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Rebranding the assignment

Amanda Lacy will admit, she was not excited when her principal assigned her to teach a group of high school students that were struggling with reading. Her new class consisted of juniors and seniors who had failed the state test as tenth graders.

“I was hoping they made a mistake. I went into the principal’s office and said, ‘Oh, you wrote the wrong thing down on this piece of paper,'” said Lacy.

Lacy says teaching the course is a difficult job. The kids are embarrassed to be in the remedial reading class and they don’t like to go. When Lacy took over the course at her school in Gainsville Florida, the class was named Read 180. Lacy says the name had a negative connotation amongst students.

“They would make self-deprecating comments, they would tease one another,” says Lacy. “A student I had in the first period walks into the 6th period and yells, ‘Read 180′”. Lacy says they treated it like it was a joke.

So Lacy did what any marketing professional would do. She changed the name of the course. Read 180 was now known as Critical Thinking and Reading for College Readiness.

Ditching the old content

Lacy also wanted her students to be interested in what they were reading, so she surveyed them with questions like

  • What are you interested in?
  • What do you care about?
  • List five things that you’re good at.
  • Complete this sentence: After graduation I hope to…

Lacy learned that a lot of kids were interested in sports, some liked military stories and some liked reading about food. Going forward, Lacy began to tailor her content to align with the student’s interest.

On Monday’s, students would use the computer lab to find articles in the Washington Post or New York Times and they had assignments tied to the article they selected.

Much of what the students were reading was tied to current events that interested the students. They would also participate in what she called “A Few Minutes of Me.” Much like an open mic night, students would recite slam poetry, read Bible passages and even give beauty tutorials.

Practice Patience

Lacy admits the changes didn’t happen overnight, but as the students began to enjoy reading, they experienced better results. A few years back 100% of the students passed the reading exam.

“It changed the tenor of the class,” says Lacy. “Success is very inspiring. When the students in the class saw that other students were doing it and that they could do it, it started happening more.”

To hear our full conversation with Lacy, listen to Episode 98 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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