August 19, 2008

My SLO Experience – Advanced Reading Club

Posted in SABIS/Choueifat tagged , , , , , at 6:10 am by stephshimkooo

Getting Girls to Read

Getting Girls to Read

As a teacher, I have several basic goals for my students. I want to make sure that as many students as possible are able to correctly learn material for any given class, but that’s just the beginning. I want to do my best to make my students curious people who will become lifelong learners as well as make sure all of my students improved in general. To reach this end, I tried to start an advanced reading club for the most advanced 9th grade students. The majority of the students in the school were at or below the level of the 4th grade book they were reading (in the 9th grade classes), but there were 10-12 students who were way beyond it, and they spent a lot of time being bored or frustrated in class.

I was met with opposition from the first step.First I was told no by my AQC because it wasn’t an existing SABIS SLO activity. After that woman quit, I brought up the idea to the new AQC. She took to the idea and told me to coordinate it with the SLC. I was told that I had to write a proposal for each (the reading club proposal is below) which I submitted the next day. I was told that the executive staff loved the idea, but I got no response as to funding or scheduling.

Long story short, I had to jump through more hoops than I could count and was shoved back and forth between the SABIS and the school administration on where, when, and who would be in the class, and what book we would read. I had already arranged everything with the SLC, but both parties kept changing things or questioning each other. I ended up going out on my own and buying the books from a bookstore and having the students reimburse me. I was reprimanded (albeit lightly) for this for getting involved in money, and asked “why can’t you just give photocopies” of a 200 page book to 12 kids (The book was 18 dirhams, which is less than $5. It would have cost more in ink and paper to photocopy it than to buy it). The first selection was “The Secret Garden,” which I was told was approved from the proposal but apparently wasn’t, and the principal of the school didn’t approve it until about 10 minutes before the first meeting.

The girls greatly enjoyed what part of the novel we read, and they gained confidence in their English abilities. Unfortunately, we didn’t even finish half of the book, even though I had made a syllabus and assignments for an entire semester.  This was mostly because other teachers in the school kept pulling my students away for other projects, and we were asked to contribute to a stage production for the SLC for “reading week.”

The teachers didn’t know it was reading week until we were about halfway through it. The SLO supposedly had various themed weeks, but other than math week, there was nothing, no program, no decorations, no assembly, no announcements, etc. to show that it was a themed week. The girls voted to do a part from Shakespeare, so I chose the final scene from “Hamlet” for the simple reason that it had enough characters to give each girl a speaking part.

We spent our reading time practicing, and we were given a time to perform. It was canceled because somebody else was performing. We were given another date. It was canceled because the principal was away for a meeting. We were given another date, and it was canceled because of testing, etc. The girls continued practicing, and finally got to perform on the next to last day of school. They were very proud of themselves, but unfortunately, I’m positive none of the rest of the student body understood it.

So we only read about half of the book and half of the time half of the students weren’t there. This was hailed as a SABIS success story and from what I understand, much praise from the SABIS SLO/executive team, and hailed as a “SABIS success story” in the PPP.

Advanced Reading Club Propsal:

The goal of this club is to provide a challenging enterprise to students who, for a variety of circumstances, can communicate in English at a level far above their peers. Some have had private tutoring in the past, traveled abroad, or have constant exposure to English speakers. Although the material they study in class may be useful for review, these students run a risk of becoming bored and losing interest in a subject in which they would otherwise excel.

This club would be compiled of the 10-12 best students of English in the school, based on a combination of teacher recommendations and student interest. Students would all have a copy of the reading selection, which would be an appropriate novel for the age group and culture. A portion of the selected reading would be assigned each week, and the reading would be discussed at a weekly meeting during breaktime. The students would also be given comprehension questions, told to write a summary, or given some other exercise to accompany the reading. This will help develop critical reading skills, writing skills, and functional fluency.

Some suggestions for reading:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Socks by Beverly Cleary

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Several of these authors have written multiple works that are appropriate and interesting to read. None of the novels suggested above contain any references to sexuality or romance, politics, or religion, and in most there is no violence, with the exception of Shiloh (The story involves a boy who finds an abused dog, and works to raise money to buy him from the abusive owner).

The club would require no materials except an empty classroom and the books. The books are generally inexpensive. A copy of The Secret Garden at Borders in Dubai can be bought for 18 Dirhams, making this club affordable to students, or inexpensive to school administration, should they choose to pay for it. In any case, the benefits of such a club would far outweigh the costs.


1 Comment »

  1. fireglo said,

    O how I miss Roald Dahl.

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