Can’t Read? Go Sledding!

When I was teaching sixth grade, two of my students skipped class to go sledding. They had my blessing. This was the only way they could learn to read.

We were dissecting Lois Lowry’s The Giver. A critical scene in the book describes the protagonist, Jonah, sledding. But these students could not comprehend what the chapter was about, no matter how many discussions we had. Why? Well, as our school reading specialist discovered, these kids had never been sledding in their lives, despite the fact that they lived in Boston.

What to do? The reading specialist went home, got two red sleds, came back to school for our students, and made a bee-line for the snowiest hill she could find. Problem solved: reading tests aced.

Dana Goldstein’s article “How to Make American Teens Smarter” on The Daily Beast. Goldstein explores the impact prior knowledge and experience has on the development of readers.

Her article also highlights several other scary facts that were recently disclosed in the “nation’s report card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress–facts that underpin why our nation may be losing its competitive edge:

…only one-third of American kids can read at the “proficient” level. Over the past two years, no national gains have been made in closing the achievement gaps between rich and poor, white and black, white and Hispanic, or girls and boys.

Goldstein says, “The overall picture of literacy in America is bleak–a decades-long achievement plateau.” Clearly we need to think outside the box…or at least outside the classroom. So what ideas do you have for closing the achievement gap and melting our nation’s literacy deep freeze?

Posted in Educators, Shana's Posts on 04/10/2010 07:21 pm

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