So one thing I found really interesting and inspiring in Penny Kittle’s chapter 8 was the “Big Idea Books”! These are really something to consider when you’re trying to get your students to intertwine their own reading lives with what you’re reading in class. See for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain.
First of all, she buys cheap notebooks and then labels them with themes that are common in literature. Some of those themes include guilt, hope, fate, cruelty and isolation. Those are just a few and there are a lot more that she mentions. After that, she lays them out in her classroom and has each student pick one. That student then writes in that notebook about where they find that particular theme in the book they are reading and how it relates to books the class has read over the semester. The thing is, is that every student writes in these notebooks so there are different conversations going on about different books. The students get to see what others are reading with this same theme. Penny Kittle also gets to write in these notebooks as well. Its basically a good way to see how your students are doing with themes and keep up with what they are reading. It’s also a really good way to get some great book recommendations. I will definitely pursue this idea further into my classroom with the hopes of getting my students thinking about themes and how they appear in books.
Chapter 9 discusses the importance of how testing is failing us as readers. Personally I’ve never been a huge fan of testing (I don’t think anyone is) but we have got to realize that it isn’t really doing anyone any good.
The first failure that Penny mentions is that speed is required for testing but it is the main cause that students do so poorly. Reading quickly cannot justify whether a student is a good reader or not. It may justify how many words they can read in a minute but what good does that do when they don’t even read every word?! When you read quickly, you don’t get the chance to fully comprehend what you are reading. There have been times when I get to going too fast and I have to tell myself to slow down and reread the passage because I’ll have no clue what is going on. Slow down and take your time!
Her second point is involving the parents more (which I love). These children have parents that know their every move and you’d think that they would know what is going on in their child’s life but they are being told they don’t. Why not listen to the people who actually raised these kids and know how they work?? Just a thought!
Some of her other points include false hope in the students who are tested as good readers, tests do not show us that these kids will grow up and read for as long as they live, international scores are showing us a poor comparison, standardized tests don’t fully show what students can actually do, and we could be spending this time learning and not taking tests that do nothing for us.
There were many parts to this chapter but the part about standardized testing and all of it’s faults with students and teachers really caught my attention. Penny really showed me the other side of school districts and even internationally when it comes to tests. I know most teachers would agree with what she says about these pointless tests and how they aren’t doing a thing to get kids reading for the right reasons. I’ve been told so many times that simply reading books can alter a student’s reading level and improve their overall level of comprehension. Why don’t we compare reading a book to the standardized tests? Let’s see how that turns out..