Friday, July 15, 2011

Looking closer at independent reading...

I had read in Jennifer Serravallo's book, Teaching Reading in Small Groups, that "My very first job as a classroom teacher is to get children to feel that reading is for them and to help them identify themselves as "readers," (page 95).  This quote dug deep at thoughts I have been having this summer about independent reading time in the classroom.  I made a list of what I believe about independent reading.  The list contained the beliefs that independent reading should be on purpose and not a filler, it should contain choice and the students should really own what they are reading, it should occur in a predictable structure, the students will need to be engaged to develop plans that support their reading life, that the reading experiences should be authentic, and the students need to be aware of their reading life. So...where is the evidence of it going to be in my classroom?  Here is a new idea I am trying in the fall...

The predictable structure in which independent reading occurs will be a block of time (hopefully building their stamina to 30 minutes, but will start with whatever they can do) just prior to reading workshop. By having it right before reading workshop, the students will be focused on independent reading and they can go back to reading while I work with small groups (strategy groups, book clubs, guided reading, etc...)  after the mini-lesson.  The block will start with Status of the Class so I can hear the title of the book that the student chose and the page the student is starting on.  Then...the kids will read!  I will observe and participate in individual conferences focused on their reading behaviors and strategies.  At the end of the independent reading block, the students will ponder if they need to fill in two forms:

My Reading Log:  This is a log that students complete with the date the book was completed, title, author, and number of pages in the whole book.  The students will only fill in the log if the book was completed.  My status of the class information taken earlier will already tell me how much reading they accomplished that day.   I want the students to spend less time writing down what they are reading daily and spend that time reading! Example

Looking closer at my reading graph:  When a book has been completed, the student will use this graph to make their reading trends visible.  The students will read the categories at the bottom of the graph and write the title of the book in a box if it applies.  It is feasible that a child could write that title several times because it may fit in multiple categories.  The categories listed are the ones that I am currently focusing on for instruction.  The graph has three blank categories at the end for the student and I to set reading goals.  Any time the student and I feel that they need to collect information, we will make it their reading goal on the graph.  For example, right now I want to know the following, was the book a picture book, chapter book, fiction, non-fiction, and was it one they read before.  If I notice that the student mentions that they want to read more Andrew Clements books, we can make one of the blank categories an "Andrew Clements" column.  That way, every time the student completes a book the goal will be staring at them on the graph to remind them about their reading plan. Example

I am anxious to see how this will work!  I think the graph will really support the students when reflecting on their reading choices, will individualize each student's reading life, and will support the student's metacognition.  Hopefully overtime, the graph may take form to other self-created reading logs, but I want to start supporting their authentic reading experiences with a tool that is visible and supports their individual reading journeys.

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