Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reluctant Readers (copy)

This week I am reading the plays of Tennessee Williams as part of a group of educators who travel to Jackson, MS once a month to discuss Mississippi authors. The program is titled “four Ws” which relates to the authors we are studying: Richard Wright, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and Margaret Walker Alexander. Sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council, we sit for eight hours listening and discussing works with the respective author’s scholars.

As one can guess, this is heaven for me. I have an affinity for Southern literature (as do most Southerners) and relish the chance to learn more through intellectual bantering. Who knew Eudora Welty had an erotic side?!? Next time I read Moon Lake I will be sure to blush. Do today’s kids realize the right to check out library books would be denied if they were a certain color?!? Richard Wright knew all too well.

The play I am reading currently, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is so well known I hesitate mentioning it; instead, I wish to discuss luring reluctant readers through the use of plays.

Reluctant readers are reluctant for a reason. The major reason being they lack confidence in the classroom. They are afraid of getting the wrong answer, being forced to vocalize weak skills while reading aloud, or lack basic comprehension skills. By introducing plays in the classroom, teachers give the reluctant reader a relaxed activity in which to make mistakes.

Wrong answers become less worrisome because the teacher asks the questions while the group reads together. The students will blurt out answers and the reluctant reader will find his answers being vocalized by others. Teachers may find him joining in for the first time.

Reading aloud becomes less stressful because all students make mistakes. It is the stumbling through pronunciation we all do when we are unfamiliar with a word that makes a reluctant reader cringe. Another trick for readers who do not recognize a word, is to place another word there that has the same meaning or contains the same prefix. This assuming can lead to rather funny sentences. It is a bright day when the reluctant reader realizes better readers than him do the same vocal dance.

Have any hams in class? By acting out the scenes, students connect the story with the words. Comprehension happens naturally. The small act of assigning the boys girl parts and vice-versa will have the whole class paying attention. Add a little emotion, and one may find memories being made.

Teachers, demonstrate you’re a class act by introducing plays, and win those reluctant readers over.

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