The superhero behind Xclass to the Rescue, Amanda Xavier, shares her experience as a teacher-author and tips for engaging reluctant readers.
Tell us a little about your teaching background
I’m an NYS permanently certified Common Branch K – 6 teacher. My teaching career began in 2001 in Brooklyn, NY where I taught all subjects in 5th grade for 5 years and I’ve been teaching 6th grade ELA since 2006.
What inspired you to start selling your resources?
It’s hard to start a new novel with a class and be just a few pages ahead of them in the reading. It makes for very disjointed lessons. Many of my resources are discussion questions and answers or complete novel studies to help teachers out. Giving teachers back some of their precious time to focus on what really matters – connecting with the kids and pushing them beyond what they think they can accomplish – is my primary motivation. For the more practical side, I heard about a middle school math teacher who was able to pay his rent with the money he made selling resources online. In New York City. I signed up the next day.
How do you engage reluctant readers?
I’ve always loved to read and I consider that a gift I think it shows in my teaching and gets a lot of kids as excited about reading as I am. But that only works for the kids on the fence. What about the ones who are dead set against it? I choose modern books. While I appreciate a classic as much as any other bibliophile, they can be dated and out of touch. I find modern classics that showcase multicultural characters and present day conflicts like having no technology, bullying, being LGBTQ, being disabled or being a different race, religion etc. The kids can see themselves in these books and want to read them as much as I want them to.
How do your resources support struggling and reluctant readers?
Another great way to get those kids to crack open a book is to use technology. I create and use digital novel studies in my classes and they’re a big hit so far this year. For instance, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library is a super fun book about a scavenger hunt in a library. Now imagine how much fun the kids have answering questions and building background knowledge online. It engages even the most blasé reader. A tried and true subject is Greek mythology. If all else fails, give the kids a topic they can’t help but fall in love with. I haven’t met a student yet who didn’t jump on board the Greek myth train. Non-fiction may be another way to go. Kids may not like characters and plots, but they may flip for facts. Who doesn’t love endangered animals? With a close reading packet, you have a month of activities to learn about 10 fascinating creatures while reinforcing Common Core State Standards.
What tip do you have for teachers?
Since teaching is like juggling on a high wire, why not take a few shortcuts here and there? Get the help where you need, and focus on what makes you a superhero to your class!