About a year ago, the curriculum coordinator in our school district introduced me to a few reading strategies as outlined and demonstrated by Kelly Gallagher. I browsed through the material at first, but soon started reading every word and searching for more best-practice gems from Gallagher. As a 16 year educator of High School English-Language Arts in the United States, I found these strategies accessible, appealing, and, quite frankly, refreshing.
In February of 2012 I had the opportunity to listen to Gallagher deliver a keynote presentation and, shortly after, engage a smaller audience as part of a break-out session at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference held in Milwaukee. Honestly, Gallagher’s presentations were effective oral representations of his books, and, by the time I had the opportunity to hear him speak I had consumed several of his books. He did provide a few demonstrations that were helpful, but I felt as though I had a great foundation of his philosophy from reading. For the record, the ideas, educational philosophies, and strategies Gallagher has to share are worth repeating (and hearing again) as I find myself using his books as a resource and reference frequently throughout the academic week.
In his book, Deeper Reading, Gallagher details an overarching strategy to help and support students in embracing complex texts. As I have put his recommendations to the test – that is, actually used the best-practice techniques he offers in a real classroom with real students over the course of 180 student-teacher contact days – I have found that his suggested techniques, when used judiciously, are effective in supporting and encouraging our students to become better readers, better writers, and better thinkers, independently and critically.
I have been able to articulate and utilize an adaptation of Gallagher’s masterful approach to complex texts. Here are the steps I have outlined for my students here in Seymour, Wisconsin:
- Access and/or Build Background Knowledge
- Real-Life Application
Over the course of the next several days, I will share an explanation and justification for each step.
I want each of my students to always have quick, confident responses to the following questions:
- What is your favorite book? Why?
- What was the last book you read? Why?
- What book are you currently reading? Why?
By becoming exposed to and embracing complex texts, I am hopeful students willingly take the risk to find the value, beyond standardized testing and common core standards, in reading.