The Dreaded Textbook

I would almost be willing to bet money on the fact that my student’s least favorite part of my class is when I say “grab your textbooks.”  The groans that echo around the room are enough to keep me from repeating that phrase very often, but I know my kids still need to learn how to use their textbooks, so I brave the sound effects every now and then.  What my students dread most is opening the book and silently reading hundreds of pages (or at least it feels like that many to them), so I try to find fun reading strategies to alleviate the amount of reading while still ensuring my kids are getting the information they need.

One of the first strategies that I learned in college during my methods class, and the strategy that I still use the most while teaching, is the Jigsaw.  Basically you break the information down into a jigsaw puzzle, each student gets one part that they become an expert on, and then they teach to and learn from group members in order to put the jigsaw back together.  The best part about this strategy for the kids is that they have to do only 1/4 (or however many parts you break the information into) of the work, and the best part for me is I can get more information covered this way.  The tricky part is making sure that the students are getting the correct information when they are becoming “experts” and making sure that they teach their information to each other rather than just trading papers and copying.  Find more information about the strategy here: http://www.jigsaw.org/

Another strategy that I like to use is paired reading.  This is great when the students are reading information to help build their background knowledge before we discuss as a class or start a new topic.  My kids are always excited to work with partners, especially when I let them pick who their partner is, and they tend to forget what I am asking them to do in their excitement.  So, reading aloud to a partner becomes fun and the groaning is momentarily silenced!  What I like most about this strategy is the ability to group strong readers with weaker readers, when I pick partners, to help the lower students develop their reading skills and ensure that they are grasping the content.  I usually include some sort of a conversation piece between the partners (summarize each paragraph in one sentence after you partner finishes reading) that will be easy for the stronger readers to complete and gives an opportunity for the weaker readers to have a partner who can help them should they struggle.

There are also times when I just want students to preview information from the textbook, or I want to work on their predicting and summarizing skills.  In these times I implement the THIEVES reading strategy which doesn’t even require students to read the textbook, again the groaning stops immediately!  For this strategy students skim through the reading selection looking at things like headings, visuals, introduction and conclusion paragraphs, and look for key information that tells them what the reading is about.  They can then either read the selection, or I like to lecture on the information while including questions that relate back to the elements from THIEVES.  It is another way for students to build background knowledge and be active in the learning of the content.  Find an example of the THIEVES strategy here: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/110541350/THIEVES—The-pre-reading-strategy-that-gets-students-to-steal

I know that there are probably hundreds of more reading strategies out there that teachers use every day in their classrooms.  What other great strategies do you use in your classroom, I’m always looking for new ways to silence the dreaded textbook groan!

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