The Thrill of the Ride by Bill Lingle
It’s a yearly rite of passage in the school year, the assembly to get students excited for our magazine subscription fundraiser. In front of the gymnasium is a large screen displaying a video of BMX Professionals performing 180 nose pivots, 360 tail whips, and double barspins. The children are stirred into a frenzied state as the Ooohs and Aaahs fill the air. The chatter of hundreds of students surrounds me, “I can’t wait to try that out when I get home!” Or I hear, “Whoa!” “Awesome!” “OMG!”
This scene plays through my head as I think about the upcoming school year. How do I get my students that passionate about their journey into reading? As educators, we ourselves know the joy that reading brings into our lives, but how can we transfer that enthusiasm to those who are just grasping what it is to be a reader? I go back to the BMX scene and think about my own process of learning to ride a bike for the first time. I’ve noticed that my philosophy as an educator has morphed over the years when it comes to how I approach teaching first graders the undertaking of reading.
It is the cyclical nature of education to bounce back and forth between pedagogies and research-based programs when it comes teaching children to read. For the longest time I went on the winding and circular train of thought in my own classroom on whole language versus phonics based instruction. I have always been a happy medium person and I believe that there are components of both that are great to touch upon with students, but that there is no “magic bullet” that will work for every student.
There IS something that I feel gets educators close to ensuring all children start to see themselves as lifelong readers that we can each do. It goes back to remembering our own experience of learning to ride a bicycle. I do not recall specific lessons on how to pedal correctly, how to steer the handlebars, apply the brakes or keeping my balance without looking down as standalone lessons. My best bet when I first learned to navigate my driveway and around my neighborhood was to jump on and try to put all those skills together at the same time. I now see reading in the same light in my classroom. We can teach phoneme segmentation, syllabication, rhyming, and onset/rime instruction as mini-lessons, but unless we put books in the hands of our students and let them “take a ride around the block” they will not see the excitement that can come with reading. Self-Selected Reading is now a staple in our classroom every day.
The other important aspect that has been added daily is my opportunity to be the proverbial BMX Professional traversing through the pages of Picture Books and Chapter Books alike. It is important for a child’s development to hear fluent readers as they are navigating their own reading journey. This school year will be my first to try out Jillian Heise’s #classroombookaday where I will read and track the 180 picture books we read together through the school year. Along with that time, I also set aside two read-aloud times during the school day where we immerse ourselves into a chapter book. I want the students to see where books can take them and how much fun reading can be. My enthusiasm for reading aloud may not elicit the “Ooohs and Aaahs” that were described earlier in the post, however the joy for me comes later in the year when I hear stories from parents or see a change in a student’s interest in reading. The student who told me at the beginning of the school year, “I will never be able to read.,” to the mother telling me at the end of the year that his weekly allowance usually goes towards a trip to the local bookstore. Or the student who would use their WHOLE Self-Selected Reading time at the beginning of the year to “shop” for the right book, to being the student who audibly groans when I have to end Self-Selected Reading time in the last month of school because, “I was just getting to the best part!”
There is so much that encompasses Reading Instruction and I truly believe it is my job as a student’s teacher to help them discover (to borrow from Donalyn Miller) the “Wild Reader” that is hidden within each of them. I want students to see themselves becoming that BMX rider when they pick up a new book to dive into. I want them to enjoy reading for the “thrill of the ride.”
Bill Lingle has been a 1st Grade Teacher in Perrysburg, Ohio for the past 14 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. When he is not working inside the classroom, he loves spending time with his with wife and four children. His passion for helping as many students reach their full potential as readers and young human beings has been fueled over the last couple of years by extending his PLC through Facebook and Twitter. He is considering writing a blog to track his first year with #classroombookaday challenge and can be followed on Twitter (@wlingle).