Sunday, April 24, 2016

Monitoring Independent Reading

We all know that independent, engaged reading is critical to reading development for all students.  I can be frequently heard telling students, "You know how to become a better reader?  READ!"  Donalyn Miller, the author of Reading in the Wild and The Book Whisperer (two of my favorites!) supports this simple notion, "If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way."

I couldn't agree more!  I also know that many students, not all, but many, need scaffolds and supports to help them become lifelong readers. They need supports to help them engage with books on a daily basis. We must do this, and can do this in a variety of ways.

For students to become successful, independent readers we must monitor their independent reading and coach along the way.  Recently "The Teacher Tip" at offered some great suggestions for monitoring independent reading.  This spurred my interest in coming up with my top ten strategies for monitoring independent reading in our classrooms.  I'm sure there are thousands more, but here are my top ten at the moment. (They are in no particular order-that was too hard!)

Strategies for Monitoring Independent Reading
  1. Know your Students-What are their interests, passions, likes/dislikes?  Do reading inventories periodically, maybe 3-4 times a year rather than just once or twice.  Kids and interests change, fast!
  2. Be Present-Tune in to students, their books, their interests.  Coach along the way, lean in and whisper to a child, check their engagement, encourage and share in the excitement for what he/she is reading.
  3. Step Back and Observe-What are your students really doing during independent reading?  How many are actually showing true engagement?  Are they really reading or faking it?  If they are reading they can quickly tell you the big ideas.  If they're faking, call them on it, help them fix it and find texts that are more engaging.
  4. Track Student Reading-Keep it simple, record titles, dates and the page kids are on on a class list/data sheet  It's a great formative assessment tool.  Do it 2-3 times a week, you'll be surprised at the results.
  5. Complement First-So, you've got that reluctant reader, they've only read ten pages in a week.  Don't begin with your concern or disappointment, remind them of something you know they do well or enjoy as a reader.  Ask how you can help, what are they stuck with, what might be more engaging?  What other options might help this student?  Partner reading, reading and listening to a book on an electronic device?  Reading to a younger or older child?  Reading to a stuffed animal? Don't reprimand, find out the cause of the problem.
  6. Be Ready-Read, read, read yourself.  What's the latest and greatest in the genre a particular student likes?  What's newly published?  What will hook this reader?
  7. Teach Kids what Reading Engagement REALLY Is-We can't expect them to know if we don't help them see what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like.  Model, model, model. 
  8. Track Engagement-Use a class list and record.  Use a scale that works for you and your kids.  For example, 1-3. 1 meaning not there yet, 2 approaching expectations, 3 meeting expectations.  A couple of times a week do a "class sweep" at independent reading time.  What is a child doing when you look at him/her at that moment in time?  Yes, it's subjective, but you'll be amazed at how much it can help kids.  Do the sweep about 3 times in a 15 minute reading session.  For example Josie's score might look like this 2-3-3.
  9. Have Kids Track Their Own Progress-Choose a way for students to record their reading that is simple, yet informative. What do they want to know? What do you really need to know? Titles, genres, dates, pages read?  Choose carefully, they are all not necessary, and can get cumbersome quickly...what information will really make a difference for you and your students.  Tracking progress is not a one size fit all, differentiate book logs for the child.
  10. Set Incentives-Yes, I believe in bribing kids.  What is a great independent reading engagement goal for that child?  What will be a goal for an independent class reading session? What will be a goal for your whole class over time?  What will be the incentive?  Have fun with it, challenge kids, change it up, do many different things for short periods of time, reward and celebrate!
As always, my blog entries get too long, and I probably lost many readers after #1, or maybe even before. Yet, as a lifelong reader myself, it's a great way to reflect.  I leave you with one last thought from Donalyn Miller, "A classroom atmosphere that promotes reading does not come from the furniture and its placement as much as it comes from the teacher's expectation that students will read."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Reading Non-Negotiables

During the course of the last few years members of WCSU have been working on a variety of curriculum areas.  Many committees have formed to create lists of "non-negotiables" in the areas of reading, writing and math.  Committees are also at work in the areas of science and social studies. I have to admit, I don't like the term non-negotiables at all, it just has a negative connotation for me, but alas, I'm coming to grips with it, as I have had to with many things in my 30+ teaching career.  I've concluded that non-negotiables are the same as "bottom lines" for me, the necessities in a strong learning environment where all students can learn, and be nurtured.

Just this week I came across an excellent blog post by Russ Walsh that addresses reading non-negotiables. Russ Walsh has been a public school teacher, literacy specialist, curriculum supervisor and college instructor for over 45 years.  It's a comprehensive, to the point list that I totally agree with, this guy might be one of my new heroes!  The post in it's entirety can be viewed here Russ on Reading.  There are wonderful links within the post that support each of his non-negotiables.  Here are his "big ten" for your consideration.

  • Daily Read Aloud
  • Sharing Reading
  • Self-Selected Reading
  • One-to-One Conferring
  • Direct Instruction in Reading Strategies
  • Small Group Instruction
  • Rereading
  • Talk about Text
  • Writing in Response to Reading
  • Word Work

I'm not sure if Russ put his list in order of importance or not, but it might be the case.  I took a stab at what my "top ten" order might be, in David Letterman wasn't easy, but here goes.   Honestly, #1 and #10 were easy, after that, they seem pretty interchangeable!  I'm really not sure why I made myself do this...but that's another story!  It might be a great activity for an upcoming PD session, I'd love to hear the conversation!

10.  Word Work-sorry word work, I know you're important, but something needs to be #10!
9.    Sharing Reading
8.    Small Group Instruction
7.    Writing in Response to Reading
6.    Rereading
5.    Talk about Text
4.    One-to-One Conferring
3.    Direct Instruction in Reading Strategies
2.    Self-Selected Reading
1.    Daily Read Aloud-oh yeah!

What would your top ten order look like?  Please comment and share if you'd like!