Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reading Out Loud

October 12, 2010

There are two major things I wanted to talk about after yesterday, so I’m making them two separate posts so it isn’t super long.

Today our Hebrew class was the first with our new teacher, the intermediate guy Ofir. During class, we were going around in a circle and reading this passage out loud. It was really complex and I didn’t know a lot of the words. As it got closer and closer to my turn, the speaker slowly snaking around the circle, I stopped paying attention to what any of the words meant. I stopped trying to understand the vocabulary, stopped trying to read along before the reader said the words. All I felt was an overwhelming fear and panic that I was going to have to read out loud. At the last moment, he switched the direction of the circle so after all that worry and woe, I ended up not having to read. Then we had to answer questions about the passage in pairs, and I couldn’t do it. Even though I knew most of the words in the passage, and in other circumstances I would have easily been able to answer every question without checking back. But because of my extreme performance anxiety, I couldn’t remember anything.

I feel like I finally understand a tiny sliver of what it’s like to read out loud in elementary school (and middle and high school!) for kids who can’t read well. I, as the speediest reader in existence, was always just bored with those kids, and was never able to completely put myself in their shoes and think about how incredibly terrifying it is to know that soon it will be your turn to read and you can’t do it well. And the fact that I couldn’t process any of the words, and wasn’t able to remember any of what had been read out loud makes a lot of sense. Of course you can’t comprehend if you’re that scared of reading out loud. I even found myself skipping ahead to where I thought I was going to have to read and writing out transliterations so I would be able to read easier. No wonder I didn’t learn anything!

But what do we do? We can’t have kids who don’t read well just not read out loud. And it’s important for my Hebrew for me to read out loud. And how do you make this work for speed demon readers and for incredibly slow readers?

In my classes with our old teacher (SHIRA I MISS YOUUUUUU) I didn’t feel that pressure and worry. Which I think is attributed to two main factors: (a) we combined with the class above us, who are all better readers than we are, so I feel like when I’m slow I’m pushing down the level and I worry (and, of course, because I’m neurotic, become convinced) that they are very frustrated with us. And (b) Shira created an environment where mistakes were just a part of learning, and it didn’t feel like a big deal at all. For whatever reasons, Ofir has not been able to create that environment with us, so it is super stressful.

How do you create that environment? How do you do this so that everyone learns but no one is either so bored or so scared that they check out of the conversation? I have no idea. Are leveled reading circles the answer? Most of the progressive education literature says no, but I don’t really see any other solution that actually works.

What do y’all think/know?

1 comment:

  1. You described this experience so well it made me feel anxious. Hoping some of our teacher friends will weigh in on this...