Are my students reading enough?

A common question from teachers is:  Are my students reading enough?  How much should my students be reading across the school day as we implement the Common Core?

“Volume of Reading” was the subject of my last blog post where I posed a question about how much text a second grader should be reading daily in order to “accelerate learning” to meet the demands of the Common Core.  This question began with information presented by Lucy Calkins in Chicago, January 25, 2013 titled Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement and sponsored by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

“Real learning requires an honest assessment of current reality.  The best teachers understand this and, consequently, they are never completely satisfied.” This quote comes from High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching by Jim Knight (p. 9), a book I am reading for our Wednesday night (9 pm CST) #educoach Twitter chat.

A simple course of action might be:

  1.  Honestly assess current reality of “Volume of Reading”
  2.  Review schedule / organizational framework for minutes that can be re-purposed for “Volume of Reading”
  3. Set a goal
  4.  Implement the plan with additional re-purposed time
  5. Set measurement times to collect formative data to determine whether “on course” to achieve the target

But just how would one go about completing step 1) honestly assessing the current reality of Volume of Reading?  Beginning mid-year in grade 1, teachers could consider using the process outlined below.

Use current assessment data to choose ONE student from each of the following three categories:  a high, medium and struggling reader.  The struggling reader for this data activity should not be a student identified as a student with an IEP or a student who does not have English as their first language.

Pick a day this week that seems to have a fairly normal schedule of activities (without special assemblies, field trips, etc.)  On this one day, collect the text read by those students.

What could that look like?  Give each of the three children their own color of arrow post its.  Tell them you are conducting an experiment and they are going to help you.

When the day begins, meet with those three students and give them their post its.  Ask them to mark their starting and ending points when reading with the post its.  Give them a hand signal as a “special prompt’ to remind them to mark their reading.  Put a special basket or tub next to their desk or work area for them to place their books after tagged with the arrows.

Collect beginning and ending arrows for these students for text “read” during the day. If your students are reading text online, you will have to devise a recording system that is “doable” on your devices, browser, and documents (transferring to Word would be advantageous because “word count” could automatically give you total words read).

At the end of the day, count the words read and add up the totals by the individual students according to the scheduled activity.

Your list / data chart might look something like:

Reading – Student 1 ____ words; Student 2 _____ words; Student 3 _____ words

Science – Student 1 _____ words; Student 2 _____ words; Student 3 _____ words

Initial questions for your data:

  • How many total words did Students 1, 2, and 3 read?
  • Were there any surprises in the data?
  • When did the big “chunks” of reading occur?
  • Was this honestly a “typical” day of reading for your class?
  • How accurate do you believe that the students were in recording their “start” and “stop” points?
  • (Additional questions will come from your data)

Please note that I did not say this would be easy!  Data collection is often messy and time-consuming. And why three levels?  If you are differentiating instruction and/or using leveled books, it is possible that the number of words read will vary due to different texts or assignments with text over the course of the day. And also note that this is my idea based on previous “counts” encouraged by Richard Allington as we look at students accumulated reading across every day.  I did NOT say or imply that Lucy Calkins said to collect this data.

What’s next?

Move on to step 2. Review schedule / organizational framework for minutes that can be re-purposed for “Volume of Reading”

How could this information guide your instruction? What could / would you do differently after collecting this data?

3 responses

  1. I see the possibilities, but think we’d increase time anyway, because of what you wrote: teachers “are never completely satisfied…” So… Will your next post please be about how we can increase this time? 😉 Thank you for putting so much thought into this post!

    1. Joy, I just posted “Finding Reading Time” so I hope that you find some useful ideas there. I worry when folks immediately demand longer school days, before and after school programs and summer programs. I am not sure that we are studying how we use the time currently available for instruction!

      I appreciate your reply!

  2. […] Are your students reading enough? and provided a way to sample/ measure reading to determine increases in reading volume, and  […]

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