An activity that I always use to start the year is ‘Why we Read/Write.’ I like students to really think about the purpose of Language Arts class and the many benefits of learning to read and write effectively.
I started by reading them a children’s book – this year it was Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. I ask the students to relax, enjoy, and transport themselves back in time to when they were wee and loved to snuggle and read books with their parents.
You’d be surprised – 13-year-olds love to have children’s books read to them. Afterward, I asked what they enjoyed about the book. They loved that it was humorous, colorful, and simple; it brought back many nostalgic memories. Next, I asked them, “When reading this book, what might a small child accidentally learn about?” They were surprised at their own long list: farm animals and the foods they provide us, farm life, vocabulary, letter writing, and negotiating skills. Wow – reading really has many benefits, huh?
Then I passed out a stack of post-its at each table and asked the table groups to write down as many reasons as they could generate for why people read. What they came up with was creative and insightful!
Some of my favorite post-its read:
“To escape your reality”
Then I shared Kelly Gallagher’s 10 Reading Reasons and asked the students to compare their list with his. For the most part, they got all of the reasons besides ‘Reading Helps us To Fight Oppression’ and ‘Reading is Financially Rewarding.’ I challenge the students to name a single job where reading is not required. Bottom line: It can’t be done!
After Reading Reasons, I ask the students to think about why we write. I again distribute post-its, and we repeat the activity on the board. Here are there amazing answers:
My favorites are:
“To let out your feelings”
“To understand things better”
“To capture memories”
Our discussion afterward focused on using writing to sort out our feelings and to communicate and be heard by others. The students also seemed to get the connection between reading and writing, and that they are mutually beneficial.
I was so proud of the students for being positive and enthusiastic throughout this whole activity. I didn’t hear one single student gripe, “I haaaaate reading. Who cares?” Etc. I am so glad we set a positive tone right at the beginning, and I look forward to referencing this great list that we made during the year as we expand our knowledge and skills.
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