Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lost art of reading

As a teacher of American students now, I am in a different position than I used to be. I used to do any trick I could to get my internationals to actually read; we'd find interesting content, and I'd find interesting articles, and I'd test the articles carefully to ensure that they'd actually read them.

Now, however, my primary obligation is to the content itself. Forcing them to actually read the book is possible, but it's not the easiest option, or even the ideal one. Most of them, I suspect, know how to read, but consider it hard work that they'd rather not do. If my test were based entirely upon the reading, they would knuckle down, do it, then grumble at me, I suspect. In other words, they are veterans at getting their teacher to tell them what they need to know so that they can use their time more effectively, and not read. I feel to some degree like I've been tricked, or taken for a ride.

You wonder why students don't know the difference between you're/your or their/there/they're. Or seize/cease or a million others. I think it's because they don't read enough, but they don't read enough because people like me let them back out of it. So why am I allowing it?

Because, in my present position, my obligation is to the content. I want them to know the stuff. If I had to play games to force them to read it, they would forget it soon after, and we both would lose. Better to just tell it to them, make it interesting, make it stick in their minds.

I find a direct correlation between the stuff I mention, and the stuff they get right on the tests. The more I mention it, the more they get it. If I leave it to reading, maybe one or two out of twenty gets it. That's a pitiful average. And these are high achievers, good students, generally high-ranking. The lower ones are getting even less. It could be that the good ones shoot for a familiarity with the text so that when I mention something, they know where to find it. Thus, they develop selective reading skills, and save themselves a lot of work.

I figure this is going on in some form or another all over campus. I am not unique in this regard. Actual mastering a textbook-like big thing is quite difficult. Very few are actually doing it. Some are buying the book, though. Maybe they have plans for the distant future, when they have time.

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