“In what ways do teachers kill the joy of reading for their students?” appeared as a question on Quora. Below we are printing one of the best answers, from high school English teacher Peter Kruger.
The terrible teachers are not the ones who use bad strategies. They’re the ones who use good strategies poorly, without ever explaining what they are doing or why to the students.
With that in mind, here are some easy steps for destroying all love of reading. These are the worst things an English teacher can do.
1. Pretest the student’s vocabulary knowledge of words in the book. Make it abundantly clear in red ink that the students do not know lots of words. Express your disappointment in their lack of effort.
2. Assign specific pages and chapters for tomorrow’s class. Inform them that they are not to read ahead.
3. Read some of it aloud in class. Better if you simply read to them in the most monotone, robotic, emotionless voice you can muster. Or, randomly pick on students who have struggled historically with reading and make them read two pages aloud. Mock them openly if they stumble, or patronizingly correct their mistakes and applaud them if they do improve in the most passive-aggressive manner you can muster. Best results if done on Shakespeare with no prior experience.
4. Do not discuss the themes or concepts in the novel. Quiz them instead. Make sure to include detailed minutiae such as the colour of the pants worn by the protagonist (and make sure to use words like protagonist, and quiz those, too.) Under no circumstances allow these quizzes to be open book. Randomize them so students don’t know when the quiz might be coming. Express your disappointment with red ink and loud sighs when you pass them back.
5. Assign an analysis paragraph following a standardized model with a good acronym like TEALs or TIQuAC. Make sure it’s about something that students find meaningless. Do not discuss why it’s meaningful, but dock them significantly if they can’t express why it is. Do this for every chapter or scene. Do not allow them to analyse relevant themes or things they found significant. Instead, make sure to have them analyse the use of rhetorical devices and classical literary tropes. Make sure to tell them, “You’ll probably never use this in your personal writing, but…”
6. Give the students each a study guide that they have to complete chapter by chapter. Include vocabulary. Make it due in class so they can’t use Google for help. Do not allow them to work with partners.
7. One day, break them randomly into small groups. Assign them meaningless projects peripherally related to the text. Make sure to stick one go-getter with each group that will do all the work for the other students, then downgrade the entire group for “not working together.”
8. Refuse to answer any applicable questions they have. Tell them they are not reading closely enough. Give them a handout packet with strategies like SQ3R or Reciprocal Reading. Do not explain under any circumstances why these are helpful, just give them to the students with no formal training.
9. Give the students a comprehensive, 100 question multiple choice Scantron (or otherwise computer graded) test. Assign an analysis paper due the day of the test, and significantly limit the topics they may choose from to three insignificant quotes. Do not give a review day. Best if clearly visible that this exam was copied from a teacher’s edition of the textbook and purchased with a canned curriculum.
10. Never again even mention the book. Three months later, give a comprehensive, closed book, two hour multiple choice semester final exam that includes mostly questions stolen from the multiple choice unit exam earlier in the semester. Best if used from a canned curriculum you purchased. Include at least a half-dozen questions that were never once even brought up in the original reading of the novel.
Even popular books like the Hunger Games trilogy won’t interest students if you follow these steps.