I’ve pondered this topic all week. Since I initially wrote this post on Tuesday, I’ve realized that a culture of reading is synonymous with a culture of learning. If you love reading, you love learning. This really became clear to me after an amazing conversation I had with my students yesterday. Our conversation was about our ability to learn. Before I describe our conversation, I need to provide a bit of background about my students.
We’ve spent the last month creating a community of learners in our classroom. This has been difficult and at times, I just about gave up. Though I kept a large majority of my students from last year, we all know how changing even a few students can drastically alter group dynamics. I was really struggling with the inability of students to focus and pay attention for any length of time. After trying many strategies from my ‘teachers toolbox’, we have finally clicked. We have learned new signals to gain attention; the students have built some stamina and can now focus for longer periods (with appropriate brain breaks); the technology is enabled to begin using Google Apps for Education; and, most importantly, my new students finally realize the I care about them as individuals, and about their learning.
Our conversations about the ability to learn began earlier this week with a video about the learning brain.
I believe it’s important for the students to understand how our brains learn because they have a better understanding why they may not be having a great ‘learning day’. Yesterday we began Writing Workshop with the prompt, “The one thing I am most thankful for …”. As I modeled my writing process for the students (just like I do with reading), I purposely chose the ability to learn as my topic. A great discussion followed about how our brains evolved over time because, as humans, we kept learning new things that we kept practicing, which created more connections in our brain and made certain things easier – walking, talking and learning. I’ve been working really hard on the importance of the students taking responsibility for their learning. We talk daily about building stamina in our learning and how the more we practice the basics – reading, writing and math, and the things we are passionate about – learning becomes less difficult and can be fun. Some students commented that ‘teachers are the ones who make us learn’. I explained that I cannot make anyone learn and I see myself as a coach who can only help them discover the joy of learning. My goal is to try and help students discover the connections between what they are learning and their own lives.
How is creating a culture of learning synonymous with a culture of reading? Many of the resources that focus on creating a culture of reading also apply to creating a culture of learning. My comparisons are listed below.
Allowing students to choose their own books. In my classroom, students always have a choice of how they present their learning (within parameters, of course). Some students choose to tell me what they’ve learned (many times using technology), whereas others like to write and draw or use materials.
Creating a school wide library program that encourages children to read – our school is starting “Knights of Reading” (created by our Vice Principal/Teacher Librarian). A competition is raging between a dragon (our school mascot) and a knight. Who will read more? Students read for 20 to 30 minutes each night. When they read for 25 nights they receive a token. Students decide who they and place their token on the appropriate side. Who is the better reader? The dragon or the knight? This is the letter that is sent home to parents: Knight reading letter
Our school has also created a culture of learning by doing ‘learning assemblies’. Once per term, students have the opportunity to present what they have learned in their classrooms. This is totally optional for students, but creates a culture of learning, as students are proud to share with others.
Model, model, model. If kids see you getting excited about a book, they want to know more and want to read it. In my classroom, I read to my students every day. We are currently participating in the Global Read Aloud by reading Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt. We talk about the issues in the books and I also talk about how books create movies in your mind that are full of rich details. I tell the kids that I love to read and it is one of my favourite activities. I share what I’m reading – in all different genres. The following video from the National Library of New Zealand discusses many ways to build a reading culture in schools.
I model my own learning with my students. My students know that I am also a student right now. I tell them what I’m learning and use what I’ve learned when I’m teaching. They sense my excitement when I share how my learning helps me as a teacher and as a person.
As librarians and as teachers, creating a culture of reading is central to our schools and our classrooms. I strongly believe that creating a culture of learning allows students to understand that reading is a part of learning and by understanding how we learn, students can successful in all areas of the curriculum.
Aguilar, E. (2013). “Ten Ways to Cultivate a Love of Reading in Students”. Edutopia, retrieved on October 10, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/cultivating-love-reading-students-elena-aguilar.
Kiegan, J. (2015), “How to Build a Culture of Reading”, Centre for Teaching Quality, retrieved on October 10, 2015, from http://www.teachingquality.org/content/blogs/jessica-keigan/how-build-culture-reading.
National Library of New Zealand. “A School Wide Reading Culture”, retrieved on October 10, 2015, from http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/creating-reading-culture/school-wide-reading-culture.
The Global Read Aloud. (2015). retrieved on October 10, 2015, http://theglobalreadaloud.com/.
The Learning Pod. (2010) “The Learning Brain”, retrieved on October 10, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgLYkV689s4.