As a reading intervention teacher, the nature of my position allows me to work primarily with students who struggle in reading and writing. Some struggle due to learning disabilities, identified or unidentified. Some come to us from homes where literacy is not held as a priority and therefore, these children haven’t been privy to the exposure to text that their peers have enjoyed. Many are unmotivated and view reading as an unrewarding task that almost always seems to end with answering comprehension questions that are not quite accessible for the reader who struggles with word knowledge and decoding. My goal for these students has shifted since I began in this line of work. Five years ago, if asked to articulate my goal for my students, I would have answered, “To help them meet grade level benchmarks”. Now, my goal is bigger, broader, more aggressive, and more challenging.
I want to make literacy irresistible to my students. I want to help inspire the intrinsic desire to read and learn and discover. I have decided that, in order to do this, I need to create a space that is welcoming, multi-faceted, and simply fun. I want this space to be one in which students can concentrate, percolate, collaborate, create, and innovate. My space needs to consist of areas for group learning and discussion, room for small groups to gather, and comfortable spaces that draw students in to hunker down and enjoy a good story or focus on a project at hand. (Does this remind you of the “campfires, watering holes, and caves” discussion?)
So, how do I make literacy irresistible to students who loathe the idea of picking up a book and reading it from cover to cover? If I had the means to create a dream literacy “fab lab” (using the same vein of thought that inspired Paula White’s Crozet “fab lab”), what tools would draw my students closer to literacy? In my mind’s eye, I picture touch-screen tables, one-to-one iPads, an entire wall that is a dry-erase board, tile floors that can be used as a canvas for brainstorming, hand-held interactive tools such as iPod Touches, and of course, a wall of books that are exciting to our students. These books need to be high interest, cover the span of genres, and all would need to be available in audio format on our interactive tools, enabling a student to choose a book, click a tab, and enjoy reading it with the amount of assistance they require.
This week, I asked my students about their passions. I asked them to tell me one thing in their lives that drives them to want to learn and succeed more. Almost all students answered with the name of a sport. Two spoke of music. One was thrilled to tell me about her art. A first grader replied that she loves writing more than anything. When they spoke of these passions, their eyes lit up and they were excited about these parts of their lives. I want to harness that joy, that intrinsic drive, that passion. I do believe that each of my students can find literacy irresistible if they are taken down the right avenue to get there. I would love the input of educators who have found innovative and inspiring ways to bridge the gaps for struggling students. What would you add to a dream literacy “fab lab” to help inspire a desire to read and learn?