Saturday, April 19, 2014

Growing Our Reading Community: Learning from Older Readers

Learning from Older Readers
This time of year, I always enjoy eavesdropping into conversations about books.  Students have learned so much about how to think about books across the year and this thinking seems to be woven into the conversations they have with friends.  Still, for young readers, the value of strong models is essential.  This spring we've paired with our fifth grade book buddies to focus on having thoughtful conversations around books.  All year we've been meeting with our fifth graders and the students have developed a strong learning friendship.

Readers talk together about books.  Across the year each fifth grader has been paired with one first grader.  They've been reading a book and then talking together about it.  As first graders have developed an ability to think and talk more deeply about their reading, it seemed like a good time to take a step back and look at the power of a conversation about a book.

Modeling a Book Talk
To help support the first graders in more focused book conversations, we put two pairs together.  Each pair read the same title and then came together to talk about the book.  During the first meeting, the fifth graders did most of the talking.  In our second meeting, the four readers all participated in the conversation.  During these meetings we chose books the first graders were already familiar with from our classroom;  books we had read aloud across the year.  We wanted them to be able to concentrate on the conversation.

A few days later, a group of fifth graders came down and modeled a book club talk in our circle.  We watched and then talked about our observations.  After watching the first graders noticed the way their older friends talked to each other.

  • The older readers always went back to the book to support their thinking.  
  • They took turns with one another. 
  • They really listened to their friends. 
  • They actually passed the book to one another and the one with the book was always talking.

They also noticed the way they talked about their reading.

  • They often talked about the setting of the story.
  • They shared their favorite part(s).
  • They talked about important details from their reading.
  • They talked about the character (action, intent, feelings, etc.). 
  • They made connections.
  • They talked together about confusing parts.

My students observations weren't just a matter of circumstance.  Our fifth graders plan carefully for these conversations.  They know my goals for my students, and they work to bridge vocabulary and language.  They spend much time looking at the books they'll be reading and preparing for their conversations.  They provide thoughtful guidance.  My students look up to these older readers and their relationships have grown across the year.

These conversations have helped us to deepen the book conversations in our classroom and help us move toward book clubs.  Our book buddies continue to meet every two weeks to discuss books.  Sometimes readers bring different books and sometimes they bring the same books.  They ask each other questions and talk about they author's message.  Most of all, they're sharing a love of books reinforced by these special peer relationships.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I think the will be a great help for our building buddy time next year!