Friday, August 19, 2016

Who's Doing the Work?

This summer I've done a fair amount of professional reading.  There is one text that has really stuck with me and is constantly jumping into my thoughts as I prepare for the school year ahead. Drum roll please...
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Who's Doing the Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris!  I read this book very quickly the first time, I actually didn't need to read more than the first few pages to get hooked and since then I've recommended it to everyone!  Well, not quite everyone, but, every educator I know would truly benefit from this book.  Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris write with experience, knowledge and thought. 


The book sets the stage for what the authors call, next generation reading instruction.  It's all about identifying ways in which students can support themselves, struggle a bit to make progress, persevere and make gains that will stick with them. It's about teachers stopping the practice of giving students permanent scaffolds that create learned helplessness.  

Burkins and Yaris tackle the "big four" instructional reading practices of read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.  They take these four and examine the "traditional" structure of them, and then share ideas for adjustments that put "most of the work" on students, rather than teachers; therefore creating  a model that represents "next generation reading instruction".  Although the tweaks are not totally profound or new, they certainly are thought provoking.  The book causes an educator to think, reflect, and reexamine past practices.  It's impossible to put all of this in a blog post, but here are some big ideas on the "big four".

Read Aloud: "A teaching structure that introduces students to the joy of constructing meaning from text." (Burns & Yaris p. 29)

Next Generation Read-Aloud:  Focuses on reading engagement with limited, intentional teacher talk. Offers opportunities for students to create knowledge together. 

Things to do, look for and consider in regard to read-aloud:

  • Let the book do the teaching, just read for the love of reading
  • Listen to student discussions about the text.  What can you learn?
  • Reread texts several times. 
  • Video yourself during a read-aloud~use it for your own reflection and formative data on student engagement. Are students selecting books that you have read aloud for independent reading?
  • Choose books carefully, think about high engagement and opportunities for students to think well beyond the read aloud time.
  • Keep it joyful!  Explicit instruction is secondary.
  • Keep teacher interruption and talking to a MINIMUM!
  • Read across genres.
  • Let student responses and questions guide discussion.
  • Repurpose read aloud books by using them again in shared reading, guided reading and for independent reading.
  • Students should be active during read aloud, smiling, aha-ing, laughing, remarking, etc!


Shared Reading:  "An instructional structure designed to support students as they read texts that would otherwise be too difficult for them to access independently." (Burns and Yaris, p. 54)  Teacher and students engage in the work simultaneously and together, solve problems the reading presents.

Next Generation Shared Reading:  Provides opportunities for student reading growth.  Conversations help students transfer reading strategies to guided and independent reading sessions.  The engaged structure of shared reading gives students exposure to the power of books and encourages students to read challenging, engaging texts.

Things to do, look for and consider in regard to shared reading:

  • Use current news reading as shared text. Time for Kids, Scholastic News, web publications, etc.
  • Share poems.
  • Video a shared reading lesson to reflect on how much work students are doing during the lesson in comparison to your talking.  Share and discuss the video with colleagues.
  • Provide copies of the shared text for students to read during independent reading.
  • Minimally explain how to solve difficulties when reading, instead support students as they figure things out themselves.
  • Help students name the strategies they use when problem solving,
  • Document discoveries, strategies on anchor charts so students can refer to them later.
  • Get into the text quickly, don't scaffold or set up too much~let the reading do the work!
  • All students need to see the words and illustrations well.  Consider:  print size, angle of book, placement of students, lighting, glare. 
  • Use open-ended prompts-What do you notice? What else do you notice? What can you try?  How do you know?  How can you check?
  • Create a running anchor chart where you record decoding and comprehension strategies students use.
  • Keep the pace of the lesson quick and sharp.  Don't prolong the lesson!  Stop while it's still fun!
  • Observe student reading behaviors at other times so you'll know what behaviors you want or need to focus on during a shared reading session.
  • Create a reader's theater about the shared reading text.
  • Shared reading is NOT:  independent reading, round-robin reading, when the teacher talks throughout the lesson.

Guided Reading: "A small-group, teacher-facilitated learning session where student practice integrated reading strategies.  During these sessions, students with similar reading levels and needs gather to read an 'instructional' level text that has been carefully selected for the particular group of students." (Burns & Yaris p. 77-78)

Next Generation Guided Reading: Students work in small groups from texts at their instructional level.  The teacher does less direct instruction, more observation on how students puzzle through text.  "Next generation guided reading involves less guiding and more responsive following." (Burns & Yaris p. 100)

Things to do, look for and consider in regard to guided reading:

  • Facilitate rather than direct the lesson.  Direct instruction only happens when absolutely essential.
  • Observe students as they tackle challenges.
  • Teacher talk is minimal
  • Don't lead, follow the lead of the student.
  • Provide ample time for student reading, coach in.
  • Encourage experimentation and growth mindset.  Provide general guidance with prompts:  What do you notice? What will you try?  What can you do next?  What should we do to get started?  Try that word/sentence again.  Is that right? How can you check? How else do you know?
  • Students should be problem solving and discussing amongst themselves for most of the session.
  • Students read at their own pace, teacher listens in to individuals.
  • Offer support, but don't replace student problem solving.
  • Make engagement and student interest the most important when selecting texts.
  • Video a lesson, how much wait time do you give students? How much talking are kids doing? Review the lesson with colleagues.
  • Limit the amount of time spent with each student.
  • Make connections between guided reading, shared reading, and read aloud.
  • The book is too hard if you have to talk a lot to get students through it.
  • Collect running records, anecdotal data as you work with students.
  • Count to 8-10 before giving students prompts.
  • Have someone observe you lessons and pay attention to student interaction with the text vs. how much time you spend talking.
  • Challenge yourself to see how quickly you can turn over the work to students.
  • Create a workable, user friendly system for recording running records.

Independent Reading: The last step of gradual release, student practice skills and strategies using texts that have been self-selected based upon reading interests and ability.

Next Generation Independent Reading: Emphasis is on reading for its own sake.  Reading a lot of authentic texts for meaning and pleasure is emphasized.  "Students understand that different texts are just right for different purposes and are likely to be in the middle of two or three texts at once." (Burns & Yaris p. 106).

Things to do, look for and consider in regard to Independent Reading:

  • Explicitly teach independent reading procedures and expectations.
  • Let students read more than one book during a session, especially if difficulty varies.
  • Guide student choices through book talks, displays, sharing time.
  • Respect multiple definitions for "just-right" books because books are just right for different purposes.
  • Build stamina gradually~stop independent reading when students are still engaged.
  • Allow students to reread favorites!
  • Students self-select text most of the time.
  • Student engagement is HIGH!
  • Students read a variety of text: picture books, magazines, chapter books, various genres, etc.
  • Students select text across a range of levels for different reading purposes.
  • Students identify tricky parts and how they resolved them.
  • Teachers connect, converse, coach, celebrate with students.
  • Students spend most or ALL of their independent reading time READING!
  • Students make brief notes or "jots" about their reading process or books they are reading.
  • Anchor charts support independence.
  • Students are excited about books and eager to talk about them.
  • Students find comfortable spots and can make adjustments independently as necessary.
Hopefully you were able to sustain your independent reading and puzzle through this blog post. I hope it was enticing enough to inspire you to read the book, because I really didn't do it justice!  It's available for borrowing in the PD office!







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