Wednesday, April 10, 2013

english teaching lovers only.

I have been a huge fan of Cris Tovani since I decided I wanted to become a teacher. I’ve read her numerous books on engaging students in reading and helping them respond to literature more effectively. Many of her strategies have been used during my first year of teaching. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was to receive her latest DVD Talk to Me which comes with a very helpful viewing guide on CD-ROM.

Tovani’s main focus in this DVD is to show how she uses conferring (or conferencing) mostly one-on-one with students, and monitors their progress while they read books of their choice. Tovani plans her lessons so that after her classes read a required text they spend three weeks working on “free choice” readings. She brings up the idea that these required novels teachers must get through every year typically focus around literary elements rather than the other important aspects of reading like fluency, stamina, comprehension and vocabulary. She made an interesting point. I focus primarily on literary elements in my 9th grade class because they will need to be able to remember them for the Regents exam in 11th grade. I don’t have much time to sit down with each student and track data like comprehension, fluency and stamina while reading.

When Tovani confers with students throughout a reading workshop she is able to track their progress by asking them questions, but mostly letting her students do the talking and telling her what they need. She takes the time to help students find choice texts that fit their needs, especially for lower level and higher level readers. Tovani also includes a letter writing workshop she completed with her 11th graders where they worked on figuring out how to write for their specific audience. She gave students models of letters to look deeper into what writers do and how they grab the reader’s attention.

Tovani’s goal is to ensure that her students are getting smarter every day. She is looking for students to construct personal meaning for themselves while they read. Look deeper into a text more naturally, relate to themselves to the characters, etc. She wants them to learn to write for themselves and read for themselves, not for her. Tovani makes her students more responsible for their learning, which is what we need to do at the secondary level. There is so much more that this DVD has to offer that I haven’t even touched on in this review. I highly recommend it for the English teacher looking to engage every student in reading and writing.

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