Teaching reading – literature and nonfiction? You should read Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher. *
Much of teaching is mental. Teachers rehash class discussions and interactions when they leave school. They internalize the day.
Nothing pleases an English teacher more than experiencing the magic of a true analysis with students. An ELA teacher will walk out of school grinning from a discussion when students:
- connect the beginning and end.
- look at colors, character names, and settings with a discerning eye.
- relate the theme to their lives or present-day world issues.
- hate and love a character.
You get it, and I’m sure you have experienced this thrill. When I have experienced these results, I credited my experience from prior lessons and classroom community. While I won’t discount those factors, I figured there had to be more.
I posed this concept to my Facebook group, and teachers resoundingly recommended Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher. I purchased it, and I am confident my literature and nonfiction lesson plans will improve. Here is an overview of my immediate takeaways to implement in my classroom.
Provide background knowledge.
I knew this, but now I am more confident. Sometimes, I fear that I give too much away before beginning a book study. Gallagher argues that teachers set up students for success when we teach background information.
For example, I dedicate time to a weighty introduction before reading The Great Gatsby. I want to show students the fashion styles, the economic situation, and gender roles of the setting. We research Fitzgerald and his wife.
BUT, was I boring students before they started the book? Killing their interest?
Before I began teaching The Great Gatsby, I read a ton background information. I understood the book because of this information. Why wouldn’t I want my students to have the same success? I set myself up to see the big picture, and teachers should help their students the same way.
Create a balance.
All of that previous point? Balance it. Don’t teach “Julius Caesar” for twelve weeks. Students need background information, and they need to understand ways to read deeper. They are not in college, researching every angle.
You cannot cover every inch of a novel and provide a comprehensive history for the setting. Be sure to help students and create an interest so they will want to research the concepts more. Turn them loose – eventually you must!
Understand helpful activities and graphic organizers.
Throughout Deeper Reading, Gallagher credits teachers whose ideas he is sharing. For me, this gives the plans and activities credibility. I’ve read teaching books with elaborate suggestions that I’m not positive a teacher has implemented with students. When I pay for a book, I don’t want “maybe this will work” ideas. These ideas are straight-forward and yes, require planning by the teacher. They are realistic though.
The ideas that I have already tried (he includes organizers for students to make, quick activities that will start conversations) have worked, and this excites me about trying more. (Do you see the picture of my book, above? It is tattered with notes and paper for all the ideas I want to try).
Gallagher still teaches, and his messages speak to that fact. For instance, I often use multiple choice questions not as points in a grade book, but as a springboard for discussions. He has other extension activities for standardized tests (and it’s not just giving a different type of test).
Most activities to get students digging into text require poster board, envelopes, and note cards – easily adaptable, inexpensive, quick prep.
Furthermore, he provides in-depth examples of how to scaffold reading. The ways are simple! I scaffolded “Romeo and Juliet” this previous semester with his exact technique, and he was right: by the end of the play, my students could do it themselves.
Because I pledge complete honesty to my audience, I did not love the chapter devoted to timely nonfiction. That chapter needs updated, and I’m hoping that happens.
For instance, the suggestion that students read the newspaper daily doesn’t apply to present day. Should my students choose articles from our local newspaper online? The paper will limit them to ten views per month. Many newspapers are not that well-written with the explosion of blogs and websites. I know this was unforeseeable, but this section of the book was dated.
An updated version of this book would hopefully cover recent changes. I follow Gallagher on Twitter, and he recently shared a “fake news” lesson plan with his audience. I’m sure he teaches what the Internet has brought to the classroom, and I would love to see it added to his book.
Nonfiction and literature are presented throughout the entire book though, and you will have plenty of ideas for both types of reading.
Sometimes educational books create completely new programs. This book does not. Instead, it provides teacher-tested ways to enhance your teaching of reading materials.
If you want to help your students read with meaning for both literature and nonfiction, you won’t be disappointed with Deeper Reading.
That feeling of walking out of your classroom like a boss because students related to their reading? The formula is in Deeper Reading. Through ten years of teaching, I acquired some of these ideas, but not to the depth and creativity Gallagher has. I wish that I had read this book years ago because as I implement these practices into my classes, I am seeing more success for my students.
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