Tag Archives: Volume of Reading

Guarantee Quality Reading: Every Day, Every Child

In the last week, I have asked

Successful reading  does not happen in a vacuum.  How do you know that each precious moment is spent on the “right things”?  How do you know that you have high-quality reading instruction?  How can you make reading time more effective for “Every Child, Every Day” within your daily schedule?

Today my media specialist colleague, Kristin Steingreaber, reminded me of a March, 2012 ASCD article where Richard Allington and Rachel Gabriel advocated for six elements of reading instruction in this Educational Leadership article  titled, “Every Child, Every Day.”  This was the issue that was labeled as “Reading: The Core Skill.”

They said, . . . “educators often make decisions about instruction that compromise or supplant the kind of experiences all children need to become engaged, successful readers. This is especially true for struggling readers, who are much less likely than their peers to participate in the kinds of high-quality instructional activities that would ensure that they learn to read.”*

What do educators need to do today and every day (11 months later)?

Here are the four items that focus very specifically on reading:

1. “Every child reads something he or she chooses.

2. Every child reads something he or she understands.

3. Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.

4. Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud.” *


Are all four of those elements a part of your reading workshop every day, for every child?

If not, why not?

Remember that all four are research-based strategies that have been proven beneficial for all students!

What are you waiting for?

 Allington, Richard L. and Gabriel, Rachael E.   “Every Child, Every Day.”  March 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 6.  Reading: The Core Skill Pages 10-15

Finding Minutes for Reading


This is the 4th post in a series that began after hearing Lucy Calkins in Chicago on January 25th.  The ideas expressed in this post are not from Lucy’s presentation but instead come from work with teachers in my area.

Recapping the Series:

  • Common Core:  A Promise?  A Failure?
  • Volume of Reading?  How much is “enough”?
  • Are my students reading enough?  This post introduced a course of action to consider the current status of reading in your classroom that included:
  1.  Honestly assess current reality of “Volume of Reading” (looking at three readers)
  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

And today’s call to action:  2. Review schedule/organizational/instructional framework for minutes that can be re-purposed for “Volume of Reading.”

In this post, I am asking you as the teacher to reflect on both your efficiency and effectiveness as a teacher.  What is working?  What is not?  How do you know?  should be constant questions circling through your brain as you search through your day for minutes that you can re-purpose for increased student reading.  Do note that not all of these will necessarily apply to you and your classroom.  If you are not interested in change, please go read something else.  This post is specifically designed to make you consider time utilization across the many facets of your day!

Mathematically, why does this matter?  I am going to include a second grade comparison for each item listed below.  I will be assuming an average second grader reading approximately 100 words per minute.  So if “5 minutes are found” that will allow the student to read approximately 500 more words.  There is a possibility that if “20 minutes are found” across the day, the student could read 2000 more words and be more likely to be on target to meet the promise of the Common Core English Language Arts Anchor Standards!

A. Talk less; Watch and listen more. Students read and write more!

You have a relationship with your students so conversations with students are critical.  Greet them at the door for personal messages that the entire class does not need to hear. Establish routines for efficient collection of information  such as lunch choices, changes in after school transportation or receipt of communications from home.  Shifting the focus for “Sharing” after 1st semester in first grade to focus on something that the student has read or written will enable all readers and writers to know that “literacy is the focus” in your classroom!  Who is doing the work in the classroom?  Is the teacher the “main talker”?  If you believe the person talking is doing the learning . . . what are the implications for your classroom? (5 minutes found at beginning of day and 5 minutes after lunch = 10 minutes or 1000 additional words read)

B. Shorten mini-lessons or focus lessons! 

Consider how many times across the day that you provide explicit instruction including modeling.  How long are each of those focus or mini-lessons?  If they are more than 10 minutes for first and second grade, shorten them.  If they are more than 15 minutes for all other grades, shorten them. Multiple shorter focus lessons are typically more effective if students are then immediately applying those actions in their own reading and writing.  Using a gradual release of responsibility model allows for more student reading and writing during a “guided instruction/productive group work” phase.  Consider using visual prompts that keep you on track with only the critical components as you strive for students to become independent readers and writers.   And remember that the mini-lesson or focus lesson does not always have to be “first” in the instruction.  Not sure about the effectiveness of your mini-lesson or focus lesson?  Video record your mini-lessons for one day and review later with a critical friend to discuss the content and length. (shortening 2 mini-lessons each day = 5 minutes found or 500 additional words read)

C.  Consider whole class instructional activities.

How long does whole class instruction last? How often during a day do you use whole class instruction?  By the end of the instruction, are 80% or more of the students successful which would indicate that your core instruction, in this case whole class instruction, is effective?  If not, consider including more partner work where students are reading or writing to/ or with a partner.  With this structure the teacher can check the understanding of even more students, saving precious moments for all. Students will also be able to spend more time reading and writing if they are not waiting for response time in a large group setting. (Students are reading more during instruction so 5 minutes found = 500 additional words read; each time whole class instruction is used!)

D. Reduce the number of worksheets.  Doug Fisher (Gradual Release of Responsibility) calls them “shut-up sheets.” Many worksheets are typically an “assessment” that is completed individually that addresses the question, “Do I know the answer the teacher/publisher wants?” (Honestly, name the last 5 worksheets that you filled out in real life!) If students are reading and writing A LOT, they should have text that invites deep discussion and even argumentation with the author or characters.  Students should have learned some content from the text which would be the ultimate goal from the Common Core English Language Arts Anchor Standards. (Continue for other accountability measures) ( 1 worksheet = 10 found minutes = 1000 additional words read x the number of worksheets across the day)

E. Stop round robin and popcorn reading immediately.  Most students do not follow along.  We know that because students tell us that it is wasted time while they count out their parts.  (Besides, it was not effective for us when we were in school either.)  Do not slow down the whole class to go at the pace of the slowest.  Round robin/popcorn reading is not an example of hearing good models of reading either.  For many students it is a very frustrating, cold read.  Instead, add in more partner work.  Read to someone / partner reading is a better structure that will maximize learning for both students working together, especially when the listener has to summarize the events before he or she begins reading!  Small individual accountability routines could include “pair-share” or “numbered heads together.” (20 minutes found / 2 readers = 10 minutes each student= 1000 additional words read)

F. General classroom management – Consider when all students are waiting in the hall in a line to go to the restroom, get a drink, etc. If you have 25 students and this takes 5 minutes, that is a total of  125 minutes of student time gone.  What would be a better structure?  Don’t forget to ask your students for input!  Involving them in decisions fosters independence.  Other considerations might include responding to some of these questions:  Do students have to wait to ask the teacher for specific tasks like sharpening a pencil or going to the library to get a resource. (Accountability – physical “passes” that are taken with them as the student completes the out of classroom task)  How can these tasks be handled efficiently and maximize both teacher and student time and energy? Consider the “flow” of classroom tasks and activities.  Is there a workshop model in place that allows students to move seamlessly from task to task? (10 minutes found across day = 1000 additional words read)

Pick one and get started.   Removing inefficient time barriers to reading is a critical task that teachers can undertake immediately that will result in increased time for reading for ALL students!

Where will you start?

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?

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