Journeys November Newsletter

The Bad Habits of Good Readers
by Carol Jago, Associate Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCLA, past President of NCTE, and Journeys Program Consultant

Time for confession. While applauding the model of teachers as master readers and students as apprentices, it seems to me that before we recommend that students should become just like us, we would do well to examine what compulsive readers actually do. In my experience, avid readers often:

  1. Value speed over reflection. Such readers seldom pause between books to think about what they have read. They reach for the next one with hardly an intake of breath.
  2. Skip anything they find boring. Unlike inexpert readers, these "master" readers feel free to jump past anything that interrupts the flow of a story. They skim descriptive passages and skip altogether imbedded poetry or quotations (for example the medieval tale within Edgar Allan Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher").
  3. Care more about their personal reading than assigned reading. I have known many who perform very poorly in high school, preferring to prop a book inside their textbooks and simply read their way through the school day. I know because I was one of these students, at least in Geometry.
  4. Declare a text they don't care for as "BORING" with great authority. This can be very disruptive in the classroom when other students who have hardly read a word of Tale of Two Cities garner support in their antipathy for Dickens from a student who finished the whole novel over the weekend.
  5. Can be poor writers and careless spellers. In their desire to get back to their book, these readers often rush through writing assignments. Wide reading has given them knowledge of many things, and so avid readers can often dash something off that passes muster, but these students are reluctant to spend the kind of time revising that would actually make the quality of their writing equal to the quality of their thinking.
  6. Sometimes get stuck reading one particular kind of book for a very long time. As Lynne Sharon Schwartz writes in Ruined by Reading, "read every novel by Jean Rhys and Barbara Pym as soon as I could get my hands on them. It was like eating candy — the chocolate-covered nuts of the cinema or the celebrated potato chips of which you can't eat just one. The variations in their novels were in fact no more than the slightly different planes and convolutions in each potato chip, and each one predictably tasty. I became an expert in self-indulgence" (103). Today’s avid teenage readers can easily get stuck on John Greene novels. Please don’t think I am criticizing compelling narratives like The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. What I am suggesting is that a teacher may want to nudge some John Greene fans towards a wider range of authors, settings, and genres. His books will always be there for comfort reading.

While avid readers are able to meet the reading standards described in almost any state document and often achieve at the highest levels on standardized tests, I believe that with guidance they can be helped to become more thoughtful readers.

I recall my own first reading of Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. As usual I had barreled through the novel at breakneck speed and went to my book club meeting wondering what all the fuss was about. Fortunately I didn't make a fool of myself (as I might have done at sixteen) by declaring the book "BORING." Instead I kept my mouth shut and listened to what other readers had to say. It began to dawn on me—as they spoke with such insight of Janie Crawford's travels being a classic hero's journey—that in my race through the book I had missed quite a lot. In fact, it seemed that I had missed it all.

The best thing about being an avid reader is that going back to reread a book isn't a problem. I don't exactly know how, but constant readers always seem to find time where others find none.

Component Spotlight

HMH Decoding Power

For students who need intensive instruction in key foundational reading skills, HMH Decoding Power can help. HMH Decoding Power has 5 systems that can overlay across Grades K–6 to deliver the exact instruction that individual students need. Systems K–3 cover print concepts, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency. System 4–6 covers phonics, decoding, word recognition, and fluency.

HMH Decoding Power is available in print and online. To find HMH Decoding Power on ThinkCentral, click the Teacher Resources icon on the Dashboard. After clicking on the Differentiated Instruction tab, top of the left column, find and select Intervention Resources. Here you can see all the components that make up the Decoding Power systems.

TIP: Locate teaching routines and fun student activities in the Resources section at the back of the HMH Decoding Power Teacher's Guide.

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Click to Enlarge

Technology Tips

Get the Most out of Your Journeys Digital Resources

Journeys Student Edition eBook tools are engaging digital features that make it easy to integrate technology into your classroom. Available in Grades K–6, the myNotebook feature helps students be active learners. They can highlight text, make notes, write word lists and definitions, and bookmark pages. When students see the Question icon in their eBooks, it is a time for them to respond digitally, either in writing or by speaking aloud. For spoken responses, students can play back their recordings.

Students can find their eBooks under My Library on the ThinkCentral home page.

TIP: At Grades 4–6, look for the Annotate it! icon in the Teacher's Edition. You will find lesson-specific suggestions to help students gather evidence, take notes, and bookmark key ideas using the myNotebook feature of their eBooks.

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Click to Enlarge


Q: Where can I find step-by-step directions for using digital components?
A: Look for the Help Center button at the top of the ThinkCentral landing page. The Help Center dropdown menu includes the options Getting Started, Quickstart Guide, and Help. There you can find guides and tutorials that match whichever program you have open in ThinkCentral. For example, when you have myWriteSmart open, selecting the Quickstart Guide from the Help Center dropdown menu will take you directly to the myWriteSmart guide.

Q: Are both upper- and lowercase Alphafriends cards and Sound/Spelling cards available in Journeys?
A: Because upper- and lowercase versions of each letter make the same sounds, only lowercase Sound/Spelling cards are available. The Alphafriends cards are only in lowercase too. When working with Linnea Ehri, an early childhood expert, she recommended that we create lowercase Alphafriends because children would be working with lowercase letters most often when decoding and reading.

Q: In the Literacy and Language Guide, are there any practice pages that use the Struggling spelling lists?
A: Near the bottom of each Struggling and Advanced spelling list (in the Spelling/Phonics lessons of the Literacy and Language Guide) is the grade and lesson from which the list originates. A teacher with access to other grade levels through ThinkCentral could go to the Reader's Notebook for the appropriate grade/lesson to find practice pages. For example, in the Grade 4 Literacy and Language Guide, the Lesson 1 Struggling spelling list comes from Grade 2, Lesson 22. A teacher would need to access the Grade 2 Reader's Notebook for a practice page.

Q: Where are the Teacher Guides and answer keys for the Write-In Reader and Close Reader?
A: Answers and instructional support for the Write-In Reader are in the Strategic Intervention lessons found at the end of each unit in the Journeys Teacher Editions. The Teacher Edition can be accessed from the Teacher eBook icon on the ThinkCentral Dashboard.

The Close Reader Teacher's Guide includes answer keys. It is located by clicking the Teacher Resources icon on the ThinkCentral Dashboard, and then by clicking Close Reader under Whole Group Instruction.

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Past Issues

October 2016

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