For instance-If a student doesn’t understand a word, we were taught to continue reading and try and glean the meaning from the surrounding sentences and paragraphs. These days ANY word remotely new will have a footnote in it, and the definition at the bottom of the page! Come on! That doesn’t happen in real life. How often do you read a magazine article that comes with its own little dictionary? Kids need to learn this stuff!
I just wanted to make a comment on this part of your post.
But most magazine now do have little dictionaries on them, because most magazines today are either web based or viewed via a ipod app. Reading comprehension has little with knowing the definition of every word and everything to do with being able understand the meaning.
I actually think people you struggle with reading can be better readers in the end, because they have to look up words and have to glean the understanding.
A boy I work with is a brilliant reader, but hardly understands what he is reading but he only reads the words, and does not think about what they mean… he is 7…
just to broadening the discussion, what do you think the purpose of school is and why do you hold so much sway in “grade level” and such.
I have been studying education for the last two years and still have little understanding of why they decided the standards for reading… and I have studied it.
In relationship to your own sons, what have you done to encourage critical reading and critical writing?
Excellent point in regards to magazines being web based, BUT while many magazines do have websites, etc…they also have print magazines. And many of them do NOT have dictionaries within them. I am not saying that kids/adults can’t read an article and then turn around and go look up a word they don’t understand, BUT there are also ‘tricks of the trade’ that can be used to help kids get a better understanding of what they just read without googling every other word.
And while I understand what you are saying, it isn’t just people that have problems with reading that can become better readers by educating themselves, it’s anyone! I love to read-fiction, non-fiction, biographies, etc, etc, and I come across words every day that I don’t understand. I look them up or ask my husband, and in doing so I feel like I learned something that day. And in doing so, I think I am a better reader than I was BEFORE I knew a new word, or phrase or fact.
I am not saying I hold ‘grade level’ in great regards, but as a parent I use it as an easy benchmark, for lack of a better term. My oldest son is a senior. He is taking an AP English class that in reality is taught to Sophomores in college. If he is reading Othello in this class, and has NO CLUE what the story is about, if he doesn’t understand what Shakespeare is trying to say, then he is in a class that MIGHT be above his level of understanding. In the school district we live in, Julius Cesear is taught to the tenth grade honor students. If they are in that class, it is expected they will understand the material being taught.
What do I think the purpose of school is? Wow! Broad question. I think school serves a number of purposes-one is to teach the basics. Now, a few teachers that have read my posts seem to have a problem with this. They want to imply that the basics have changed since Roy (my husband) and I were younger-sorry, i disagree. Reading, writing and arithmetic are still basics. What has changed, IMO, is what kids are expected to know and when they are expected to know it. When I was in school we learned to identify letters and numbers in Kindergarten, today (our schools districts) kids are expected to already know this coming in to kindergarten. However, kids are still expected to learn their letters and numbers aren’t they? We still teach kids to read. We teach them to write, and math is still taken. I think school teachers kids how to interact with others, be it teachers, school officials, or other students. I think school teaches kids that there is a world beyond their home. To put it simply kids go to school to get an education, and as they get older their strengths are identified and they find their passions in life, which often leads to them choosing a specific field to go in to for a career.
In regards to my sons. I think one of the best things I can do for them is to show them that reading can be fun! I read myself, a little something every day-a magazine, the newspaper, or a book. With my older sons (17 and almost 16) if I read a book I think they will like, I pass it on to them and we discuss it as they read it. With my 12 year old, we make sure he knows we are always open to buying him a new book, or going to the library. Our 12 year old is required to read for school and then take tests on what he has read-the program is called “Accelerated reader”-we make sure he understands that it is an assignment and is to be done, but we also make sure he understands that he has control over what he reads. The school has thousands of books on which he can take tests, pick one you enjoy. We will often read the book along with him, and then discuss what we have read, so that we know he understands what he is reading. We read to our 7 and 3 year old. We try to do it every night.
As for critical writing-simple. The older boys have phones, I don’t care how they text their friends, but when they text their dad and I, I ask them to use proper English. When they send an email to their grandparents, same thing. Again, friends…use slang, abbreviations, whatever. But take the opportunity to use proper English and writing skills when it is presented to you. When they have papers due in school, we familiarize ourselves with the material so that when they ask us to edit their papers we know what they are talking about. We encourage them to talk to their teachers if there is a problem, and yes, we encourage them to question their teachers if they think something was unfairly graded, etc, etc.
I am by no means saying that I am the perfect parent, nor am I a teacher. On the other hand, last time I checked NO one was perfect, and that includes teachers.