Recently I posted about Dr. King and a lesson involving a video from my classroom prior to his special day.
Elizabeth from More From Elizabeth was one of the commenters to my post. She stated she “learned about Dr. King by reading a book” and wanted to know “what happened to books.” She also commented that she “would have been insulted” if she had been shown an animated video past the first grade.
That was the main point of my post……Students had seen the same animated video year after year. I elected not to do that and showed students two video clips that consisted of reinactments as well as real footage from Dr. King’s life.
It’s taken me a few days to respond, but I wanted to let Elizabeth know that books are alive and well in my classroom. Georgia fourth graders are required to read at least one million words or twenty-five grade level appropriate books in one year. We require every fourth grader to have a media center book with them at all times. During their reading class students read in small groups with a teacher, they read independently, they listen to books, they read Accelerated Reader books and take computerized assessments that give students feedback on how well they are comprehending what they read. Students reread familiar books to each other to build fluency as well.
Yes, Elizabeth, reading is alive and well in my classroom. Before the holidays my homeroom was retested to check comprehension through Dibels and two other assessments our system requires. The results indicated that all but two students had moved up one entire level from their ranking at the beginning of the year. The other two had also made gains, but had not increased an entire level. I have students currently reading at the upper third grade level all the way though an eighth grade level.
I’m not surprised about our results with the amount of reading students complete during each school day. Besides the types of reading I mentioned above students are also reading their Social Studies and Science textbooks (though school administrators would rather choke to death than to let anyone know we really use them). My students read supplemental items I add to my Social Studies program to bring in extra content, read through power points I’ve made for each Social Studies lesson, the vocabulary presented through Social Studies and Science are very advanced, and I haven’t even touched on the reading of literature students complete in Language Arts.
We read. We read all day. Please understand that many of the students I teach have never left their small town. We have a major mall fifteen minutes away, but many of my students have never been inside it. Their families purchase everything they need from the local Walmart. Atlanta is twenty-five minutes away, but it could be a million miles away for some. Many of my students have never been to any of the Atlanta museums, have never been to Turner field to see a live Braves game, never been on a plane, and think the only shows that come on television are Jerry Springer and American Idol. Most of my students ask to take my books bought with my own money home because they don’t have books of their own. The only magazines many see are People or TV Guide. Many have never been on a vacation and those that have often don’t venture beyond choices like Dollywood, Gatlinburg, or Georgia’s idea of Mecca….Panama City Beach. Not that those places are bad….I’ve been to all three, but they are somewhat limited in broadening one’s idea of culture.
With the advent of testing heavy in the inferencing department many students need images. They aren’t required to simply recall or locate information. Students are now required to evaluate data and then make generalizations in order to arrive at an answer. In order to do this they need reference points to build prior knowledge. Sources like United Streaming are a God-send. Today’s youngster finds it difficult to imagine a classroom where their African American friends weren’t welcome. In classrooms where today’s students know their rights it seems very foreign to them that certain people were excluded from various aspects of society simply because of skin color. Short film clips that show footage of the riots, firehoses, sit-ins, and marches build images in the minds of students. These images serve as anchors that students grab onto as they manipulate new unfamilar material.
Yes, I could have read a cute read aloud to students about Dr. King and showed students the pictures. I could have gone out and bought a class set of a chapter book concerning the life and times of Dr. King and spent several days reading it and analyzing the events with students, but let’s think outside the box for a moment....
What if by showing the video clips I gave students a scaffold….knowledge they could stand on to get them to the next place? What if the next place was the media center where they were motivated to look for a book independently concerning Dr. King? What if Dr. King’s image was clearer in their mind as they read because they had seen the video images of Dr. King preaching, being interviewed on television, and making his “I Have a Dream” speech?
What if in the days following my video presentation every biography of Dr. King had been checked out of our media center by a fourth grader?
I don’t need to wonder…..that’s what happened.