As high school English teachers, by the time we get students into our classrooms, most of them will have negative feelings towards reading and writing for one reason or another. So how can we dissuade them from having these negative connotations associated with these activities?
We should start with asking them, “Why?” If we find the root cause of the negativity then it may be easier to help reverse them.
Getting to know our students is another way we can help them grow as readers and writers. If I recommend a book to a student, it better be because it is something I know they are going to be interested in. I’m not going to give a boy who is crazy about hunting a book about a ballerina. He is never going to want to read it and if you expect him to finish it, he is probably going to hate you as much as he hates that book. I’m not going to give a girl that I know is interested in animals a book about football. It just doesn’t make sense. That is going to be one of the reasons that they don’t like reading in the first place. We need to know our students well enough to find them books that we know they are going to love.
We can get our students to love reading by letting them break some of the reading rules that their previous teachers have implemented in their classrooms (i.e. Quitting a book if you do not like it and starting another one.) If we force students to trudge through a book that they hate, they are going to hate reading. Why would we expect kids to suffer through something that they do not enjoy? What good does that do anyone? And what about rereading a book? As long as the students are reading, why do we care if its their favorite book that they have read so many times that the cover is falling off?
Now how to we get kids to love writing? The National Writing Project Put out a list of ideas that gets kids writing.
http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/nwp/ten-ideas.html (check out the article here)
1. Writing need not begin and end at the classroom door
2. Writing can connect kids to their communities.
3. Kids like to write to other kids.
4. Students write best about what concerns them most.
5. Students are motivated to write when good writing is recognized.
6. Young writers need to do real writing.
7. Children benefit when parents are part of the literacy loop.
8. If a school recognizes the importance of writing, so will the students.
9. A published student writer is a motivated student writer.
10. With student writing, to celebrate is to motivate.
So many of these things can help get your students motivated to write. We have to get them to write more than when we want them to write about a book or do a research essay because that is where they get their negative feelings for writing from.
If we make our kids feel good about what they write and make them feel like real writers, then they are going to write. If we want them to feel comfortable writing in our class, we have to build them up and make them want to write. We can’t tear them down and criticize everything that they are writing.
IF WE MAKE KIDS READ BORING BOOKS AND WRITE BORING PAPERS, THEY ARE GOING TO HATE READING AND WRITING!
Let’s end the cycle of negativity and help our students love reading and writing.