In 11th grade our first assignment was to review Realism from last year. I decided rather than us reading several stories this week to have the students read three different stories. From a writing sample they wrote and an interest inventory they completed, I felt I had a pretty good idea of who my three types of students were :struggling readers, advanced students (who should be in AP), and reluctant readers (unfortunately many of these students are boys). I passed out the stories accordingly...a more complex piece, a shorter piece (as to not be intimidating to my struggling readers), and a piece about war to many of my male students. The assignment was to read it and make notes and be ready to discuss the following day.
I have to make a side note here that there is always something nerve racking about the first assignment. It's both their first impression of you and your first impression of them. You want it to go well....you want to see them succeed.
We come into class the next day and I break them into three large groups according to what they read to discuss. I couldn't believe the comments as I walked around the room. Students turning pages to highlighted lines "can you believe she said that?", "she wanted her husband to be dead!", "that part when he got shot was gross!" Wow, wow, wow. I was so excited to hear what they had to say.
As we split into small groups of three to discuss what each had read the comments continued. They were actually interested in hearing about what others had read! I was feeling on top of the world. I had visions of the students standing up and clapping at the end of class, roses flying in the air as I took a bow, high fives as I ran down the rows...so maybe that's a bit much, but you get the point. I felt so encouraged for what the year will be like.
My next class comes in, we get into our large groups and....silence. Nothing. Crickets. I finally here someone say to their group "So who read this?" I tried to read it in lunch, I read the first paragraph, etc were the responses. Dreams shattered! I tried to go around to each group and tell them how funny this story was. The surprise ending at the end of the other story. I even reenacted the end line from the chapter of Red Badge of Courage shaking my fist to the war field screaming "Hell!" Nothing...
Which brings me to what I've been thinking about all morning. How do you motivate someone to read? I can have all of the enthusiasm in the world, bring wonderful reading strategies to the table, give them plenty of insight into the story to motivate them to finish it. But in the end, I can't do the work for them.
We will be reading The Great Gatsby soon. I want them to experience what the novel has to offer. The disillusionment of the time period, sympathy for Gatsby who can never be who he is pretending to be and loves a woman who will never love him back, the hatred for Tom, the desire to see Daisy wake up and see the reality of the whole situation. And even the symbolism (I'm a sucker for deeper meanings). I want them to get to know these characters and be invested in the story.
So that is where I am at this morning. How do we motivate them to read? I want to encourage the parents of my students to read what they are reading. Talk about it at home. "Show" them what it is to read and enjoy.
This is my goal for the year. To all of those who left "Favorite Book" blank on their questionnaire, let's find something you love! One thing, a poem, a play, a novel, a short story. I want them to walk out of here having really connected and enjoyed something we read this year. So that's the challenge and I say "GAME ON"