The Crazy Professor Reading Game

As a Language Arts teacher, I've developed many beliefs about the reading process that I've striven to use in my reading instruction. Students need to have oral reading fluency and an "inner voice" that speaks inside their head while they read in order to become successful readers. They need to have some speed while they read but more importantly they need comprehension. Young readers should be given a sort of "reader's toolbox" of comprehension skills that they use unconsciously while they read when they come across something they do not understand or they have a need to analyze a piece of reading in depth. Out district uses DIBELS for reading fluency and speed seems almost more important than retention (the retell measure), and I've struggled, even failed, as a reading teacher in finding a way to incorporate the development of their "reader's toolbox" in much of my instruction.
I checked out The Crazy Professor Reading Game the other day on and I am already putting it in my lesson plans for the beginning of the year. It supports many ideas I've held about reading as a Language Arts teacher but have struggled to implement or teach effectively such as oral fluency, activating prior knowledge before reading, and retention of content after reading. Over the past few years, I've gathered tons of ideas, and implemented successfully about half of them, but have still not seen progress in our district-used reading fluency program, DIBELS.
In the video, (watch it), you will observe four steps. The first, dramatic reading, helps students practice intonation. Tone can be such a hard thing to teach, especially without technology (I used an Apple program called Garage Band and later Audacity on my Windows machines to help students visualize what the waves of their voice looked like while they read, but what about when I needed to teach a larger group or what about days technology wasn't an option?). Reading dramatically can be so important, especially for the below-level readers, because it helps them understand and actually hear what tone and pitch do in a reader's voice to help someone listen and understand. Even if the intonation is awkward at first, the point is that they are getting the practice in making their voices go up and down while they read, instead of reading at the monotonous, stifled pace of a shy and below-level reader. Dramatic reading also keeps students focused on what they are reading and for average or above average readers, helps them practice and gain confidence in understanding how the voice works when the eyes see a period, comma, question mark, or exclamation point coming up. It gives at-level and above-level readers a chance to really show their stuff!
The second step in the "game" is using gestures and actions while reading. This keeps students engaged and focused on what they are reading because they are constantly having to interpret and analyze what the words actually say in order to form a physical gesture or action that goes along with the word, phrase, or sentence. This not only helps students by pushing them to think on a higher level while they read (and forces the "word-callers" to focus on understanding the words they are speaking), but it also forms that so-very-special connection I have such faith in which is the kinesthetic learning part of how the brain works. This physical movement moves the information gathering and retention to multiple areas of the brain, forming connections that bind the different ways the brain comprehends and processes the information it receives.
The third phase of the game, teach your neighbor, in which partners turn to each other to summarize and paraphrase, students trade off asking each other questions about the story. This can be powerful for both the below-level and above-level reader. Below-level readers are practicing retention simply by running through what they remember in order to ask a question. Above-level readers practice coming up with higher-order questions (which happens naturally because they already have an idea about what is going on in the story). Below- and average- level readers also get a second chance to get more information out of the story by "reviewing" it with their neighbor.
Lastly, the fourth and final step, one student becomes the Crazy Professor and the other the Eager Student. The Crazy Professor may use props and gestures to form an overall summary of the story in which they teach to the Eager Student. The Eager Student encourages the Crazy Professor with phrases like "Really?" "Yea?" "Tell me more!" "OMG!" The students (esp. in older grades) may simply role play the actual craziness and eagerness at first, but as they become less apprehensive about what others think, they are ultimately having a lot of fun. Kids and adults alike will tell you that they learn better when they are having fun. The last step really focuses on forming details and sequence as part of an overall summary.
Thinking about how to implement this game in my own classroom has really triggered a lot of ideas! Here is a list that I will hopefully revisit and blog about in the future.
  • Examine the pictures or skim the words for characters and names. Make predictions about which character will be the protagonist or antagonist (use already-taught gestures to remind each other what each type of character is)
  • Find the picture that looks like the climax. Use gestures to remind ourselves of what the climax is, then write predictions to check with our neighbors later.
  • After reading, check back with our predictions. Use compare/contrast gestures to see what was similar and what was different about your predictions and the actual story.
  • Post-reading compare and contrast of summaries: Use alternate neighbors to compare and contrast each others summaries. (Use compare and contrast gestures)
  • Post-reading review (done at end of day or even another day) With the Crazy Professor using gestures only, have the Eager student answer questions using gestures based on what gesture the Professor hinted at. (eg: Crazy Professor can do the gesture for setting then the Eager Student answers by describing the details of the setting using gestures.)
I hope you watch the video, it will seriously blow your mind and give you a little "umph" in your motivation for teaching reading (especially out of those district-required Basal Readers!)
Your kids will thank you!

1 comment:

  1. This was the first year I used the Crazy Reading Professor in the classroom with my average and below average readers, with amazing results in the data. I too feel that Dibels is just a measurement tool and speed is not the end all, but comprehension is. When my students were testing for "big test" I saw them with their fingers and gestures acting out what they were reading.. Next year I will use this tool with all my readers.. Crazy Professors here we come.