Boys Reading Strategies

WHAT IS OUR STORY?

We used the ministry document Me Read? No Way! as a springboard for exploration and focused on the key strategies, “Have the Right Stuff” and “Make it a Habit”. We found that the availability of rich and varied resources such as magazines, newspapers, non-fiction texts, graphic novels, and books that reflect the interests of boys led to sustained silent and focused daily reading time for our boys in intermediate classrooms. At the end of the first year of the project, we concluded that engagement is critical to the improvement of both reading attitudes and achievement for boys as well as girls. On the yearend survey, many of our students reported that they enjoyed reading only when given an opportunity to choose reading material that appealed to their interests.

In the second year of the project, we continued to provide reading time and allocated additional resources to sustain the primary focus of the project. However, we also implemented literature circles in our intermediate division. As a result, in this past year, our project has focused more on the strategy, “Let them Talk”. Using Harvey Daniels’ resource, LiteratureCircles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Circles, as our guide, we surveyed our students to determine their interests, purchased a wide variety of novels,including graphic novels,and began to explore this instructional strategy to further engage the boys and, by extension, improve their reading comprehension.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

The following are the most important findings to improve boys’ literacy emerging from our inquiry:

  1. Make it a habit

Ensure that all classes make time for independent reading. Protect that time from unnecessary interruptions. Students must be allowed to self-select the reading material during this time.

  1. Have the right stuff

Provide current non-fiction resources such as magazines and newspapers in all classrooms. Consider bundling nonfiction resources into bins that can be moved regularly from room to room to maintain variety and interest in the resources.

  1. Provide a wide variety of choice of novels for literature circles.

Survey students’ interests and be willing to change selections throughout the course of the year. If a novel is popular, look for a sequel or another novel by the same author. Introduce the novel selections through brief “book talks”. Display copies of the book jackets in a reading area of the room to generate enthusiasm about the novels. Consider doing a literature circle exploration of graphic novels. This approach was very popular with our grade 8 students in June!

  1. Let them talk.

Use Harvey Daniels’ approach to literature circles to build talk time into reading reflections. His best practices guidelines are listed on p. 27 of “Me Read? No Way!”

HOW DID OUR INQUIRY PROJECT IMPACT OUR INSTRUCTIONAL AND

ASSESSMENT PRACTICES?

The most important impact, for our school, was that our numerous intermediate classrooms became more consistent in their instructional practices with respect to literacy. We developed some core expectations across the division, such as:uninterrupted, daily reading time with self-selected materials;the provision of a wide variety of reading materials; andthe use of literature circles as an instructional strategy.

This past term, our intermediate staff began to explore common assessment practices and use teacher moderation as a means to develop more consistency.

Although the project itself did not impact directly on our instructional practices, the trust we developed among our team members will support us as we embark on this cycle of instruction.

Student Quotes:

Lit circles helped me with reading comprehension because I got to hear other peoples’ ideas and heard them explain”.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

The following are the most important findings to improve boys’ literacy emerging from our inquiry:

Boys love literacy! They love reading and writing, speaking about their ideas, and synthesizing information in creative and expressive ways and they can be highly successful. At the beginning, many of our boys were disengaged with literacy activities, had very little self-confidence in expressing their ideas, and admitted they did not understand what they were reading. To help our boys with reading, we implemented new initiatives related to both resources and programming. For example, it is absolutely necessary that classroom libraries be engaging. A classroom library should include many non-fiction texts at different levels, as well as graphic novels, traditional novels, newspapers, magazines, and on-line texts. When the resources are in classrooms, there are opportunties for immediate choices. Our boys constantly saw new engaging texts.

A good classroom library is not enough. Boys need validation that their choices of texts are good choices. We found that such validation was significant in changing boys’ motivation related to literacy activities. That is, the boys need an advocate to reassure them that reading is reading, and that a choice of a graphic novel is just as good a choice as a traditional text.

This advocacy made a difference in boys’ success in all aspects of literacy instruction.

Boys need to talk! We provided opportunities and encouraged boys to chat in literature circles and whole-class discussions and, as a result, we found they developed deeper meaning from what they read and demonstrated higher-level thinking. The “talk” process also needs to be validated for boys. Our boys needed modeled, shared, and guided practice to give them confidence. We also found that, generally, boys do not enjoy the physical task of writing. We experimented with various alternatives to paper-and-pencil tasks such as the use of a digital voice recorder. We found that computers help boys write their ideas without worrying (especially in junior grades) about neatness and a lack of fine motor skills. Boys quickly realized that they were actually quite good at a subject they thought they “hated”.

Adelaide Hoodless (Peter Martindale):

HOW DID OUR INQUIRY PROJECT IMPACT OUR INSTRUCTIONAL AND ASSESSMENT PRACTICES?

This project has helped bring about a sea change in the way literacy is taught and assessed at our school.We have implemented a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction and assessment in all our classrooms. This implementation has been at different paces for different teachers. We now use an approach of modeled, shared, guided, and independent lessons. We use literature circles in each of our classrooms.

We found that focusing on specific aspects of reading and writing (such as inferring, making connections, and synthesizing in reading; or ideas, organization, and voice in writing) helped students hone their specific skills and helped teachers focus their assessments. Our instruction was guided by our boys’ strengths and needs related to reading and writing.

We differentiated assessment and evaluation for boys, which provided them more opportunities for success. For example, we employed book conferences instead of book reports, tapping into boys’ enthusiasm for talk. This approach encouraged boys to read more, knowing that at the end they would not be required to do a book report. We focused on meta-cognition and taught boys to think about what aspects of the reading and writing processes helped them to self-evaluate, become motivated, and increase their confidence .

Student Quote:

On graphic novels: “They really help me get into reading.”

On literature circles: “I really hated reading, I thought it sucked. It was one thing I’d never do unless I had to. But now, I really like it. Literature circles helped me because I could talk without being told to work quietly.”

On reading: “Reading really inspired me to do other things. I even got a spelling tutor.”

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