Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Weekly Reader

I used to just love getting the "Weekly Reader" in my classroom. It was usually the first item I ordered for the school year. Then I'd get a new packet almost every week. It was chuck full of short articles and pictures and graphs that were fascinating. I'm sure some of my students were not quite as interested. Another "reading assignment/quiz" they'd probably moan.

I was around long enough to see most of its "life cycle" from a small, two-page, black and white leaflet to a multi-page, color photo, graphic newspaper with "pull-outs". It cost alot and took quite a sacrifice of my "school/family budget"...yes, I was (am) guilty of using my "own/family funds" to buy "extra" school supplies. Most teachers still do it. I think, when I retired, it was up to over $2.50 per student. I was in the habit of ordering 15 to 17 so we'd have enough if we shared (two students per issue).

It always stimulated so much class discussion and writing. It was always "non-fiction", current World and National News and it made us "feel important" as we "solved" the World's problems. Then there were the quizzes and tests. Quarterly, we'd have the "Reading Comprehension Test" in the Teacher's Edition. (answers/answer sheet to bubble) I'd alway take a hold-punch and make an answer template that could be "centered" over the student answer sheet for easy correcting. It was different and more realistically accurate as a "test of reading" in those days. (B.S.S.T.- Before Statewide Standardized Testing) It then allowed you to go over it with the students and discuss why one or another question was "tricky"...something a standardized test never let you do. We are talking 4th, 5th, 6th grade level here.

Now, the copy is all "slick" and glossy on expensive paper. Back then, it was on newsprint/foolscap and very cheap. Back then, it would lead into and enhance their own, required weekly "Current Event Report". Yes, I let them use it for their weekly, assigned, oral report to the class (individually and in groups). Unheard of today...not enough time in the schedule, plus kids just aren't asked to get up and share, verbally, on a regular basis. My kids knew we had a "rotating report schedule" that took up the first 15 mins. of class with 5 days and 5 different groups responsible. One kid would do World News, one, National/local, one, Sports, one, free choice or human interest. They had to tell the "5 W's" + H of news/journalism. (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How). If they didn't, their classmates/me, would call them on it.

I was in two 4th grades this past week. One had a new packet of Weekly Readers; one didn't. The one who didn't was more open to discussion of "current events" even without the WR stimulus. The one who did, kind of moaned about having to go through it again. They were assigned to take it with them as "extra reading" when we went to the computer lab to take a TEST...MAP Test. (and I don't mean a "spacial map" Their current issue had a pull out on Science and the the "latest" discovery that "Pluto is no longer considered a planet in our Solar System". This was news to them as we discussed it. They thought there were still nine planets i.e. My Very Energetic Mom etc. for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars (inner planets). It was mildly interesting news to them that Pluto is now a "dwarf planet" or "plutoid" along with several others of similar size and distance from our Sun. I just happened to bring an elongated "photo" (artist's rendition of pieced together Hubble photos) of our Galaxy - The Milky Way. They were more than mildly interested in that. I had a student hold the other end while I pointed out a small speck that just might be our Sun (a medium star) in this vast display. Then we were blown away by the fact that our Milky Way Galaxy is just a medium to small Galaxy in our known Universe of billions of them (uncounted). Talk about your "Horton Hears a Who"...moment!

At the beginning of the class, with a "first time class" (this was), I tell them alittle about myself and my career as a teacher. (38 years, drama, music, etc.) I usually end with a questions, "Anything else you want to know about me?" (oh yeah, "I'm not going to embarrass any of you today.") One girl pops her hand up, "Do you believe in God?" That was a first. This was before I showed them "The Milky Way" and talked of the immensity of our Universe. I answered, "That is an inappropriate question for a Public School. I'll be willing to discuss it with you, personally, at recess if you want." By recess, she had forgotten. I wonder if our "Universal Discussion" helped her decide? RRR

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