What do you do when you have tested your class for reading comprehension [TORCH] and the data shows the majority of your Year 7 class are between one and four years below the national mean? The experts [think Allington, Samuels, Rasinski, Shanahan, Pikulski, Chard for starters] say teaching fluency and, in particular, engaging students in repeated reading of an instructional text will increase their reading ability. Here comes the dilemma: these same Year 7 students, situated in a low SES area, are largely disengaged...hard enough to get them to read a text once let alone repeatedly!
Enter music...their music! Music that is motivational, inspirational and moral. [These are my criteria. If we are going to spend time with these texts they need to do some work as well!]
Songs are really poems set to music and poems are texts. Lyrics are texts. This was the "ah-ha" moment! What if a compilation of motivational and inspirational lyrics was made into a booklet and presented as the reading material and instead of repeatedly reading them, we actually sang them over and over again? This is exactly what I did. The kids loved it. We sang every day for 10-15 minutes just before morning break. They were singing vocabulary that they had not encountered before and were discussing the themes and meanings of the songs. These disengaged readers would ask for singing every day and certainly remind me if it looked like I was forgetting to set up the data projector. This was one component of a wider reading program a fun component!
To start with I used the complete You Tube clips, then removed the video component so only the lyrics were on screen and a couple of weeks later we relied solely on the audio with the students now totally reliant upon their lyric booklet. I limited the number of songs to four to ensure we were getting the repeated readings in. Each term we chose another four together.
Did it work? 68% of students improved their TORCH scale scores in the mid-year testing round. There were many other benefits as well to be covered in a later blog.
The kids' favourites were: Hey! Hey! Hey! [Michael Franti and the Spearheads], Caught in the Crowd [Kate Miller-Heidke], Just Be You [India Arie], Roar [Katie Perry] and Que Sera [Justice Crew].
Give it a go. Your kids will thank you for it!
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