Saturday, November 14, 2015

Growing Independent Reading Time with Our Youngest Literacy Learners

In the first weeks of our reading workshops we take careful and intentional steps to set the tone and develop routines for the work we will do as readers.  As readers, students will need time to read, think, and grow.  As teachers, we will need time to confer with our readers and work in small groups.  How do we build time for independence when the books students read can often be completed in less than five minutes?  As a teacher of readers, I value time, choice, genuine conversation, and opportunities to extend reading beyond the text.  Here are a few ways I find useful in stretching our time we spend with books and learning in reader's workshop:

Teach with Intention:  The focus lesson should set readers up for the work they will be doing.  The focus lesson starts our workshop and helps students to know what they will be thinking about as they go off to read.  Whether it is a new reading strategy or a way to think about the text, readers consider a plan of action that will help them to learn during this time.  Making time to share at the end reinforces this focus and celebrates the discoveries made during learning time.  Considering this focus and language to support new learning in conference conversations and small group work helps readers to make sense of new learning.

Develop Story:  Listen to students talk about the stories they are reading.  Do they point to pictures and discuss each page as a separate event or do they weave them together as a story?  Build story language in focus lessons, small groups, and peer conversations.  Help students learn to take the time they need to talk through the pictures when a book is too challenging, preview before reading, or to retell books they've read using story language.

Place Books Everywhere:  The less movement in a workshop the easier it is to work with readers.  Young readers haven't developed the stamina of their older peers and books take much less time.  Having baskets students can take with them for workshop and placing books all around the room will make it easy for students to find a place to nestle in to read.

Grow Book Conversations:  Help students learn to talk with peers about the stories they are reading.  Retelling, making connections, questioning, thinking about characters, comparing books, and learning to consider the author's message are all ways to build our understanding and engage in book conversations with our peers.

Value Thinking:  Allow flexible (optional) response.  The addition of digital tools has really grown the way we can respond to our reading.  Yes, we can use post-its, paper, or a notebook to draw and write about our thinking, but we can also share our thinking using digital tools that can be shared to expand the reach of our voice.  Blogs, creation tools (sketch noting, Educreations, Explain Everything, Pixie, etc.), and other digital spaces can help students expand their thinking beyond the text.  

Teach Balance:  We can't expect students to spend all of their time with leveled readers, but we also need them to be making smart choices.  If students understand balancing reading choices, they can not only spend time engaging as readers, but can begin to make intentional learning decisions.  I read books of a variety of challenge.  I spend the least amount of time with challenging books as I find I need time to think about them so I read in short bursts and spend much time thinking later.

Grow Possibilities:  Keep in mind the power of read aloud and shared reading for growing possibilities for young readers.  Choose books to read with students they will be able to return to and read independently after the whole class experience.

Keep Workshop Conversations about Learning:  If we're not careful, it can be easy to find ourselves talking about behavior over learning in our workshops.  When students are having a hard time engaging as readers we need to ask ourselves why and what we can do to help.  Is the task too challenging?  Are books available that match the reader's interest and ability?  Are students focused on learning and developing plans to grow as readers?  Does the classroom library need a lift?  Are students focused on new learning and thinking about books?  What do students need in order to be successful?

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1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it seems the teacher herself might need to look past the behaviors and see all the great strides readers are taking developing stamina, book choice, sharing thinking and behind a part of a reading community. We see what we look for and so do the kids- thanks for opening my eyes wider.