes of the wired generation. Virgina.edu, vol VI.

Dorn, L., & Soffos, C. (2005). Teaching for deep comprehension. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Harvey, S. (1998). Nonfiction matters. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Oblinger, D. & Oblinger, J. L. (2006). Is it age or IT: first steps toward understanding the net generation? California School Library Association Journal, 29(2), 8-16.

Theresa J. Russo, Moira A. Fallon, Jie Zhang, and Veronica C. Acevedo (2014). University Students Need to Connect. Brock Education, 23(2), Spring 2014, pp. 84-96.

Wadsworth, Reba M. (2008). Using Read Alouds in Today’s Classrooms. Read alouds benefit children of all ages and in all subjects. Leadership Compass, Vol. 5, No. 3, Spring. NAESP.

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The Pigman Journey


7th Grade Interactive Novel Study

The Pigman by Paul Zindel


Life is not always filled with right and wrong answers, life is often filled with challenges that require us to look deeper than the surface, determine what side we agree with, and identify evidence that supports our thoughts and ideas (Kaufenberg).

As we shared the experience of reading “The Pigman” together in class, we created opportunities to share our understanding of the text, characters, setting, and the challenges of teenage life, while covering ELA Common Core Standards.

Main Postings that Facilitated Novel Study and Stimulated in Class Discussion

The PrankSitting in the Graveyard

Relationship 1Relationship 2

Google Forms added to support alternate form of assessment and use of technology

Google Form ExampleGoogle Form Example Responses

Grading made easy with Excel Spreadsheet

Spread Sheet Grading Sample

From the educator standpoint, the Interactive Novel Study increased the efficiency of questioning and targeting standards, while directly engaging students in topics that have direct meaning to their personal interests and challenges of adolescents. The various questions posted in the blog helped facilitate whole class discussion, by allowing students time to think through their ideas and come to class prepared to discuss. Review of student responses clearly identifies student understanding, skills, and abilities, which provides the teacher with the evidence, needed to determine the next steps required for each student to move towards individual academic goals. Using Kidblog as the platform to facilitate interactive assessment not only created ongoing student engagement, it allowed the teacher to monitor and differentiate learning and assessment.

Touching Spirit Bear Student Introduction

8th Grade Interactive Active Novel Study

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen


The introduction assignment is designed to introduce the students to the classroom blog and provide an opportunity to create background knowledge for the novel study. Touching Spirit Bear starts out in Minneapolis and moves quickly to Alaska. The main characters is placed on an Island and must fend for himself in the elements of Alaska. Students were assigned a city in Alaska as a username. The introduction assignment provided the students with an opportunity to explore Alaska and learn more about the environment, weather, and setting. The images below walk through the first steps the eighth grade completed as they started the Toughing Spirit Bear Novel Study.

Before this individual assignment, The class looked over the classroom blog on the white board. The class reviewed “Welcome to Touching Spirit Bear Novel Study.”

8thgradeIntroductionpostingSTOP HERE – each student was given the introduction hand out. The whole reviewed the Touching Spirit Bear Novel Study Introduction to Kidblog and reviewed the sample  Posting Kodiak Posting.

Introduction Sheet

When introducing a new assignment and technology tool, it is important to provide visual examples and set expectations. Before the students logged into their accounts, they walked through the steps of the assignment together. Exploring cities in Alaska. Student volunteer read the Kodiak posting and the class checked the posting facts with the information at the Cities in Alaska website, AreaVibes. This whole group process set the expectations for independent student work.

Alaskan CitiesKodiak

This initial assignment provided the students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to use real world skills. The students researched cities in a manner that they may one-day research a place to live, go to college, or find a job.

 

8thgradeIntroductionStudentComment
Sample Student Response for Whole Class Lesson

 

Eighth Grade Student Examples

8thgradeIntroductionStudentComment28thgradeIntroductionStudentComment38thgradeIntroductionStudentComment48thgradeIntroductionStudentComment58thgradeIntroductionStudentComment68thgradeIntroductionStudentComment7

The Pigman Student Introduction

7th Grade Interactive Novel Study

The Pigman by Paul Zindel


The introduction assignment is designed to introduce the students to the classroom blog and provide an opportunity to create background knowledge for the novel study. The Pigman novel takes place in a New York Suburbs and the main characters visit the Bronx Zoo. Students were assigned a username that coincided with an animal that lives in the Bronx Zoo. The images below walk through the first steps the seventh grade completed as they started The Pigman Interactive Novel Study.

Before this individual assignment, The class looked over the classroom blog on the white board. The class reviewed “Welcome to The Pigman Novel Study.”

7thgradeIntroductionposting

STOP HERE – each student was given the introduction hand out. The whole reviewed the Pigman Novel Study Introduction to Kidblog and reviewed the sample Gelada Baboon Posting.

Introduction assignmnet Pigman

When introducing a new assignment and technology tool, it is important to provide visual examples and set expectations. Before the students logged into their accounts, they walked through the steps of the assignment together. Exploring the Bronx Zoo and the exhibit for Gelada Baboon. Student volunteer read the Gelada posting and the class checked the posting facts with the information at the Bronx Zoo website. This whole group process set the expectations for independent student work.

During this initial assignment, students demonstrated their ability to use real world skills; search a website for specific information, read a map, determine cost, and translate information.

Bronx Zoo Animals

7thgradeIntroductionStudentComment
Sample student response used for the whole class lesson.

Seventh Grade Student Examples

7thgradeIntroductionStudentComment27thgradeIntroductionStudentComment47thgradeIntroductionStudentComment37thgradeIntroductionStudentComment57thgradeIntroductionStudentComment6

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Student Introduction Reflection

Student usernames and logging in daily for lessons.

Deciding how to set up usernames for the students is a process that should allow students anonymity to encourage students to communicate openly. Taking the use of sorbets (nicknames) one step further provides an opportunity to create background knowledge and work on media literacy standards. Usernames were selected based on the introduction assignment. For The Pigman novel study usernames are animals from the Bronx Zoo and usernames for the Touching Spirit Bear are cities in Alaska. See The Pigman Part One and Touching Spirit Bear Part One for details and student posting examples.

The easiest way to complete this process is for the teacher to go through and assign the username and student email address. The School District has student email addresses through Google, which made sign up easy for students. As the teacher creates new users, enters usernames, and adds student email addresses an email is sent to the student. The email is an invitation to Kidblog.org. Students follow the link provided and login with Google.

To test the Kidblog.org signup process the seventh-grade signed up using Google and the eighth-grade used the specified classroom blog website address, logging in with usernames and passwords. Signup with the Google was smoother, took less time and was easier for students to login during subsequent lessons – all the teacher had to say was go to Kidblog.org and login with Google. Eighth-grade signup with usernames and passwords was a little more time-consuming. The teacher passed out slips of paper with classroom weblink, username, and password. On the following days, signing in took longer because students had to go to the specific classroom blog web address, remember username and password.  To eliminate the wasted time, student email addresses were added to usernames by the teacher, welcome emails were sent to students, students followed the link, and verified Google email login. Now both classes login with Google, saving time.

Part Two Reflection

This where the teacher needs to step up, grab hold, and jump off the traditional teaching ledge; and take the plunge into the world of the adolescents (Kaufenberg, 2017).

Why an Interactive Novel Study?

Adjusting to the World Around Us:

The majority of teachers will admit they are constantly thinking about their classroom and planning what is next. Even seasoned teachers, with their go-to bag of tricks, are on the lookout for new ideas to bring into the classroom. One of the main reasons, that teaching is an endless cycle of planning, revising, and planning is because the world around us is in a constant state of motion. As society evolves and changes, education must adjust to meet the needs of the people. In many cases content may stay the same, for example, reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding in language arts class is part of the curriculum to help students make connections while studying government in civics class. Reading the classic stays constant, how the novel is read, the daily lessons, and enrichment activities often change or need to be adjusted based on the group of students that enter the classroom each school year.

Of course, there are some basic core elements that teachers will argue never change and this may be true; however, it is essential that teachers remain fluid and adjust to the world. All of the elements that make up a good teacher will only last as long as the teacher can maintain balance. Maintaining balance, between classroom management, curriculum, students, and society, is the key to student and teacher success alike. This balance can only be achieved through fluidity and direct connections to the real world. It is important that we take a step back, refocus, and step forward in a direction that meets the students on their playing field.

The initial intention of the Interactive Novel Study was to take the constant of reading novels in middle school and adjust it to fulfill personal and academic needs of the students and the teacher. At the same time, the Interactive Novel Study established a platform that was built around the essential elements required for middle school students to grow as readers and adolescents. First, it is important to understand the key elements and main goals of the Interactive Novel Study. Second, understanding how reading and adolescence impacts overall learning and quality of life is required for a teacher to implement the Interactive Novel Study successfully in middle school.

Interactive Novel Study Core Elements:

  1. Novel study is an experience the class shares together
  2. The novel study makes direct connects to adolescent life and challenges
  3. Novel is read aloud to the students, students do not read on their own
  4. Small group and whole class discussions revolve around the themes and elements of the novel
  5. Teacher facilitates discussions that are student lead and revolve around students connections to the novel
  6. Questioning and inquiry-based teaching encourages students to explore and support their ideas
  7. Evidence from the novel and other sources support thoughts and ideas
  8. ELA Common Core Standards are embedded into the novel study, standards alone do not drive the novel study, student needs determine the direction of the study
  9. Assessments are connected to real world experiences
  10. Technology is incorporated and used throughout the novel study
  11. The novel and discussion are mobile and reflect social media and adolescent need to socialize
  12. Worksheets and traditional pencil and paper assignments are avoided at all costs

Interactive Novel Study Main Goals and Objectives:

  1. To implement a novel study that is differentiated for all reading abilities and cognitive levels
  2. To Develop common experiences and background to build healthy relationships
  3. To Facilitate critical thinking and problem solving for real world challenges
  4. To create opportunities to practice and master oral and written communication skills
  5. To build a curiosity and need for reading while fostering lifelong readers and learners
  6. To establish a learning environment where students feel safe, secure and take ownership in the education process

Understanding Reading and Adolescence:

Evidence shows that the majority of middle school students struggle as they move through adolescence. The core of the struggle for students can vary from typical adolescent physical and psychological changes to the increase in educational diversity and academic difficulties. In most cases, the combination of personal and academic changes are at the root causing students to falter.

As students are leaving elementary they are beginning to show signs of wanting and needing to become more in control and responsible for their own learning. During this time, it is essential for educators to foster the needs and desires while guiding students as they transition into high school. “Adolescents are striving towards independence during a time in their lives when physiological and psychological changes are occurring rapidly. The rapid changes and desire for independence can make adolescents more self-conscious about their bodies and their emotions” (Stienberg and McCary, 2012). Even though students are moving through this major change in their lives with desires of independence, they still want the opportunity to talk with adults about their education and feel that adults care. Stienberg and McCary note, that students feel empowered when they are viewed as knowledgeable participants in the educational process (2012). Several studies have demonstrated that this empowerment goes farther than most educators imagined, and students are thinking metacognitively as well as critically about their education.

The Interactive Novel Study takes into account student need for independence as well as the desire for communication. For example, the novels Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, and The Pigman by Paul Zindel, both explore topics that are relevant to adolescents. The key is to recognize that the themes and topics raised in the novel are not always discussed aloud in everyday life. This where the teacher needs to step up, grab hold, and jump off the traditional teaching ledge; and take the plunge into the world of the adolescents. The Interactive Novel Study opens up the classroom to discussing challenges that all middle school students face either directly or indirectly. Reading a novel together provides a common experience that students can use to start sharing and relating. Teachers need to facilitate conversations about real life and address the topics that often are left unsaid. Students become actively engaged when teachers share stories and ask questions that relate to the “crazy things” that are going on with adolescents emotionally and physically. Discussing life’s challenges with growing up, family, friends, and choices brings students into the forefront of their world and opens the doors to learning. The Interactive Novel Study provides the teacher with the opportunity to use this open door into the adolescent world as a gateway to facilitate growth in reading and communication. This growth ripples across content areas and lays a foundation for future academics success.

As content demands increase, literacy demands also increase: students are expected to read and write across a wide variety of disciplines, genres, and materials with increasing skill, flexibility, and insight. Referring to the increasing complexity in meaning and vocabulary that content area texts present, there are a number of potential sources of trouble for the adolescent reader: decoding, fluency, vocabulary, background knowledge, and critical thinking (Snow and Biancarosa, 2003, p. 5). The Interactive Novel Study indirectly and directly addresses the potential areas of academic concern through the use of oral and written discussions. Reading the novel aloud together and stopping at various points to discuss vocabulary and concepts provides opportunities to address individual student needs. Using questioning to invoke critical thinking and encouraging students to support their thoughts and ideas with evidence is critical to the success of the Interactive Novel Study.

Differentiation is a word that often makes teachers cringe or crawl back into the space under their teacher desk. The majority of teachers want to adjust what they are teaching and how they assess students to meet the needs of the student. Unfortunately, differentiation is not easy and it requires planning and continual informal assessments and observations. The Interactive Novel Study addresses the issue of time and ongoing assessment, allowing the teacher to take an active role in facilitating learning and providing the students with the opportunity to take ownership in their own learning. First, the educator needs to have an understanding of how individual students vary with not only reading levels, comprehension, and background knowledge.

For instance, the same reader may perform quite differently when reading a history text assigned by the teacher and when reading a self-selected novel. Motivation to read, relevant background knowledge, and degree of personal connection to the text differentiate these two reading tasks and can influence outcomes. The reader who can maintain high motivation even when reading for other-directed purposes, who has ample background knowledge across a wide array of domains, and who has good strategies to apply when experiencing comprehension difficulties will be a good reader across various sorts of texts and tasks (Snow and Biancarosa, 2003, p. 6). The Interactive Novel Study stimulates cooperative learning and sharing individual strengths to help each other work on our weaknesses. Identifying and discussing our strengths and weaknesses is key to growth and learning.

Using a novel study to meet students in their world and maintain engagement, while opening the door to developing reading and communication skills not only meets students individual needs, it creates a foundation for future success in school and life.

Resources:

Snow, Catherine E. and Biancarosa, Gina (2003). Adolescent Literacy and the Achievement Gap: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go From Here? Harvard Graduate School of Education. Carnegie Corporation.

Stienberg, Mary Anne, and McCary, Erica D. (2012). Listening to Their Voices: Middle Schooler’s Perspective of the life in Middle School. The Qualitative Report, Volume 17, Article 68.

Part One Reflection Setting Up


Getting Started with Kidblog


Setting up the Kidblog and developing an introductory lesson was the first part of the interactive novel study. The main goal for an Interactive Novel Study is to provide opportunities to use technology to demonstrate knowledge and skills. The following details will show the Kidblog classroom set up for the seventh and eighth-grade novel studies. Set up will include determining categories and developing a layout that coincides with the theme of the novel. A follow-up Interactive Novel Study Blog posting will detail out how to use the first classroom posting to tie the students directly to the novel content while establishing background knowledge: The Pigman Part One or Touching Spirit Bear Part One.

Teacher View Dashboard
Teacher View Dashboard: keeps classes and units of study organized, view active and archived blog spaces, use archived blogs to set up novel studies for new classes.                                           Student Dashboard View is very similar to teacher view.

The ease of setting up individual blogs for each class and signing up students is the first part of a successful classroom blog.

General Settings
View of General Settings

Kidblog is an effective and easy to use blog for teachers and students. In addition, there are features that provide options for controlling content and access.

Privacy Settings
Moderate public and private settings, approve postings/comments and outside connections

 


Seventh Grade Interactive Novel Study

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Selecting the theme for the blog background for The Pigman was based on the novel taking place in a New York suburb.

7thgradekidbloghomepage
Seventh Grade The Pigman Interactive Novel Study: Public Home Page Blog View

7thgradekidstudentview
The Pigman Interactive Novel Study Blog Home Page

See The Pigman Part One for details on setting up the Introduction Post for students


Navigation Resources

Links can be added to the side column to allow students easy navigation through Blog Categories, Outside resources needed for the novel study or additional course curriculum, and active members list. Students often enjoy looking at the Blog statistics and views.


Eighth Grade Interactive Novel Study

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Selecting the theme for the blog background for Touching Spirit Bear was based on the novel taking place in Alaska.

8thgradekidbloghomepage
Eighth Grade Touching Spirit Bear Interactive Novel Study: Public Home Page View
8thgradekidstudentview
Touching Spirit Bear Interactive Novel Study Blog Home Page

See Touching Spirit Bear Part One for details on setting up the Introduction Post for students

 


Setting Up Categories

Managing Categories is set the same no matter what novel is being read. Categories are selected to allow for easy tracking of students’ postings or comments. For the Interactive Novel Study, the teacher creates the posting and students create replies under the various headings. This keeps the blog space clean and less cluttered.

Tracking Individual Responses
Detailed view of a sort by individual student postings or comments for assessment
Tracking Individual Responses Option 2
List view of a sort by individual student posting or comments for assessment

Setting Up Categories

Managing Categories is set the same no matter what novel is being read. Categories are Categoriesselected to allow for easy tracking of students’ postings or comments. For the Interactive Novel Study, the teacher creates the posting and students create replies under the various headings. This keeps the blog space clean and less cluttered.

CATEGORIES: InteractiveNovelStudy, Getting Started, Daily Reading Responses, Novel Chapters, Questions for Mrs. K, and Free Blog Space

  1. InteractiveNovelStudy: Is the only public posting area that is used. This category provides information about the active novel study and direct parents to resources.

    8thgradePublicPosting
    Public Posting Message
  2. Getting Started: This is for the first few posting that starts the novel study.Intended to establish connections to themes, content, and practice using a blog.
  3. Daily Reading Responses: Teacher created postings that are used to stimulate a dialogue about daily readings. This category is also used to maintain a connection with the novel and as an assessment tool.
  4. Novel Chapters: PDF files are added to a posting through Google Drive as the chapter is read in class. Having the chapters readily available in the blog provides students with the opportunity to refer to the text when commenting on blog posts. In addition, students who miss class can read the daily reading and keep up with the novel study. Having only the chapters read, not only prevents students from reading ahead and keeps everyone together, it eliminates excuses for not being able to participate without a book.
    Chapter View
    PDF files from Google Drive can be uploaded, with the option to view in full screen

  5. Questions for Mrs. K: is an open space where students can ask the teacher questions as needed.
  6. Free Blog Space: This Space is open to students. The teacher does not play an active role in this area. Students thoughts and ideas about topics that they are interested. Students are encouraged to have conversations about things that they find interesting and want to talk about.

Free Blog Space

Follow the Interactive Novel Study on Twitter #interactivenovelstudy @EverydayLA. Watch this Blog Space to follow the process as we move through our first Interactive Novel Study with the seventh and eighth-grade students!

Importance of the Read Aloud

Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels: exposure, collaboration, and fluency

“The Read Aloud” has always been an important part of the reading curriculum with middle school students in courses I teach. Reading a book together in class and creating moments that we all have in common, not only strengths students academically, it builds a community of learners that can relate to one another. The only rule is that we only read the book with the class and never read ahead.

When we first start a novel study, students are exposed to the reasons why we read aloud together:

  1. Reading a story and discussing it as you go is fun and exciting!
  2. Creating something in common with your classmates builds future relationships and learning opportunities.
  3. Listening to a story and following along increases comprehension, fluency, and reading level.
  4. Individuals will also see growth in background knowledge as well as vocabulary.

ReadingHorizons has a Blog that features articles and evidence that supports a variety of reading strategies. The May 04, 2012 posting by Angie Stevens The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Ages provides detailed examples that are directly tied to common core standards and established scientific based evidence for best practice.

Reading Horizons Blog Posting
ReadingHorizons.com

Having Students Read Aloud?

Do middle school students need to read aloud? Yes. Should they be forced to read in front of their peers? That question is debatable.

As a reading teacher, with both a language arts and special education licensure, I have a deep understanding of how reading challenges can create barriers to learning and comprehension. One thing that general education teachers need to consider when asking middles school students to read aloud is that students tend to focus solely on their turn to read and often do not comprehend the content being read. Do middle school students need to read aloud? Yes. Should they be forced to read in front of their peers? That question is debatable. It depends on what the teacher’s objective is and if they are more concerned with student comprehension or with creating a situation that ultimately constructs a barrier to learning and potential disruption in effective classroom management.

One way to address the read aloud in middle school is to take the volunteer approach and set standards for reading aloud right from the beginning.

  1. When a peer is reading no correcting mistakes, if the mistake needs to be corrected in order to maintain understanding the teacher will make the correction, otherwise, continue reading.
  2. At the end of a paragraph or section, pause and stop reading, the next volunteer can start. Long pauses, waiting for someone to start reading will eventually close as students grow more comfortable reading. Remind students not to volunteer others to read, you can only volunteer yourself.
  3. No extra talking during reading time. Respect each other and listen.
  4. As students grow comfortable with the classroom and see that it is a safe environment to read aloud, more students will start volunteering.

Requesting that more students volunteer is a good way to increase participation as well. This approach to the read aloud encourages active participation in the read aloud process giving students an in or out as needed. Differentiation for students with reading difficulties should include providing the student a selection the day before giving them a chance to practice reading. Then in the whole class setting, the teacher may work the discussion stopping points in a way to allow the target student to start a section that they have practiced. Best practice would be to reserve read aloud with struggling readers for small group and pair reading.