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Teaching High School Aged Non & Low Readers to Read

Posted By: Martha Murphy on June 12, 2003
 
Chiming in again:

In recent years I have been working with career education rather than language arts, but one thing about students has become increasingly clear to me: Many of them have trouble transferring skills from one context to another. A funny story told me by a vocational teacher: He worked on resumes with the students in his welding program, who had earned industry certification. They made resumes, listing the certificates they had earned in the "skills" section. He later learned that when those same students made resumes in their personal finance class, they forgot to list their industry certificates!

Students (even me!) need to be reminded in each class to use organizational strategies and critical thinking skills as they read. Subject area teachers don't need to be reading specialists in order to remind students to look at section headings and bold-faced type, look for the main idea sentence in each paragraph, look at pictures, read picture and chart captions, check the glossary, and so on. We could let students know the purpose of each reading assignment and give them a couple of questions about essential ideas or facts so they can look for answers as they read. For those whose intelligence or learning style strengths are in areas other than verbal/linguistic and for all of us when encountering unfamiliar disciplines, these are important literacy strategies. (I forget to use them myself sometimes!)

I had an 8th grade history teacher many years ago who gave us as homework a list of 20 names, dates & vocabulary words each Monday. We were to identify them as we read the chapter and turn the assignment in on Thursday. On Friday he gave us the same list as a quiz and we had to i.d. the items from memory (in complete sentences!). The rest of the week was taken up with lectures, films, class discussions, and horsing around. (I remember one boy who whistled "Dixie Land" in front of the class as "punishment" for a minor infraction.) Each of us was also supposed to be working on a research paper and book report due before the end of the term. We even got a field trip to a historic site. The final exam consisted of questions based on the quizzes, so we knew what to review.

We all knew what he expected us to learn, and even the students who didn't do the reading and copied a friend's homework learned a lot about Oregon history! Sounds simple, worked great! He laid out a plan for success.
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 Teaching high school aged non and low readers to read by R. Warren Donelan on April 15, 2003
 
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