Finding the right keys for ninth graders with reading problems can open the door to remediation. Lack of experiences with the world and shallow personal interests often cause the poor reader to push aside appropriate reading materials. In addition, if they are poor readers, they are often handed material that does not spark interest in people their age. The reading level may be appropriate, but the interest level may be too low. As a result, they do not practice reading nor do they experience the enjoyment which reading can bring. One of the major tasks in front of today's urban high school teacher is to provide reading instruction beginning at the independent level of the student, to encourage the expansion of the world of experiences for their students, as well as to increase the skill levels.
The goal of this unit is to increase the world of the students' experience, their interest in reading and, therefore, the number of books read by the students each year. A secondary goal is to identify ways to allow for specific reading instruction, decoding words, building vocabulary recognition and comprehension, finding meanings and inferences, and increasing speed. Teaching reading to teenagers is difficult. Most people assume that everyone knows how to read by the time that they reach high school. However, standardized test scores indicate that a large percentage of today's urban high school students can benefit from what might be considered elementary skill development.
Unfortunately for teachers, we are not in an age when older students enthusiastically accept the traditional novels and reading materials for their reading grade level. They arrive for the Fall semester without having read the required summer selections and without having voluntarily attempted any of the other selections on the distributed summer reading lists. This dilemma launches the ever-present quest for engaging reading materials. Many high school teachers will readily recognize the challenge of identifying the reading interest and appropriate books.
To conduct this unit of study, teachers must create an environment in the classroom where visual displays such as bulletin boards and table libraries encourage the exploration of detective fiction and mysteries. Bulletin boards may have postings about videos, television shows, and web sites that students might use. Students must be surrounded with the written word, good detective stories in books and magazines. A wide selection of disposable reading materials, books and magazines, must be accessible. However, the actual instruction will be concentrated on one book that will be read by the entire group in the second or third marking period of the year.
This unit is designed for regular English classroom use, although interdisciplinary techniques will complement work in reading. Teachers of the other content areas must be in tune with the fact that the expectation is that students will read, read their text books, as well as assigned references and books and articles of their own choice. In addition, the English teacher must rely on both math and science teachers to reinforce the everyday use of logical thinking skills and the scientific method. The social studies teachers should be encouraged to cooperate by specifically teaching map skills using the locations in the literature or generally referring to historical events and geographic information about locations outside of the City of New Haven.