The New Haven Public Schools have in recent years placed a greater emphasis on literacy, as well as the teaching of writing, and the importance of both to student success. As a sixth grade teacher and avid reader, I have always placed an importance on the students' written expression, particularly in response to reading materials. Increasingly, I have found one of the major deterrents to students' enthusiasm for writing has been their inability to relate to the required reading associated with most academic subjects. Many cannot "see" the written word as a form of expression for their experiences. This narrow view also makes students unreceptive to learning about other cultures.
In contrast, we as teachers take for granted that reading books of quality can add to a student's range of experience. However, for the most part, our students view reading as a chore. To combat this view, we must find ways to enhance their ideas of quality by selecting (beginning with) literature of interest to our student populations.
Each year a colleague and I conduct a reading for enjoyment program that we dubbed "Readers are Leaders." The students are allowed to read books that interest them, setting a goal of the number of pages they will read in a given time period. The teacher also sets a goal and reads. The class goal is then set from all the individual goals. This curriculum unit incorporates the basic premise of the "Readers are Leaders" program, that students enjoy reading more when books are of interest to them. The books selected here are a result of past class interests. The themes have appealed to several classes in recent years. The content of the books is integral to the unit direction.
The major focus of this unit is on the varying teaching strategies that can be utilized to have students conduct a comparative study of cultures using at least three novels. The unit incorporates a plan to correlate the readings with writing assignments. The novels have been selected for ethnicity, content and the "teachability" of the material. A list of supplemental reading materials that reflect the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the Fair Haven Middle School students has been included. The list is appropriate to varying age and reading levels. The students can read and report on other books that they read independently.
The ultimate goal of any literacy plan is to have students read, write and speak fluently. Listening and comprehension skills are imperative for the accomplishment of this goal. The overall goal of reading instruction is to produce independent, strategic learners. The first component of such instruction is planning. The writing of this curriculum unit is my planning phase -- selecting appropriate materials and suggesting methods of presenting the materials.
The second instructional phase could be called the teaching phase. This is where the teacher presents, models and discusses the strategy of the day. Pre-reading activities help activate prior knowledge or build background information to stimulate student curiosity about the pages to come. The third and fourth phases are guided practice and independent practice. The teacher will alternate reading methods to accomplish the third and fourth phases of the instructional plan.