Friday, April 12, 2019

Reading to Middle Schoolers - A Substitute Teacher's POV

Hi all. It's great to be back with MGminded!

Along with my busy schedule as parent and writer, I substitute teach in our local public middle school. I'll share an experience recently where I subbed all day for a Family and Consumer Science Teacher. This itself is unremarkable. Lessons were prepared ahead of time and classes went smoothly, except for the period I had to kick two kids out of class, but that's another blog post entirely.

The last class of the day for this teacher was a sixth grade ELL class, which stands for English Language Learning, and I'd brought my recently purchased copy of Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez.

At the beginning of the class, I explained their lesson and told them if they worked quietly, I'd read some of the book out loud during the last part of the class period for them.

Wow did they work quietly. For twenty-five minutes or so, they worked, without a sound. Just so you understand me here, I'm in a room with twelve or thirteen sixth graders. Sixth graders, at the end of the day! Do you understand me here?

When their assignment time was up, I began reading to them. I thought they'd start messing around, making noise, getting up out of their seats, perhaps tossing pencil lead or something, but no. They sat so still and quietly as I read the first chapter, I couldn't believe it.

Throughout that whole first chapter, I had ZERO interruptions from them. As I contemplated reading on, I asked the class if they liked it and wanted me to continue reading aloud, or if they wanted to play one of their games or something else for the remainder of the period.

You guessed it. I was peppered with "Keep reading!" "Don't stop!" and all kinds of variations of these comments.

I read for the rest of the quiet period, and when I texted their regular teacher the following day about how it went, here's our text message exchange.

I think these students connected with the characters on several levels - aside from the fact that the writing grips and engages the reader (and listener.) Perhaps the response wouldn't have been so strong had I read from Tom Sawyer, but I'll never know.

What I do know, is from now on, I will take a few of my favorite books with me to school when I substitute teach in case there arises an opportunity to read to kids such as this.

Happy reading,
Rob Polk

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