Saturday, January 14, 2006

Teaching Reading

This is my 9th year teaching high school math, and I must say, I am now one of the converted. I believe that teaching "reading" is every teacher's job. I didn't always think that way, or more accurately, give it a thought.

In that past few years I've consistently seen some kids start to read a word problem, or try to read their math textbook and IMMEDIATELY give up and declare, "I don't understand" and then wait for me to explain and decipher the gobbledygook. I guess they are used to reading novels or fiction or magazine stories where you basically get it on the first pass through.

Our school just received a big grant to promote/push/enhance literacy throughout our curriculum, and with it came a large floppy text of ideas and thoughts and reasons. We also had some uppy-ups visit our school to see if we are on the right starting track. I also thus had visitors to my 1st period class. So then since we were reviewing for a quiz the next day, I made up a review sheet that was filled with READING and words words words that asked them to explain everything and basically justify their reasoning on why the processes that we were learning worked and meant what they meant.

Oh my. It's a good thing the visitors were there BEFORE we started that, and so they got to see the "good" part of class where we were going over homework, and I asked them to explain things orally. (As one of my students said after the visitors left in 10 minutes: we made you look good, huh, miss?) because ..... the SECOND they saw the review sheet, they immediately froze up and felt like they couldn't do anything. After some coaxing, they worked through most of it, but this told me that we HAVE to, have to, have to do more of this throughout the lessons, and not just every so often.

Sheesh, must keep this in the forefront of my mental to-do list while preparing classes.


  1. In working with the MathCounts worksheets, I continually remind my bunch that *every* word in a word problem is there for a reason.

    Non-negative does not only mean positive.

    They caught me once. A person was described as 6 feet tall and his height had no bearing on the problem.

    Good luck.

    Also, take a look here for new inspiration.

  2. Anonymous8:30 AM

    Ooh, I like that blog you suggested. I've added it to my bookmarks. Thanks for the tip.

    I hope you're enjoying your (hopefully 3 day) weekend.

    Ms. Cookie

  3. Anonymous1:53 PM

    This is my second year teaching in high school and I have come to realize that reading is important. Sometimes, however, I fall into the trap of explaining everything to my students. They will read their worksheet and then ask me to explain what it means. Automatically, I just give the abbreviated version. Shame on me.

    I think that students are just in the habit of having the teacher explain everything rather than trying to think for themselves. I hate that sometimes I enable them in this process. I think that sometimes I do not want to answer thirty-six questions, so I just try to condense the material.

    I appreciate your words of wisdom. They have honestly struck a chord. I hope that I can be better at this.

    There is still hope right? I guess you cannot learn everything in your beginning years of teaching.


  4. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Hi Kara,

    You're right. In my 9th year, I'm still learning (and relearning) all the bazillions of aspects of teaching. And just like you, I still fall back on over explaining, and over simplifying directions and such. Blach. Maybe if I keep talking about it, and maybe make myself a "reminder" poster or something, I can restrain myself for "thinking" for the students.

    We just started back doing word problems in 3 of my classes, and I've been (mostly) good about only guiding them and not doing for them.

    Good Luck :).

    Ms. Cookie

  5. Anonymous8:10 PM

    I learned from reading your post today that reading really adds up. I've always said that children must learn to read to do well in any subject. I had not considered math. I run a national literacy project - and am always on the lookout for new reasons why it is so important for children to learn to read well in their early years. Thank you for the lesson.

  6. John,

    Thanks for your comment. I'm glad the lightbulb finally went off in my head about incorporating more reading strategies in class. I'll keep trying to make that point with the students about HOW to read math.

    Ms. Cookie