Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beginning Independent Reading

I always forget that you have to teach even the most basic routines when the students come back to school in the Fall. You end the year at such a high point, so happy with how much they've accomplished and grown, and then come September, it's back to setting the expectations and developing the classroom norms. On one hand, it's so exciting. On the other, it's incredibly overwhelming.

One thing I started last year was a focus on Literacy Workstations. Multiple times a week we dedicate a block of time to independent literacy work. Starting with just 2 centers, we eventually build up to 5. Although one is teacher directed ("Read with Teacher"), many of the others are independent, with a teacher circulating to problem solve or assist with technology malfunctions. What becomes essential, then, is that students are able to work on their own.

We began this year discussing "Read to Self, or "Independent Reading," which is present at one of the first stations (it's under the center title of "Library Reading," as we eventually add hip-to-hip, back-to-back, and book reviews or searches to the center). My first year starting independent reading, I naively assumed that my students could sit, independently, with their books for a period of time. I was mistaken, and when we eventually put "Read to Self" into our literacy workstations, I found it wasn't independent at all. Rather, I needed to be constantly monitoring the center to ensure that kids were... reading.

I re-read the book "The Daily 5" over the summer, and remembered the importance of building stamina...slowly. On Friday, after allowing the kids to book shop for independent reading books (really focusing on books they were interested in), we began our "Read to Self" journey. We explained that we were going to build our stamina, since our brain is a muscle, and just like every other muscle in the body, you need to exercise it every day if you want it to grow strong. As in the book, Jan and I wanted this activity to be completely independent- as soon as a student can't follow the expectations, or requires teacher redirection, you're supposed bring all the students back together, so that incorrect behavior isn't ingrained. Our goal was to go for 3 minutes.

Our first time trying "Read to Self," our students were able to go for...14 seconds before someone started chatting with their neighbor about how hungry they were. We came back together, reviewed the "Read to Self" expectations, and sent them off again. This time we went for... 11 seconds. Each time we joined back as a group, we added to our bar graph. One more review, and sent the group back to their spots. Silence, everyone spending time with their books, bodies steady in one spot.... 3 minutes later. We came back together as a group and revealed the exciting news. As we were charting our time, there were exclamations of "that is SO much longer!" and "my brain just got bigger!" They eagerly asked if we could go for longer, and we told them we could practice more on Monday.

They couldn't wait. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this and I loved how thoughtful the students were being while they problem solved. When I watched, the conversation was about what to do when you get to a really exciting part of your book and you just want to talk about it. One student suggested making a note on a post-it so he would remember to share later. Definitely taking their reading time seriously!