Can Silent Reading Be Meaningful for Students?

Can Silent Reading Be Meaningful for Students?

We’ve heard it all in regards to programs like D.E.A.R., SSR, Independent Reading Time, etc.

“It’s a waste of instructional time.”

“It doesn’t work.  Students aren’t really reading, they’re faking.”

“SSR-oh, you mean the time each day that a teacher checks email?  Get rid of it.”

The question still remains, is there a place for students to read independently, a book of their choice, every day during class?  And the answer is, indubitably, yes.  From the works of Pam Allyn of LitWorld, Ernest Morrell, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Richard Allington, not to mention the whisperings of my own soul, the research behind this practice is conclusive. According to the article by Richard Allington referenced in my last post, students must read something they choose every single day.  This is fundamental in any quality classroom literacy program.  Period.

So, to the teacher reading this, I feel the frustration.  With all of the demands and expectations consistently put on the classroom teacher, how can this possibly occur everyday?  The assemblies, last minute meetings, being summoned to duty, grades, CASSPP preparation, picture day, fire drills, curriculum guides, pacing, essential targets…the list goes on and on.  I have said this before, the struggle is real.  And as much as I prescribe to this belief of students reading everyday from a  self-selected book, there were many years that I did not make this happen.  (Side note: We have to forgive ourselves in those instances and then, aspire to do better tomorrow.)

I will share what finally worked for me in achieving my dream of a meaningful independent reading time that occurred every single day.  Here’s the shortlist.

  1. Write it in your planbook.
    • I mean, legitimately and intentionally select a block of time that will be labeled IRT (independent reading time).  For me, it was in the morning.  The first 45 minutes at my school site was the intervention/ELD block.  The next 15 minutes was IRT.  As soon as the students returned from their designated groups, they didn’t wait in a line outside my door, they entered quickly and quietly, picked up their books and started reading.  (Waiting in line took up too much time as the students were all returning at different times—and minutes matter!)
  2. Decide what YOU, the teacher, will be doing during this time. Then, DO IT. 
    • Resources that guided me were:
    • As alluring as it may be, this was not the time that I completed the endless list of things that we, teachers, have to do. This was the time that I did the following:
      • Walked the room with my class sheet, conferencing with students, recording anecdotal data.  My routine was based off of “Rick’s Reading Workshop”.  Implementing this routine was one of the most powerful things I have ever done as a teacher.  I found out more about these students in 15 minutes than I had in entire months.  Don’t hesitate–just try it.
      • When I wasn’t ‘walking’ the room, I was conferencing with students using their Reader’s Notebook as my guide.  (Please see post regarding Donalyn Miller’s 40 Book Challenge for more information.)
  3. Stick to it.  The entire year. 
    • No matter how tempting it might be—do NOT abandon this routine.  The beginning of the year is rough, as is implementing any routine with students, but it WILL pay off.
    • There will always be something that can ‘pop’ up and masquerade itself as more important.  So, yes, you will be enticed to throw it out for more math time, perhaps.  Don’t.  Nothing is more important.

There you have it.  Please share the routines and resources you have used to give students more access and choice for reading.

 

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Rick’s notebook where he records all the student data collected during this time.  Provides another option instead of data sheets.  I like it.

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They Must Read Every Day

They Must Read Every Day

Screen shot 2016-07-14 at 4.26.55 PMI’m not sure what everyone else is reading, but lately I have been addicted to my “Educational Leadership” magazine.  This is ASCD’s flagship publication and I highly recommend it.  Currently, I’m reading an archived issue, ‘Reading-The Core Skill’.  (You can purchase these for approximately $8-$14.)  

As some of you know, I am teaching summer school and working with teacher candidates, a.k.a. student teachers.  I have had the pressure-I mean the privilege!- of sharing everything I can in regards to literacy in 5 weeks.  Gulp.

As if the stars were in alignment, I just happen to have finished Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel’s phenomenal article, “Every Child, Every Day”.   This article highlights the six elements of effective reading instruction that do not require much time or money.  Please take the time to read the article linked above, but for this post’s sake, I’ll post the six elements of instruction that every child should experience every day.

  1. Every child reads something he or she chooses.
  2. Every child reads accurately.
  3. Every child reads something he or she understands.
  4. Every child writes about something personally meaningful.
  5. Every child talks with peers about reading and writing.
  6. Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud.

Let’s take some time to focus on element #1.  How can teachers consistently make this happen in their classroom?  Is it possible?  Is there time?  The answer is yes.  It can happen and it must happen.  But we all know the realities of the classroom, and the struggle is real–assemblies, fire drills, sick days, students taking longer than expected on a unit, and the list goes on.  I get it.  So what might we do?

In my next post I will share with you the strategy that finally worked for me.  In my last years in the classroom, I was able to achieve a meaningful reading time every single day.

Penny Kittle Says It All

Not much needs to be said here, watch the video.  She says it all.
Not much needs to be said here, watch the video. She says it all.

This is a stand alone post, something that should be viewed and reflected upon at the beginning of the school year.  Thank you, Penny Kittle.

Take 5 minutes to sit and listen.

Thoughts?

 

Donalyn Miller: The Hero that Liberated Me

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A couple of years ago, I was validated and inspired by Ms. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.  If you have not yet read this book, it is a must.  Immediately after turning the last page, I went straight to my computer and tried to format and create an effective and explicit way to begin a book challenge.  I cannot express enough how this program has not only liberating me, but also my students.  See you later points, benching students with a book in hand, read only at your level regardless of your interest, ugh.  I’m over all of it.  And Ms. Miller’s book allowed me to feel confident to do what I knew was right all along.

Click Here for formatted documents:  Book Whisperer: 40 Book Challenge

Weekly schedule for Reader's Notebook to hold st. accountable
Weekly schedule for Reader’s Notebook to hold st. accountable

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Let’s teach and treat our students as real life readers, so that there just might be a chance for them to unlock and cherish the joy of reading as we all do.

This post will be a number of pictures to better visualize how this might work in your class, tips and lessons learned over the years.

Doesn't have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. :) 40 Book Challenge
Doesn’t have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. 🙂
40 Book Challenge
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It's an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the “reveal” of the total number an event in our class. All our celebrated for their contribution.

Tips for the 40 Book Challenge:

  1.  Composition Books were assembled and explained in class during the first week of school.  (St. HW was to bring in photos, mag pics of things they loved or were interested in, already cut out in a plastic bag.  We modge podged the covers in class.)
  2. Read Alouds are a must!  Let the students experience the joy the picture book.  (Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss are some of my favs.)
  3. I made sure to have 15 minutes of silent reading time everyday!  It was sacred-never missed.  (I still feel 15 wasn’t long enough.  Would have liked 20, but we had SSR during intervention block as well.)
  4. Get rid or your “extra” stuff.  You know, the “What can I do when I’m finished?” type work.  Just let them READ if they finish tasks early.
  5. Start reading children’s books now!  You need to be able to recommend and guide students to fit their interests and needs, and you can’t do that unless you have read a great number of your grade level’s books.  This was my favorite part of this endeavor.  I now choose to read young adult or children’s novels because they are sooooo amazingly crafted.  It’s been enlightening and kept me “in-touch” with my students.
  6. Make your first order with Scholastic Books the MAX, meaning over $250.  You’ll get the most points at the BOY and that’s how you build your classroom library. (I’ll post more on that later.)
  7. Allow students to abandon a book.  It’s up to the teacher, but my “rule” was that students could only abandon 2 books a trimester.  They had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to abandon this book, only after they had given it a solid try (i.e. read 50 pgs. or a couple of chapters).
  8. Any book you read aloud to the class whether it’s a picture book or novel counts towards their challenge.
  9. Share what you are currently reading energetically and often.  Let them recommend books to you and actually read them!
  10. Start a book club.  Mine was once a week before school.  (I’ll post details later or see earlier posts.)
  11. Make a book recommendation wall or system.  Because you are requiring reads of certain genres, this will help students select ‘good’ stories.  Seeing what their friends have read is great motivation.
St. samples of Reader's Ntbks in action!
St. samples of Reader’s Ntbks in action!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.--to be able to assess if they're schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.–to be able to assess if they’re schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it's a longer response.
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it’s a longer response.
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader's notebook. Up to tch discretion.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader’s notebook. Up to tch discretion.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don't have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don’t have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
St. sample--simple notes by me again.
St. sample–simple notes by me again. “Not sure. Let’s explore that.” Short, sweet, and to the point. Sometimes I simply wrote “See me” if my question was too long to write.

Book Club Begins!

After being in school for a month, the time has come.

Mrs. Cortez’s Book Club will officially begin next week.  If you have ever thought of starting a book club with your students, just do it.  Don’t hesitate.  You will not be sorry.

I have been running a book club for the past 5 years with my 5th graders.  Now that I have two periods, it might get a little crazy, but that’s ok.  The pay off is too rewarding.  I have the kids meet once a week before school.  I select the first book which in the past has been Matilda, but since 4th graders read it last year, I changed it to Firegirl (an amazing book).  The students then nominate and vote on the rest of the books we read for the year.  *If a movie is made of the book, we usually schedule a time after school to watch it and compare it with the book.  It’s awesome to hear the students say that the book is better than the movie, because that’s usually the case.

Book Club Notice-- Can't wait for next week.
Book Club Notice– Can’t wait for next week.

The students bring a mug for hot chocolate and we make a treat rotation schedule for doughnuts. I used to provide the hot chocolate, but that became too costly so now I ask the parents for donations. I pick up the slack when needed. And then…we just talk about the book. No assignments, no tests, no stress. Just a good book shared with good people. Amazing.

Until next time…

Click below to see the letter I send home to parents.  Hope it helps so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Book Club Notice

 

Book Club-- hot chocolate!
Book Club– hot chocolate!
Gotta love doughnuts with a good book!
Gotta love doughnuts with a good book!

SIFTing Poems

 

 

SIFT Bookmark for Analyzing Literature--I used it for my poetry unit.  Awesome!
SIFT Bookmark for Analyzing Literature–I used it for my poetry unit. Awesome!

I hope all of you lovely teachers are taking advantage of the free and wonderful videos of The Teaching Channel. If you haven’t gone to the website already, you MUST use this incredible resource.

While searching the site one day, I came across a lesson called Using the SIFT Method to Analyze Literature.    I really liked how this method, or use of this acronym, broke down the components required to analyze literature.  It seemed to help the students keep focus and uncover the deeper, more abstract meanings of a text.  I thought this would work perfectly for my upcoming poetry unit.  (I will be sharing this unit at a later date…I loved it!)

Hopefully, you can check out this video to determine whether the SIFT method can work for you and your students.

*I copied this bookmark on to construction paper to keep it a little more sturdy.  My students continuously referred to it throughout the unit of poetry.*