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.


Anonymous said...

Maggie I actually got to know Tennessee Williams years ago when one of his plays was in the Spoleto Festival in Charleston,S.C.. He was a great playwright...

max said...

Author James Patterson has a ten year-old son who doesn’t like to read. So Patterson has established to help other reluctant readers.

I, too, grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, is # 4 on Google today.

Max Elliot Anderson

maggie moran said...

He writes some awesome plays, Paul! That is so cool that you got to know him! Was he down to earth?

Thanks Max, I'll check out both sites! Oh, and thanks for doing your part to get boys to read! :D

California Girl said...

I have nominated you for a Friends Award. This is a pay it forward type of award and was passed on to me by another blogger. Please refer to my Feb 14 post on
for more information.

Happy Valentine's Day!

maggie moran said...

Wow! Thank you California Girl!

Lisa said...

I love, love, love Tennessee Williams!

maggie moran said...

Me too, Lisa! I'm discovering his written work is way better than the performances if that is at all possible! :)

Diane said...

I've read a number of Williams' plays, including Cat. As a general rule, for the movies they came up with lighter endings - most of his plays end ambiguously and darkly.

maggie moran said...

We talked about that Diane. The gay element was taken totally out of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! It would be hard for me to imagine Paul Newman as gay - he could do it - but I don't think I could buy it! We were wondering if the play with Terrence Howard that ran in NYC was a little closer to true?

California Girl said...

Over the years I have seen a number of Williams' plays on stage. This is really the way to experience his work. The movies were all made back in the day when homosexuality & rape & incest etc could not be broached. I think the movie version of "Cat" is non-sensical because who would say "No" to Liz Taylor and why? Same is true of "Streetcar". Stanley rapes Blanche, but that is never even hinted at in the movie. It's still a wonderful film but much is lost in the translation of his base animal personality.

Of course, reading the play is the best way to grasp his intent.

maggie moran said...

You are so right, California Girl! Spending time reading his works has reinforced the written word superiority over man's final vision in plays and movies. There are only a handful of movies I think equal the author mind’s eye. A playwright tries to breach the gap, but if directors shy away from the main theme no one wins! Bah!

Kelly said...

My 8yo son is a reluctant reader. Thanks for giving me some ideas to introduce to his teacher.

maggie moran said...

At 8yo one has to think he might like acting it up a bit, Kelly! Glad I could help. :D

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