Chapter Two in Classrooms That Work is all about reading and writing. Titled Reading and Writing Real “Things”, one of the first sentences which struck me was:
“[c]hildren who are successful at becoming literate view reading and writing as authentic activities from which they get information and pleasure, and by which they communicate with others.”
I believe this corresponds to, essentially, all subject matter. If we as people, not even as students, do not find a topic useful, interesting, or meaningful, we will almost always, inevitably, be unsuccessful in it. People who do not feel passionate about their work perform much poorer than their eager counterparts. Thus, the question which arises in this context is a simple one, but one that can be difficult to answer: how can we make reading and writing engaging for students?
The book touches again upon high involvement homes versus low involvement homes which, the vast majority of time, brings into play the socioeconomic disparities in our classrooms. I first read this chapter on a relatively long airplane ride in which I was bouncing back and forth between various books, television shows, and cellphone games to keep my easily distracted mind from boredom. I had just finished the chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point in which he discusses the phenomenon of teen smoking and that, when most smoking adults look back on their first memories of smoking, they see it as sophisticated.
Perhaps it was because I had literally just put that book down when I picked this one up, but Classrooms That Work discusses that many students come from homes in which they are exposed to huge libraries and parents and siblings which read and write constantly; they see the usefulness and enjoyability of reading. I immediately thought of my childhood; indeed I never saw smoking as sophisticated, I saw reading, writing, talking, and creating as sophisticated. How can we garner this idea of sophistication in children who may not be exposed to such things. Who see being adult as smoking, drinking, watching TV, eating junk food, and staying up until whenever they want (just a few examples)? It obviously needs to be done in the classroom.
The authors give us some great examples of how to turn our classrooms into models of homes in which literate children are raised. Our classrooms allow students an assortment of books to choose from, allows them to share what they’ve read, and allows them to go through the basic steps of learning how to write. This book is excellent because it actually provides a plethora of useful and logical ideas which are easy to incorporate into classrooms and teaching.
It talks a lot about how to show children that reading is enjoyable and necessary for them to learn new things, thus driving their desire to learn how to do it. I am finding myself drawn to the ideas proposed the further and further I get (and I’m only on chapter 2). I highly, highly recommend this book for some excellent examples; particularly if you’re a new teacher or if you have a challenging classroom composition.
If you’re interested in the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon. Happy reading!