Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keeping Teens Reading

I'm answering another one of your questions today, and this one is from Mina (who is a future English teacher...yay!). She asks:

How do you get your students interested in learning about literature if they don't appear to care at all about what you're doing?

First of all, this is a crazy question because I've never met a student who wasn't interested in what I was teaching! Okay, I'm laughing about as hard as you are...we all know teenagers. There's three rules that I always try to follow in the classroom.

1) I make sure that the stuff I teach is what I love. I've taught some pretty awful stuff in the beginning (boo to The Red Badge of Courage and The Iliad). I didn't like the material and my students could tell that I didn't like it, so why should they bothering caring? I now try to pick literature that I love (such as The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies). I have to teach these books 4-6 times a year, so I've learned how important it is to get excited and want to talk about the books. When I'm into a book, often my students will be too.

2) I get to know my students as individuals. I know it sounds simple, but there are teachers out there who just come to teach and don't really care about connecting to or learning about their students. I spend a lot of time at the start of the year discussing important issues, asking my students questions about what they're interested in and their lives. This lets my students know that I want them to do well. When my students know that I'm cheering for them and want them to do well, they seem to try harder in the classroom.

3) I try to connect everything we read to my students' lives. I think it's so important for my students to be able to relate to what we're reading and see pieces of themselves in the literature. This not only helps my students understand the relevancy in what they read but also allows them to place themselves in the characters' positions and gain empathy towards now situations.

Whew! I sound like I'm at a job interview. What about you? What do you think hooks a reader to "the classics?" What makes him/her want to keep reading books that they may feel removed from?


Matthew Rush said...

Hmm, great question Rachele!

With my own daughter I don't try to force her to read the classics, because I feel that she has to come to them on her own (and I'm just happy that she reads so much). She has read some and hated them, like: The Old Man and the Sea, but loved others, like: To Kill a Mockingbird. Both were assigned by teachers so she "had" to read them, but luckily she still enjoyed Harper Lee.

The only "classic" I've told her she had to read was TLOTR, which she loved, but she's a fantasy nerd just like her dad.

Kristan said...

Yeah, RED BADGE OF COURAGE is the suck. ILIAD is kinda cool, though...

You sound like an AWESOME teacher, btw.

Anonymous said...

I'm only a teacher at Saturday school, but these are really great rules to follow. :)

Mina Carlisle said...

Aw, I feel so honored that you answered my questions with such great answers. I am going to have to use all of these suggestions as best I can when I start my student teaching because last year, I had a lot of disinterested kids, so hopefully this year I can rock their socks off about literature!

Lynn Mitchell said...

I'm an old woman now *gasp* but I remember hating classics while in school. Then I had a teacher who did a whole section on Oedipus, Oedipus Rex, Antigone...I dreaded that class until the teacher started talking about mystery, curses, betrayal, incest, cheating, stealing, deceiving, and sex...well, I was hooked. Why? Because she identified all those issues in the literature and showed a bunch of high school kids how relevant it was to our own lives.

Okie said...

Great post with some great advice. Nice