My two favorite phrases from the TCRWP August 19 Reading Institute were “Thank you for coming to school today” and “Mine the resources”. Both of these were a part of Shana Frazin’s session ‘When We Know Books, Readers, and Skill Development, We Can Accelerate Students Past Sticky Points at Levels K, M, and R (3-8).”
When stuck at ANY level, we can NOT slow down our instruction to a snail’s pace. We can NOT continue to allow students to languish in levels and continue what is currently not being effective and HOPE that this time the results will be different.
What I learned this week is that teaching so students are not stuck, so students can be independent readers, so students can transfer their reading work means the teacher must be proactive in their practices. If serious about this work you will need to find a colleague and talk about those times of trouble for your students.
“Face them head on!” said Lucy Calkins in our Monday keynote in Riverside Church.
Then plan proactively.
After this week I believe there are three key areas where I can be proactive and prevent students from being stuck.
1. Skill Development. Introduce the skills of the text band complexity work during an interactive read aloud BEFORE the unit begins. What if students are beginning this thinking work during the Read Aloud where students are not focused on the decoding and accuracy work? What if we ensure that students have more practice time? What if we ante up the quality of that practice time with more judicious use of the tools in the units of study from the previous grades? And to enhance our own practices, what if we spy on ourselves as readers more to figure out which skills we use, when we use them, and how a series of instruction might go?
2. Readers. We used daily graphs, book buzzes, partners and small group work to build our community daily. We didn’t use reading inventories (the infamous Garfield one comes to mind) but instead used TALK built around just a few of those questions. Why talk? Because we are social creatures and we were also building community simultaneously. Who had a book similar to mine? Where might I go for my next book selection advice? Which person, who is not the teacher, will be that conduit? This part of building reading habits through talk seems more purposeful and critical than ever before . . . knowing the students and building that relationship. An “all in” reading life is important! And to enhance our own practices, what if we participate in adult book groups or a study group with more talk around a book that our students love and we have never read?
3. Books. We have to know books. As the Co-Director of the Classroom Libraries of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project this was an area where Shana’s knowledge and passion clearly intersected. Books are critical to student reading success and we need to know them as well as all the non-text-based reading that students do in order to build meaningful and purposeful connections. One way we did that this week was to have book baskets and baggies present every day. Access matters. As teachers we also need to consider ways for students to become experts in books. Increasing student expertise matters. We must be readers and must stay current in our knowledge of series for students because there is almost 100% correlation between series reader and lifetime reading. Increasing teacher expertise matters. Kids who have access to well-stocked, well-maintained, current classroom libraries read 50% more than others! An “all in” reading life is important to build that book knowledge and help us locate our own dependable sources of book recommendations! But do we know the books and the expectations for student understanding of the types of tasks that students will be asked to do in the grades previous to us? If not, we may need to visit that work in previous Units of Study. And to enhance our own practices, what if we shared with our colleagues all the sources that we use to stay informed about books that our students want to read, choose to read, and increase their own curiosity about themselves and their world?
As a final note, I don’t see skill development, readers, and books operating separately so I would not be writing myself a goal in one of these areas and working on them separately. Reading is complex and when all three of these factors are the layers of the instruction, student readers are the winners. Students are then able to use their knowledge to build, increase and transfer the critical aspects of their reading life to their lives both in and out of school!