Our first tip comes from Mark Takano.
These days, Takano spends his days on Capitol Hill, a Democratic Congressman who represents Riverside, California. Before stepping into the political arena, Takano stepped out in front of a classroom. He was an English teacher.
Takano says he learned the hard way that it would take more than repetition to teach subject/verb agreement and other grammar basics. Despite weeks of drilling his students, the failure rate on exams was disappointing.
It was another teacher, Takano says, one with 20 years of experience, who suggested that he read aloud to his students. Takano read "To Kill A Mockingbird" to his 9th graders and "Pride and Prejudice" to his high school seniors. He says he delivered a pretty good Mrs. Bennet.
Reading aloud, he discovered, allowed kids to model the language, to hear its proper usage. It also helped students get past the slow start to even the best of literature. “Often the first two pages of a book are the hardest,” he says, “you have to get your students over that hump.”
Takano says he’d stop after chapter three to leave his students wanting more and encourage them to pick up the book to find out what happened next.
One other tip: he says he accidentally left the subtitles on when he was showing “Sense and Sensibility” in class. The class begged him to leave the subtitles on; those English accents made Austen sound like a foreign tongue. Just how engaged were those students? When they watched that final scene where Willoughby is alone on the hillside, left out of a happy ending of his own, one boy shouted at the screen, “That’s what you get, fool!”
Takano says he still enjoys his job as a congressman, but “these are wistful moments to think back on my days in the classroom.”
We persuaded Congressman Takano to read to us. He was our celebrity reader for Episode 7: "Flying the Dragon."
Got a tip of your own? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.