The Quiet Crisis
I am teaching a summer school class this week on secondary reading. Some of you just zoned out at the very thought of taking such a boring class. I’d rather have a needle stuck in my eye than take that class you might be thinking. Memories of thick textbooks, “overpacked” with information and with questions at the end of each chapter, drift across your glazed eyes. A class in high school reading may as well be a class in *static omnibetoline. (Who cares? Right?)
But that is just the thing. Literacy skills, which include reading, are the life blood of learning. Reading connects us to classroom success, but by learning to read well – to read with a purpose, to be able to identify the key points, and to comprehend what is read – it also connects us to an incredible world and a lifetime of discovery and learning. Rather than contributing to boredom and irrelevance, a skillful teacher can select WHAT is read and then coach students on HOW it is read in a way that ignites an interest and lures students into engagement.
I haven’t mentioned Choice Theory in the class yet this week, yet Choice Theory has been an important part of what we are learning. Known as the “quiet crisis,” data indicates that 25% – 40% of high school students are unable to access information in a textbook. There are multiple reasons for this, many that we have discussed in class, but the key is how can we as teachers enable students to be more successful? The Basic Needs framework provides a great viewpoint from which to consider possible solutions. For instance –
We honor a student’s need for Power and Success when we explicitly teach reading strategies.
Even if a student can read, we don’t assume that she/he knows HOW to read for comprehension. Being able to do things like 1) identifying the key idea, 2) comparing and contrasting different viewpoints, and 3) summarizing what an author really wanted to say can be taught. In fact, skills like these have to be taught, and probably re-taught. Human beings have a basic need to be successful in what they attempt. When we expect kids to know how to do complex tasks without teaching them how to complete the task their response is predictable. While a few students will ask for help or clarification, many students will act like the book is stupid or the assignment is dumb and doesn’t matter. “Who would want to do this ridiculous task?” they mutter with some disgust. Let’s not be faked out by their feigned coping mechanism. Instead let’s give them the tools to be successful.
We honor a student’s need for Purpose and Meaning when we make available or assign articles and books and other resources that are relevant to teenagers.
This is the challenge of teaching – connecting the learning to the learner. The casual observer doesn’t get this. You tell someone something, maybe you show them how to do something, and that should be it the casual observer thinks. But that isn’t it. It is nowhere near it! High school students, like everyone else in the world, latch on to ideas that matter to them. They engage in ideas that for them are important. Believe me, high school students care, they have intense opinions, and they want to make a difference. They yearn for school experiences that are not boring and irrelevant. Keep the following graphic in mind –
We honor a student’s need for Freedom and Autonomy when we design choice into assignments and projects, including choices in what materials are read and researched.
This is not as hard as it may sound, and even if it initially adds to your “to do” list the rewards will be worth it. Not only can teachers come up with more than one book or article to complete the same assignment, it is also possible to create a rubric for an assignment or project, which includes the students themselves coming up with the appropriate reading or documents.
We honor a student’s need for Love and Belonging when we provide opportunities for talking about what is read with other students.
This can’t be overstated! Classrooms need to be places of safe, supportive connections. The connection between teacher and student is very important, however I believe the connections between the students are even more important. Students achieve success to the extent they feel supported and encouraged, by the teacher as well as by each other. Creativity flourishes in a safe environment. Real engaged learning often involves getting out of our comfort zones and risking a bit. We are much more open to risking when we feel safe and connected with others. (The importance of this need being met is even more important for English Language Learners.)
We honor a student’s need for Joy and Fun when we select reading materials that are enjoyable to read and when we provide an environment for reading that is welcoming and relaxing.
Some learning tasks require hard work and extended effort, but hard work doesn’t make a task less satisfying. Usually it is just the opposite. Our satisfaction increases when we are engaged in a challenging task in which we see value. Glasser viewed fun as the payoff for learning. The human brain is a natural information seeker, always on the lookout for the interesting, the novel, the important, or the sacred.
Baiting the Reading Hook (Educational Leadership, October, 2010) is an article that describes the possibilities of how a school can create this environment for students. With a little effort we can help to change the way adolescents view reading.
It is a privilege to work with the dedicated educators who are a part of this secondary reading class. It was need-satisfying for me to see the material ignite ideas and inspire changes for next school year. In the process I learned, too, and will be making changes in my own classes. The goal for each of us to help students – regardless of their academic skill set – to become better at the literacy skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
The Better Plan 1 (formerly Soul Shapers 1) begins on Monday, June 20, here at PUC. If it’s possible, I would love to have you join us and become part of the class.
I was recently sent the following question: Is there a test to take to find out your basic need strengths / weaknesses?
How would you respond to this query? I may take a stab at it this weekend.
* static omnibetoline – a totally made-up, fabricated, fake topic or condition
Secondary reading? Courageous! How about a third circle in the graphic..”What they need to know”
Are you suggesting that what a teacher wants to say may be different than what students need to know? 🙂 I think you are the courageous one.
Let’s talk soon.
Yes, that is what I am suggesting. Would love to talk, and anxious to know how the class is going.
Jim, I remember once when Bill was training Faculty and he was explaining need intensity. He asked us to self evaluate our own need intensities by rating each on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being low and 5 being high. (I even remember that he used Edith and Archie Bunker to illustrate.). He also invited us to make guesses about our partners or significant others, and then we had a conversation about likely combinations; eg he said a low love and belonging need and a high power need in relationship with a high love need and low power need was a combination with vulnerabilities for abuse, eg Person 1: (L2, P5) and Person 2 (L5, P2). Bill did say at present this was beyond scientific “proof,” and just an illustration of an idea, but I used it for years in couples counseling and it was remarkable how useful partners found it. Pictures about how to meet Fun needs vary enormously, of course, but if one partner had a fairly low or even average Fun need and the other partner was a Fun 5, a conversation about how that person could meet fun needs with others outside the marriage was not being disloyal, but was just about meeting needs without imposing them on the partner or to look to the partner to always meet those needs (book groups, film groups, sports teams, hunting and target shooting, piloting, all these are some that I remember).
One reason book groups are so popular now is that they are need satisfying. Reading and book selection is a start, but coming together and discussing the merits of a book also meet affiliation and fun needs.
I think I also recall that Bill said his favorite book of all time was Raintree County and that he had read it several times.
I like the 5 point scale, too. And I agree that in-service participants seem to relate to the concept of the Basic Needs. I send extra copies of the Basic Needs worksheet I have participants fill out so that they can explain the Basic Needs to their spouses and invite them to fill one out, too.They always return the next day with great stories.
I haven’t done a lot of thinking about how partners with different combinations of need strengths affect one another, but you have inspired me to do just that.
Bill told me he read Raintree County seven times. It’s got like a thousand pages, too.
Jim, It always proved useful; a person who hasn’t had much fun or doesn’t seem to need much fun may well be attracted to a very fun-loving person and later on see some of those traits as trivial, and then criticism creeps into the relationship! (Double whammy) (Of course, I am thinking of a real situation as I write). One issue about which we had loads of discussion but no resolution is whether needs intensities vary or change with life stages and changes in the body physiology. Bill was inclined to think not. We did talk about putting some needs on the “back burner,” and then a life stage could emerge which allowed greater expression ans fulfillment of those needs. I thought about this recently as it does seem that retirement gives a person more time for fun! Power conversations were interesting (eg power over as different from power with). The best was when partners would seek couples counseling, self evaluate their needs, develop a list of how they meet their needs, and then have a discussion about how those needs and pictures can be synergetic or in conflict; if the latter, how to work for resolution. But what was fascinating was how just understanding each other as individuals often was enough.
“Reading for comprehension” is a vital topic that reminded me of studying for the bar exam. When doing so I was reminded how important it is to step back after reading something and to apply it towards answering general questions. Activating that “recall” part of the brain is so important (arguably more so than the time reading itself). I’m sure a lot of problems teachers face are related to how to get students to engage during the ‘answering questions’ phase, and I’d wager to bet the most valuable time teachers can spend is what are the “right” questions a teacher can ask to get students to engage and use their recall portions of the brain..
A couple of points you make stand out for me. One has to do with the way you studied for the bar. You read, reviewed, and re-read as many times as it took to gain understanding. While there is a kind of obviousness to this study strategy there are a lot of high schoolers who don’t get how such a process works. If they haven’t done a lot of reading in their lives they may assume that if they don’t understand something the first time it must mean they are stupid or something. A teacher can point out that good readers do what you did and let them know that it is quite normal to have to go back and read something more than once.
The second one has to do with your emphasizing the importance of the right question at the right time. Couldn’t agree more. I sometimes refer to such a query as an artful question.
If your library has access to dissertations, look for “Glasser’s Reality Therapy Approach to Relationships: Validation of a Choice Theory Basic Needs Scale” by Beverly Ann Guy LaFond (1999). The purpose was to construct an instrument that operationalized Glasser’s constructs of five physiological and psychological needs.
I shall check this out, Beverly. Thank you for the heads up. I am interested in the instrument you developed.
I almost signed up for this class. I chose three courses, and it was next on my list. Now I wish I had gone ahead and signed up! Will you teach this again next year or the year after? I hope I can take it the next time you do. Thank you for striving to be relevant to your students; this class sounds just like something I’ve been looking for.