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Eric’s Senior Project

My parents feel that active reading leads to a deeper understanding of the world
and its encompassing perspectives. However, their philosophy has not resonated in me
throughout my education. Personally, I have decided that reading has been a passive
experience. I know there is a better way to engage boys in the reading process. I feel that
male students are more active by nature, and therefore, they should have a more active
reading experience.
Topic and Purpose
The purpose of my senior project is to unpack a flaw in a standardized reading
program that is destroying the love of reading for male students. I will compare the
effectiveness of my standard junior high English workbook, Vocabu-Lit, against a
reading passage from NewsEla, chosen by the participants. For my research, I hope to
answer the following questions:
• Does giving male students increased ownership of their reading
material generate comparable learning to that of a standardized curriculum?
• What is the school’s responsibility to provide reading material that
boys’ find interesting?
As I conduct my research, I will compare a traditional and non-traditional vocabulary
lessons. I will measure which generates more depth and complexity.
Research model
In an effort to give structure and credibility to my senior project, I will adopt
Michelle Luhata’s “The Research Process” model. The thrust of this social science matrix
(see appendix A and B) is that “learning informs research and research informs learning”
(The Research Process). This is a “symbiotic” relationship (The Research Process) and
the researcher is constantly moving back and forth within the matrix. The first phase
requires that students identify a problem to investigate (The Research Process). During
this first step, it is necessary to conceptualize a purpose, write learning objectives and
begin to formulate research questions (The Research Process). The second phase is when
investigation of the questions takes place and a preliminary plan is developed (The
Research Process). The third phase requires that solid questions are written and an action
plan is put into place (The Research Process). It is important to organize ideas and
document learning during and this process. And the final is phase focuses on strengths of
the project and improvements that can be made in the future (The Research Process).
In the first phase of my research project, I will identify the potential flaws in a
Vocabu-Lit reading curriculum. To identify these problems I will meet with my mentor
once a week, do research and keep a journal. During the second phase, I will continue to
investigate possible flaws in this standardized reading curriculum and attend weekly
meetings with my mentor. During my third phase, I will write solid questions to answer
in my research project. I will write survey questions for Survey Money and interviews
questions for those who consent to an interview (appendix C).
I will also find a placement for my action research component. I will compile a reading
packet to use with my participants (see appendix D, E, F and G). I will also include a
body matrix to measure the language of my participants. In the final phase, I will analyze
my data and made recommendations for the future.
Validity and trustworthiness
In an effort to be transparent, I must discuss some of the elements that could
impact the results of this project. As a social science research paper, I changed the names
of all participants and locations to protect their privacy. This is to allow the subjects to
speak freely as I collect data and conduct my analysis. The participants are minorities. A
wider range of subjects would have been preferred. However, given the racial make of
the school, this is not possible. I made the mistake commenting to the participants about
my negative feelings regarding Vocabu-Lit. I should have been more careful to conduct
my research with a neutral tone. I was able to connect and relate to the boys. In a
profession that is dominated by women, I personally believe that the young boys enjoyed
interacting with a male figure. I would like to think that they read better with me because
of this relationship. I was not prepared with the packets for my action research
component. The first mistake I made was that I did not have comparable response sheets
for each text the participants. For example, I should have made two copies of Appendix
E and F for each text read. I was very tired and did not prepare in an appropriate manner.
Research
I made arrangements with Lucy to visit Taylor Middle School located in the Dixie
School District. Lucy found three sixth graders and two seventh grade boys to test. Their
literacy skills all varied. I spent about three hours conducting my research and
approximately twenty minutes with each participant.
The context of the school community suggested that families need support. A
community center is located directly across from the middle school, along with an
elementary school of the other side. The community center provides homework help for
the students, a long with medical care and adult education.
The location of the community center in-between the two schools suggests that
student population also needs help and encouragement. This notion is reinforced by the
fact that Taylor Middle School had a Title One status. That means that ninety-two percent
of the families fall on the low-income matrix (Great Schools, 2017). The Great Schools
website shows Taylor Middle School as a public school servicing seven hundred,
seventy-one students attending grades sixth through eight. The Hispanic population
makes up sixty-three percent, Pacific Islander is thirteen percent, White is eleven percent,
Asian is five percent, other races are at two-percent and American Indian is at one
percent (Great Schools, 2017). While I conducted my research, the principal made
several school-wide announcements, along with an explanation about earning school
reward tickets verses “stealing” school reward tickets. She used the word “stealing’ three
times with emphasis. All students wear uniforms of white shirts, blue or brown pants and
tennis shoes. The fact that the students wear uniforms could also suggest this population
might be exposed to gang related activities (personal interview with Christena Ensign,
March 12, 2018).

Analysis of research
Fisher supports the meaningful reading of any student in Visible Learning for
Literary. He wrote, “Learning becomes more meaningful when learners see what they’re
learning as being meaningful to their own lives” (112). The analysis of my data explored
the importance of boys having more of a choice in their reading material.
I prepared reading packets to use with each of my participants. Right up front, I
declared the packets null because I did not include comparable response sheets for each
text (see appendix E and F). As stated previously, I should have made two copies of
Appendix E and F for each text read by the participants. Therefore, the results of my
senior project are not conclusive. I was tired the night before and overlooked this
important need.
I made some personal observations that are worthy of mention. I saw graphic
novels in the desks in a few students. Their choice of reading material made an
impression on me because I do not recall being exposed to graphic novels as worthy
literature at my junior high. In hindsight, I now believe conversations about a wider range
of literature would have helped me be more interested in reading. Probably because these
conversations did not take place, I was left with the impression that graphic novels are
not literature of importance. Additionally, all the students had personal I pads. The
presence of I pads implied that more money is available to this school. The I pads gave
the school and teachers more resources to connect reading with the students. For
example, my participants were able to access NEWS Ela articles of their choice during
my research process. The ability to obtain a wider range of meaningful reading material
is available to the older students all day throughout the entire year. Their access to
reading has few restritions.
The idea of connecting meaningful reading material with boys is a concept
supported during my interview with Phil Ensign. To paraphrase, he stated reading
relevant literature made him want to read more. The example he cited was that while in
second grade, baseball was a sport he loved. In being allowed choose books about
baseball, Phil believed his reading skills grew significantly (Feb. 7, 2018). Connecting
relevant literature to boys was also discussed in an interview with Kay Spjut. As a retired
English teacher, she recalled one of her students who found the Chronicles of Narnia
book series fascinating. This student read the series, at Ms. Spjut’s encouragement, loved
it and through having been allowed to access meaningful literature, developed a love for
reading (February 14, 2018). During my interview with Mike Ensign, he also talked
about growing as a reader when was able to have a voice in what read. He did not
become an avid reader until be entered college and was able to have more of a choice in
the material he read (February 7, 2018). It is important for boys to read literature that is
meaningful to their lives.
In Survey Monkey, many people felt like the material they studied in junior high
was not helpful in building their reading skills. Even though the data sample was small,
there was a correlation between males and people who did not feel as if the assigned
reading helped them in junior high. Furthermore, forty two percent said they felt like the
reading material was not able to improve their reading skills in the way they would have
hoped. This survey firms up the importance of boys reading books they believe is
relevant to their lives.
As previously stated, I do not have enough written evidence to conclusively
answer my questions. However, the observations, interviews and survey I conducted all
support that increased ownership does facilitate better literature skills in boys. I believe
schools and districts have an ethical obligation to expose and provide a wide range of
literature to their students. Boys must have more of a voice to choose reading material
they find meaningful. That voice is silenced when standardized reading curriculums are
the norm during the school day.
Conclusion
I was disengaged as a reader in junior high. I believe that a boy connecting with
reading material on a personal level was seriously overlooked during my seventh and
eight grade years. It was painful for me to sit in English class and be forced to complete
my Vocabu-Lit workbook. As an example of “fidelity to the core”, Vocab-ULit is a rigid
standardized curriculum pushed by districts making it impossible for boys to connect
with meaningful reading material. I assert that federal policies that place restrictions on
teaching freedom have perpetuated the literacy problem (Dennis 400). Money from the
federal government, and state, should be given with more teaching freedom. Dixie School
District appears have negotiated for more teaching freedom during the day. Lucy
supported this concept during my interview (March 12, 2018) when she noted the styles
between her current and former school district. She believes her class is more engaged in
reading. Perhaps because the teachers are not required to have such rigid “fidelity to the
core.” Federal and state policy makers have a moral and ethical duty to teach boys in a
manner that they may flourish as human beings and good citizens.
Works Cited
Dennis, D. “Learning From the Past: What ESSA Has the Chance to Get Right.”
The Reading Teacher. vol.70, no. 4, 2017, pp. 395-400.
Great Schools. https://www.greatschools.org/utah/salt-lake-city/589-Glendale-
Middle-School/
Ensign, Christena. Personal Interview. 12 Mar. 2018
Ensign, Eric. “Survey Monkey” Survey. 9 Feb. – 22 Mar.
Ensign, Mike. Personal Interview. 7 Feb. 2018.
Ensign, Phil. Personal Interview. 28 Jan. 2018.
Fisher, Douglas, Frey, Nancy and Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Literacy.
Corwin Literacy. 2016
Lucy. Personal Interview. 12 Mar. 2018
Spjut, Kay. Personal Interview. 14 Feb. 2018.
Luhtala, Michelle. “The Research Process.” edWeb.net, 14, Jan. 2015,
https://home.edweb.net/.
MLA Handbook 8th ed. Modern Language Association, 2016.
NewsELA. https://newsela.com/
Vocabu-Lit. Building Vocabulary Through Literature Book H. Perfection
Learning. 2002.
Appendix A: The Research Process
Appendix B: The Four Phases in The Research Processarch Process
Appendix C: Interview Questions

Interview questions:

• Do you feel like the literature you read during your education
helped you develop into a life long reader? Why, or why?
• Do you remember periods during your education when you felt
reading was enjoyable? Do you remember times when you were not interested in
reading at school?
• Were you ever allowed to pick out your own books to read in
school? Why, or why not?

Interview questions for Grandma:

• Where you ever able to choose you own books for your class to
read?

• Did you feel like the reading material for your students was
interesting and engaging? Why?

Survey Monkey questions:

Do you feel as if during your seventh and eighth grades years, the reading
material was significant in helping you develop into a life long, fluent reader? Why,
or why?

• How old are you?


Between:
55-60 years old
54-50 years old
49-45 years old
44-40 years old
39-35 years old
34-30 years old
29-25 years old
24-20 years old
19-15 years old

• Are you male or female?


Appendix D: Vocabu-lit

Appendix E: Vocabulary Tree


Appendix F: Power Word Boxs
Appendix G: Body Matrix