#4 – Great Teachers Lead Great Reading Sessions

This is Article 4 of 4 in a series from Neil MacQueen, www.sundayresources.net
Insights for Sunday School gleaned from the book “Teach Like a Champion” (by D. Lemov).
Doug Lemov spent thousand of hours observing, interviewing, and videotaping great teachers in public schools, and distilled their characteristics and strategies in his book, Teach Like a Champion. This series of articles by Neil MacQueen summarizes many of those traits and practices from a Sunday School point of view. I’ve also adapted some of his wording for a Sunday School setting.

This fourth and final article in my summary summarizes his chapters “after” the 49 Techniques (summarized in articles 1-3) where he goes into READING ALOUD practices of champion teachers. Being that Sunday School is “all about the book” many of his suggestions about “reading aloud” and reading discussion techniques should be very helpful. My own comments are in italics, and I’ve added some thoughts on “reading & software that reads to you” at the end of this article.

How all teachers can (and must) be “READING Teachers

(Note: Lemov doesn’t mean “read to”, he’s talking about techniques for student reading.)
Teaching students to unlock the full meaning of the texts they read is the single most powerful outcome a teacher can foster. No other single activity has the capacity to yield so much educational value.
(As teachers and students of a Book (the Bible), the following insights should be tatooed on our training.)

When you ask a student to read aloud, don’t specify how long you want them to read.
If the student has trouble, and you have not specified “a paragraph” (or a set number of verses), it gives you a non-embarrassing way to move on to the next reader. Keep reading lengths ‘random’ to create some anticipation among the other students. This will help them follow along.

Keep the identity of the next reader unpredictable.
Going “in order” or “around the circle” tends to let students at the end of that order opt-out.

Keep durations short.
This allows the reader to invest themselves in the short amount of time they know they will have. You’ll get more expression and enthusiasm. Changing readers creates an anticipation among all, gets them to follow along more closely, and let’s the teacher know who has been paying attention.

Teach students to “bookmark” their place in the text with their finger.
When the reader reaches the end of a section and you ask them to stop, tell the class to “bookmark” the end with their finger while they look up to the teacher who is making a comment or asking questions.
(This is particularly helpful technique when reading Bibles where all the pages seem to look the same!)

CHAPTER TWELVE:  Teaching Students to Understand What They Read

(Is there anything more important than this in Sunday School?  Here are some of Lemov’s insights.)

Champion Teacher Reading Strategies

When students and teachers read together out loud, champion teachers….
  • Provide background on what students are about to read.
  • Provide “context” for the story (such as historical context)
  • Decode difficult vocabulary before reading it. (This helps in pronunciation too).
  • Outline the story and identify key concepts before reading.
  • Pose questions about the text ahead of time for students to consider as they are reading.

What strikes me is how Sunday School teachers typically do the OPPOSITE!  They usually just:
  • Dive in with no explanation or background.
  • Wait until a student stumbles before helping them learn a word.
  • And wait until the reading is OVER to tell students what’s important to remember!

In fact, many teachers play a cat & mouse game of “do you know what I know.” This puts the students in an adversarial role right from the first word. Fortunately, the solution is simple, –read the “Champion Teacher Reading Strategies” again.

When reading aloud a story, the teacher will stop and ask questions at various points.  These should include:
  • Why do you think that person is acting like that?
  • What do you think that person will do?  Predicting what will happen next builds interest.

Champion Teachers regularly go back to the text with their students, re-reading certain lines or sections. They will give specific instructions about where to find the answer to their question.  “Why did he do that? Look at the last two lines of the paragraph.”


Neil Note about teaching with our software…

Reading the story from a printed Bible is an important task in any Sunday School lesson, including a lesson that uses Bible software. Our software is a component in a lesson plan, not a replacement for one. Even though many of our software programs narrate the story, we expect that you will have introduced the students to the story IN THE BIBLE TEXT ITSELF before they get to the software, or when they get done with the software. In many cases, using the software BEFORE you have students read aloud from the Bible text itself, PREPARES THEM to receive the written word.

In many of our programs, we include background notes interactively during the story presentation, and place questions during and after the story. The kids will want to skip them to “get to the wigglies” and that is why we strongly recommending GOING THROUGH the software WITH your children, rather than standing back.

Read my article titled, “NEIL’S TOP 3 CLASSROOM TIPS for teaching with software” over at http://sundaysoftware.com/articles/classroomtips.htm for more details and ideas.

Click me to see an awesome Bible story CD from Sunday Software!

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2 Responses to #4 – Great Teachers Lead Great Reading Sessions

  1. Marty Braun says:

    As a retired teacher I find these articles great review and hope nonteachers will learn how to teach and therefore enjoy it more. Thanks for doing this.

  2. Jane Roscoe says:

    Thnaks for the articles! Great applications to Sunday School situations. I will be sure to pass this info along to workshop leaders.

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