We read every day starting in late October for first-years and in late September for second-years. I set the timer for eleven or twelve minutes and I tell the kids we are going to read for nine minutes. Single digits just sound more approachable to the kids. So shhhhh, let’s just keep that secret between us, OK?
I am doing more of a Reading Workshop approach rather than a Sustained Silent Reading approach. The main difference is that instead of reading with the students, I am working as a reading coach: taking data, assessing, and conferring with the readers in class. I quickly know who’s a self-motivated reader, who’s disengaged, who’s having a hard time finding an engaging and comprehensible text, and what kinds of texts each reader prefers. As they read, I’m watching the class, conferring with individuals, and assessing/taking data on them.
I have thought long and hard about how to grade or assess their reading. I don’t want to put too many extra activities in the reading time because I want them to spend that time reading. I also want them to stay motivated. I’ve found that reading logs and summaries and book reports decrease motivation. But I do want to hold them accountable for reading, for interacting with text. I want my assessments and grades to support them in finding texts they like to read and developing metacognitive skills and habits that help them grow stronger as readers.
For those reasons, I developed this Habits of Strong Readers rubric. As they read, I watch them. I assess them on their focus, their persistence at finding a can’t-put-it-down book/text, their word attack skills.
At the beginning of the week, I give them a 100% on the reading score for As they read, I watch the class. I adjust the grade daily to reflect their performance. If I notice that a particular reader is struggling, I slip over to them, usually with some different text choices and my conferring notebook in hand, and talk quietly with them to help with their reading habits.
I make notes of the texts the students are reading. If a reader is switching books frequently, I might suggest they take a stack of shorter texts back to their seat. If they are finishing lots of shorter texts, I might bring them a beginner chapter book and tell them they’re looking ready to try a more challenging text. I always assure them they can always abandon a book if it’s not interesting to them.
This year, I will set the students up with a reading partner. They will have a book box where they can keep their current texts and the “on-deck” texts they want to read later. I might have them “shop” for new texts on Mondays, to set themselves up for the week.
With or without partners and book boxes, I do not allow “shopping” during reading time. That time is sacred, silent, and set aside for reading only. I encourage them to bring several texts to their seats so that they can switch if need be, but I don’t allow them to get up and search for another book. I’ve seen far too many kids spend day after day hanging out at the book boxes, avoiding time on texts. I tell them if you’re not happy with your selections today, that’s great. You just learnt something about yourself as a reader. That’s growth! But I still make them sit with their selections the whole time. Otherwise, they will not have time to reflect on what wasn’t a good fit about their selection.
I will write more about conferring with readers once I begin that. Right now, my second-years are the only ones reading and we are mainly working on procedures and logistics. They have different procedures than last year because I asked them to all challenge themselves by choosing a chapter book. Most of them read at least one last year and many of them finished five or more chapter books. But I want them to finish more this year.
So they now have one class book box with their current selections in it. I will allow them to switch if they hate the book, of course, or if it’s too hard. I never say it’s too hard though. I say it is boring. Blame the book, not the reader, is my strategy. And of course these conversations happen one-on-one. I don’t want to tell the whole class a particular title is boring, of course! What’s boring to one reader might fascinate another. That’s one major reason I do only a choice reading program. The differentiation.