I teach 7th grade English. Let’s be honest for a moment about 7th graders. They can be a persnickety bunch. They are starting to develop personalities, or changing I should say. They think they are grown up, but don’t yet want to be grown up all the time.
When they were in the elementary grades, not so very long ago, teachers used a variety of strategies to get kids to read. It seems as they get older, we seem to think many of those strategies no longer have a place in the classroom. I no longer have a kidney table to pull small groups like I did when I taught 3rd and 4th grades. Is that because I don’t see the value in small group reading? No, it is a logistics problem. With only fifty minutes a day, it can be hard to get a lesson in at all, much less get guided reading groups in.
The bottom line is, kids come to us below grade level in reading. Often, they come three or more years below grade level. We can not just decide that there is nothing else we can do for them. Instead, we need to find ways to incorporate those elementary reading strategies in a way that works with the middle school schedule.
One of the strategies I used while teaching elementary grades was choral reading. Now, before you start rolling your eyes and saying 7th graders don’t want to read like this, bear with me. I am not proposing that you read everything you read chorally (out loud in unison). I am, however, saying that you should find ways to make it happen from time to time. Those kids who are below grade level need it. Believe it or not, the kids that are on level actually enjoy it, if it is done correctly.
Poetry is the perfect time to incorporate this strategy. We can model the meter of a poem all day long, but unless we actually have the students read it with the proper meter, they are not likely to get it. Choral reading allows everyone to read in that ‘sing songy’ fashion that lets one disguise the fact that they may not know a certain word. The key here is to read it a few times, so that the kids who don’t know all of the words start to pick it up. Those who are on or above grade level enjoy the exercise as well.
Poetry has a place in every English classroom. There is so much you can do with it, one is doing a disservice by not incorporating it. If you have not tried choral reading with your older kids, give it a go. They will look at you funny the first time, then they will beg to get to do it more.
(image from playbuzz.com)