This week, we have the pleasure of welcoming Irene Drake, third grade teacher at Anna H. Rockwell Elementary School. Irene discovered her calling as a teacher 14 years ago after serving as an accountant for 2 non-profit companies. She was a 6th grade Math and Language Arts teacher before becoming a 3rd grade teacher at Rockwell School 8 years ago. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Elementary Education and a 6th year degree in Educational Leadership.
KDC: Irene, thanks for taking time to give us your insights into educating children. Tell us what inspired you to become a teacher?
ID: There were many things that inspired me to become a teacher, but if I could choose one I would say it would be Mrs. Miller who was my 2nd grade teacher. The way she cared about us as individuals, pushed us to always exceed expectations, and used her love of music to make learning more fun was a huge inspiration to me and had me thinking about becoming a teacher like her at a young age. She was also the teacher who inspired me to learn how to play piano and take lessons.
KDC: What is your favorite picture book and chapter book?
ID: My favorite picture book is Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola because it reminds me of my family growing up. My favorite chapter book is Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.
KDC: What are some techniques that you use to get reluctant readers engaged in reading?
ID: Some techniques that I use are:
- I use engaging chapter books that are part of a large series in order to hook the students and hopefully inspire them to want to continue reading more books in that series.
- I use technology to engage reluctant readers. Programs like Lexia and Raz-Kids are engaging for the students and provide those reluctant readers with a choice between fiction and non-fiction stories.
- I tap into the children’s interests to purchase books that might be engaging for those reluctant readers.
- I encourage them to try different types of books and I utilize our Media Specialist to help find engaging books for students who are reluctant readers.
KDC: You may have 3rd graders who read above their age level and are ready for more challenging texts, but still need developmentally appropriate content. If one of those children asked you to recommend a book, what would you tell them?
ID: There are a few series that are developmentally appropriate and meet the needs of students who need more challenging texts. I would lead them towards the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade texts that I have in my personal library and guide them towards series’ written by Andrew Clements, Madeleine L’Engle, Roald Dahl to start. All of the books in my library have been previewed by me and checked for appropriate content. Any book that is not developmentally appropriate does not appear on my shelf.
KDC: What changes are you seeing with the implementation of Common Core and a shift to more non-fiction reading?
ID: Non-fiction reading accounts for over 50% of the reading lessons, and non-fiction reading occurs in all subject areas like Science, Social Studies, and Math. Students are gravitating more to non-fiction books when making choices for independent reading. I have also seen more paired text options for students that include non-fiction texts. Students are now understanding that a map, graph, chart, etc. is considered non-fiction reading.
Thank you Irene for your great perspective on education and the teaching of young readers! We appreciate your time.