Winter Break at The Lexington School just happened. Some families took a vacation while others maintained a regular routine with a little bit of rest. Regardless of how they spent the time, it is highly likely TLS students still did some reading. Why would you read while on break? Because you WANT to!
Inspiring our youngest, burgeoning Lexington School readers was the topic of the first blog in this series of three. In part one, we discussed the three Cs that teachers use to facilitate LEARNING to read while encouraging a LOVE of reading. Those Cs are Community, Competition, and Culmination.
These three Cs translate well as students grow up at The Lexington School even as the academic emphasis changes and becomes more challenging. Early on, young students LEARN TO READ. Later, students begin to READ TO LEARN. Within the framework of the three Cs (Community, Competition, and Culmination), here are a few examples of how.
COMMUNITY AND COMPETITION
Battle of the Books: Starting in third grade, students at The Lexington School may choose to participate in extracurricular “Battle of the Books”. America’s Battle of the Books is a reading incentive program for students in 3rd thru 12th grades. Students read books and come together, usually in groups, to demonstrate their abilities and to test their knowledge of the books they have read. Battle of the Books is FUN because it builds community and competition around reading. The books they read are chosen as part of the national program, and once a month, TLS students of various ages come together early in the morning before school, have a breakfast of champions (usually donuts), and discuss various literary aspects of the book. Friendship, donuts, Family Feud-type quiz show questions…no wonder over fifty TLS students in grades 3-5 participate in this extra-curricular opportunity.
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40 Book Challenge: In fourth and fifth grades, the forty book challenge is more than just reading a book a week every week of the year. Students are guided to choose books that challenge them, and students are challenged to choose a variety of genres and topics throughout the year to help them learn what interests them the most. In fourth grade, for example, Mrs. Downing and Mr. Platt, fourth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teachers encourage their students to choose a book that they think will interest them. If they get into it and realize it isn’t for them, it’s okay to abandon it. Both classes keep reading logs to help motivate and move things along. “The 40 Book Challenge inspires readers to take risks and to step outside of their “reading comfort zones”. Every year, we have children who read above and beyond the expectations of the challenge and they cannot believe all that they accomplished as a reader in one short year. It is successes like these that set them up to become life-long learners who are passionate about reading,” Allison Downing explains.
Non-Fiction to Teach and Learn: The jump from fiction to non-fiction happens pretty quickly in third grade. As they learn to read to learn, students are asked to read an “information book” for twenty minutes at a time, absorbing as many facts as they can before they teach the material to their partner, a classmate. They inform the main idea and three specific examples. This routine actively promotes reading, thinking, and communicating in a way kids love best, with each other.
Non-fiction reading weaves throughout fourth and fifth grades, increasing in importance as students learn to read with greater complexity. Heidi Simons, 5th-grade LASS teacher explains why: “A huge majority of what they are going to read in middle school, high school, and college is non-fiction, so preparing them to learn to decode, find its parts, the text features, and text structures that set it apart and guide you as a reader is a big part of what we do.”
Each reading unit, fiction or non-fiction, ends with some type of culminating event. For example, right now, Heidi explains, “they are reading about black women in STEM and building towards a presentation at lower school assembly next week where they will curate their information and teach the rest of the grades.” Fifth graders look forward to leading the younger students, and this activity gives them a platform for excitement and motivation.
“It is fun to see students excited about where their book or text is going to lead them next. We, teachers, make sure they have attainable goals that keep them excited and motivated, and we enjoy celebrating their successes with them.”
Individualizing Through Reading and Writing Workshop
Working towards challenging goals in reading while inspiring students to love reading is an art form. Mrs. Simons explains that the reading curriculum for all grades in the lower school is very much based on the independent needs of the students. Teachers conference with each student, knowing exactly where that student stands and pushing them to the next level. “We are fortunate to enjoy a lower student-teacher ratio at The Lexington School, allowing more one-on-one with our readers.”
Allowing student choice in reading, guiding them with categories for stretching their mindset, and providing a community, a little competition, and plenty of culminating celebrations is important to instilling an internal motivation and enjoyment of literature for a lifetime.
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Frederick Douglass