Front and center of tomorrow's society – learn smarter, teach harder
Every year I try to promote reading in my English and history classes. During my 7 school years here in Abu Dhabi, my ELL students and have read “The Alchemist,” “Who Moved My Cheese,” and “The Pearl.” With extra inspiration from the government-led “Year of Reading” program and my administrator practicum course mandate, I orchestrated a campus-wide reading program. The vision of the program is to make my campus a prime example of an academic community where reading is an integral and active part of the school culture.
(Campus-wide reading program plan document: reading-program)
In early October, I planned and organized an Internet, social media, in-class, and library program that started with collaborating with the school’s administration and speaking with Arabic and English reading specialists on campus. The librarian and I worked on organizing a visiting schedule that made it feasible for middle and high school teachers to designate a class period bi-weekly in the library. Moreover, we developed and distributed reading log papers for students to complete after each reading session.
Rote memorization is still the primary tactic for learning in the work culture here. Teaching the campus educators on methods on how to teach and implement different reading strategies that will help students across the board (high level, special education, low performing, etc.). I focused on teaching Marzano methods for vocabulary acquisition, Cornell notes, and various graphic organizers. The sessions included small group work and one-on-one meetings with a few middle school teachers who had district-provided Raz Kids accounts. As a quasi-school administrator, I felt the pushback from faculty members who impugned the feasibility of the whole program. A few of the skeptics mentioned how many of the students had severely low levels of reading in English and Arabic.
As a quasi-school administrator, I felt the pushback from faculty members who impugned the feasibility of the whole program. At the beginning of the session, a few of the skeptics mentioned how many of the students had severely low levels of reading in English and Arabic. Anticipating this skepticism, I presented a Spanish reading example and had small groups utilize the pre-reading, context clue, and note-taking strategies could be used to gain a better comprehension of a language that the reading participants know little about.
The district, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, listened to teacher requests in purchasing accounts for all middle school (and a few high school) educators to promote reading. I have used the application for the past 4 years and was able to give insights on how to get students motivated to reading books on the website and/or mobile app. I presented audio from students’ readings from last year to educators and students showing reading fluency and speed growth. On a monthly basis, we reviewed at-home participation of the app and adjusted our approach accordingly. For example, during the first parent meeting we handed out instructions and explained to our parents how to use the app and why it was necessary to hear their children reading.
During the morning assemblies, I presented awards to leading reading champions. I used replica WWE belts to award students. WWE is still HUGE among elementary to university age students. We used this morning time to motivate students to read on Raz Kids.
As a part of the effort to positively change perspectives on reading, we implored on Whatsapp and during professional developments to encourage teachers to carry their reading material with them on campus. This tactic represents a “lead by example” method to influence students read different material (novels, newspapers, magazines, etc.). So far, approximately 14% of the faculty has complied to the initiative (only 2% at the beginning of the year).
Lastly, we started the planning a social media campaign to promote reading on campus (via Whatsapp) and Emirate-wide on Instagram. This part of the program is slow crucial but it will also take a bit of time to develop. We settled on using hashtags like #6to12000 and #whatareyoureading to start a healthy social media campaign to promote individuals to read. Students’ served as social media advocates to pinpoint problems of why students do not read to guide their suggestions on how to direct a successful social media campaign on Instagram and SnapChat.