Reading Across the Curriculum
"You have to teach without fear. Most of my students don't like to take chances, so I push myself to take risks that will help meet their diverse learning needs. It's more than youthful exuberance, it's a genuine desire to build personal relationships."
Gage Reeves teaches fifth grade at the Vernon School in Portland, Oregon. Vernon is one of the smaller schools in the city, serving approximately 350 students (pre-K-6). Vernon's student body reflects the surrounding demographics, with a largely African American population and a smaller Hispanic and Asian population. All of Vernon's students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Mr. Reeves' class size ranges from 23-25 students.
In the featured lesson, Mr. Reeves modeled reading strategies to solve unfamiliar words, orchestrated a "call and response" kinesthetic exercise to help students recall vocabulary, and demonstrated how to use a graphic organizer to identify main ideas and supporting details. His students practiced these strategies on both fiction and non-fiction pieces. Two to three days before the taping, Mr. Reeves' students developed their own rhythms, rhymes, and motions to help them remember complex science words. They also read and re-read the nonfiction passage on global warming prior to the lesson.
Mr. Reeves plans lessons in six-day segments so that his students are introduced to new words and themes each week. The elaborate song and gesture seen in the video is the work of his students, who create equally involved performances from each weekly list of vocabulary words. If students panic during a test, Mr. Reeves hums part of the tune to help them recall vocabulary words. Mr. Reeves' literacy routine also includes fluency training. He divides students into pairs and has them grade each other as they read aloud; they must note any hesitations or mispronounced words. At the end of each six-day lesson, Mr. Reeves tests his students' retention and comprehension of the content and vocabulary associated with each theme. Readings will often include varied genres--from science and historical fiction to nonfiction pieces.
Mr. Reeves relies on both structure and spontaneity in his teaching, and attributes his willingness to take risks in his teaching to the classroom community and close relationships with and among his students.