Friday, July 19, 2013

Getting Back to the Reading Zone

At our school the emphasis is on an individualized reading program, one based on knowing what the students' reading level is and supporting each child to become a stronger, engaged reader over time.  While we use some selections from the authorized resources as mentor texts or for small group instruction, the use of  a whole class set of novels is no longer a par of our pedagogy. One of the key components of this reading program is time to read school and through our expectation of Home Reading.

While teachers have worked to include different approaches in their classrooms to support students' growth as readers such as building large classroom libraries, developing a room of shared levelled texts, establishing guided reading groups, incorporating Daily 5 and encouraging Home Reading with logs, several of us have also adopted aspects of  Reading Workshop.

Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6  has framed much of what is done in my reading classroom.  Their suggestions and rationale for establishing a Reading (and Writing)Workshop are well-thought out and clearly described.

Reading Workshop (60 min.)
A booktalk/minilesson followed by groups for  
Independent Reading
Guided Reading and Literature Study/Book Club
Then meet for Group Share and Evaluation                     (Adaptation of Fig. 4-1 P. 40)

I particularly enjoyed how this schedule provides structured time to meet with small groups of students and individuals to strategically teach and support readers at different stages.

But I think I have gotten away from something vital in my organization and expectations for reading. The students who enter my classroom as readers stay readers but those students who have yet to be hooked by a book, many of them still struggling to read well, are not always 'caught' by the whole reading response and reading log requirement. Reading is work for them and I have been adding to that association with some of what I have done.

Image from here 

It took several years before I found a balance between my beliefs about working with young readers and writers and the constraints of a prescribed curriculum, but I felt I had achieved it...until this past year. It seemed to take more prompting to get kids to open their books for silent, independent reading, more of them "forgot" to do their reading at home or grumbled about it and more of them did not meet the goal set for the number of books to completed.

If I want them to enjoy reading first and foremost, then something has to give.

I was inspired many years ago by Nancie Atwell's In The Middle passed to me by a colleague at the high school level. It was actually this book about Atwell's work with intermediate students that motivated me to try writing and reading workshops, as best I could, with grade five students.  When I started thinking about what to do now, my thoughts naturally went back to that time and that feeling of being passionate about reading in my classroom.

Nancie's passion as a reading teacher is evident in her books and in this response she gave to an New York Times article about student choice in reading.  And so I am reading her book The Reading Zone!

Image from here
I know what it feels to be in the zone, to feel that "happy state of engagement" and I want that for my students!

So I am reading, re-reading and reflecting on what to change, what to improve and maybe even what to omit from my Reading Classroom this fall. 

*What will silent reading look like? How to find more time for that?
*How can I increase student choice?
*What will I do with my classroom library?
*How can I make the best use of our elementary book room and the Resource Center library?
*How will the sharing of books look?
*What recording will I do of what has been read? Or how will I have students do that?

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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