When I arrived in the classroom to sit beside readers in a second grade workshop the teacher was finishing her focus lesson. The class was talking about buddy reading. What would it look like? Students were all nestled tightly together around their teacher as she wrote their thinking on a piece of chart paper. Students were full of ideas of what it should look like. When they finished their chart contained many ideas for making sure that buddy reading looked and sounded as they hoped it would in their community.
They wrapped up their discussion and were sent off to get started reading. Buddies chose books. Buddies selected spaces. Buddies sat side by side with their book between them and began to read. It was interesting to watch the different ways they worked. Some took turns reading parts. Some stopped often to talk about their reading. Some asked questions. Some talked about what was happening in the story. Yes --- and occasionally one buddy took over.
If we can find a place to start, our communities have a way of moving us forward. It wasn't long until I started to notice the change in students as they moved from what buddy reading should look like to the thinking and making meaning reading requires. While students had focused earlier on what it might look and sound like, they were quickly pushing the conversation to a new level as they started to work with their friend to understand their reading. It wasn't long until we started to hear students saying:
- "We're helping each other when the reading gets tricky."
- "We're comparing characters."
- "We're stopping after each page to talk about what happened."
- "We're stopping to talk about what we think will happen next."
- "Can we get post-its to record our thinking?"
- "I didn't think I would be interested in the book my friend chose, but he is teaching me to be interested in new things."
Sometimes we step into our lessons knowing what students need, but unsure how we will get there. Sometimes we just need to get started. Students have a way of helping us to find what is next. If we slow down enough to listen all of the answers are right there. When given time, opportunity, and a bit of room students will help guide us. If we listen - really listen - the next steps are right there in the gems students share. Our only task is look each over carefully and determine the gems we can use to move forward with our learning communities.