Top 5 ways to ruin a reading experience
1) Interrogate: Turn every reading assignment into a test.
Do you look forward to activities where you are stopped and questioned?
a) Yes, I enjoy being questioned, especially when I’m in the middle of something.
b) Yes, I like the challenge of multitasking.
c) No, it interrupts my flow.
d) No, I hate being questioned in general.
Students face embedded questions constantly in their reading. No wonder they don’t enjoy it.
I imagine myself as a student- disinterested, maybe anxious- settling into read. But instead of reading, what I’m really doing is taking an extended test.
We are overdoing it with this constant questioning. Sometimes we need to invite students to just read. And not be questioned.
How to improve: Turn every reading assignment into a reading experience.
2) Undermine: Associate reading with failing.
Were you ever told your answer on a test was wrong even though it made sense but was not the BEST answer?
a) Yes, that was always frustrating.
b) Yes, I’m never the best.
c) Maybe, I don’t remember.
d) No, I always chose the best answer.
Maybe it’s just me but nothing stuck in my craw like those test questions that were designed to trick you into choosing a good answer and then tell you you were wrong because it wasn’t the best answer. As an instructional designer, I understand the value of this type of assessment, and I even know that it can be an effective learning strategy.
However, frequent multiple choice testing can also be de-motivating because the parameters are so restrictive- right or wrong. Students who have a history of frequently being told they made the wrong choice will, of course, be reluctant to receive this negative feedback again. We need to guide students to make good choices as a process of negotiation and meaning making, not just being right or wrong.
How to improve: Associate reading with making a variety of choices about meaning.
3) Divide: Value student levels over student contributions.
Admittedly, all of this testing has helped us better identify student reading levels. Yet, we also know that, at scale, student reading levels often correlate with other socioeconomic inequities in our system. When we design learning experiences to divide students into reading levels we reinforce these inequities. We should empower students to share their reading experiences and perspectives and be exposed to alternative perspectives of their peers and teachers- in a way that is communicative and collaborative rather than prescriptive.
How to improve: Value contributions from every student, at every level.
4) Restrict: Assign students to read what companies prepared for them to read.
One of my favorite trends of our information age is curation. I love seeing people identify themselves as curators of content. These days we expect to be able to choose our own content and share it with others.
Yet, it is difficult for teachers to integrate this approach into their classrooms because content has to be pre-defined by publishers so it can be tied to all those pesky questions and levels we described above.
How to improve: Assign students to help curate open content with flexible reading scaffolds.
5) Distract: Keep distracting readers from reading with pictures, videos, and web links.
Thinking about the student’s experience requires being really honest with ourselves. Many, if not most, students are not interested in their school work. To try to get students more interested, we have added a lot of bells and whistles around reading assignments, like images, videos and links to other pages.
Yes, our modern world demands literacy with all types of media. But it’s also important to remember that much of the info thrown at students in school, college & work will still be black and white text for the foreseeable future. So let time for reading be time for reading with scaffolds and supports- not distractions in the name of keeping their interest.
How to improve: Keep students interested with new ways to control and navigate text.
Join our research on Open Reading Models for Literacy at liberateliteracy.org