Reading Tasks of the High School English Classroom

Pioneer Museum Boy Reading picmonkeyed

Summer is a time of reflection for me: I think about what went well over the past year and about what I can improve for the coming year.  I begin assessing my reading list, my assignments, and my course calendar, looking for assets or inefficiencies.

As I make decisions about the coming year, I like to remind myself of my foundational tasks and goals.  Recently I have been reflecting on the tasks and habits I want to model so that students will have richer reading lives after they leave my class.

Here are five main tasks I try to keep in mind as I plan my year:

Developing Reading Lives

This is really the foundational task; everything that follows this is more like a subcategory of this one. I hope that, after leaving my class, students will find that reading is more a part of their lives than before they entered.  This will look different for each student: some students already see themselves as readers and are hungry for more while other students are still hesitant about their reading identities.

Raising Independent Reading Levels

I hope that my students will be able to read more difficult texts and a wider variety of texts after they leave my classroom.  Some students have never finished an entire book before they take my class. Other students read widely but rarely stray from a comfortable level or genre. Other students read quickly just to get it done but don’t reflect or process (ie. fully comprehend) what they have read. I hope to provide support and conversations about these habits.

Increasing Reading Stamina

Students often need to learn to take more time with a text, to free their environment from distractions, and to simply sit in the silence reading requires. Adolescents have a great capacity for learning, but often need training in developing healthy reading habits.

Practicing Reading Strategies

Good readers are often not aware of the strategies they use to comprehend texts.  But if a teacher can bring these strategies to light and teach them deliberately, students can begin to take control of their own learning. If students can see that reading isn’t an innate ability but rather a complex series of choices and actions, they can begin to feel empowered rather than discouraged by the written word.

Applying Reading Strategies to Difficult Text

What is “difficult” for a particular student is a variable, but one of my goals is to introduce students to texts that are above their independent reading level and teach them how to approach those texts. We all have texts in our lives that are tough to read.  For adults it might be our mortgage paperwork or those pesky “terms and conditions.” We all need to learn what to do when we get stuck.

As I begin using the last month of summer to periodically work on improving my classroom, I will keep all of these tasks in mind.  I can’t fully determine the needs of my students before I meet them, but these reading values will form much of my framework.

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