Reading Licenses

When I first began teaching elementary school, the only “independent” books kids had were the books they checked out of the library. And maybe a borrowed read-aloud left of the chalk (!) ledge. Can you imagine how boring that must have been?

newbasketsMorphing to Reading Workshops and Daily Five gave our students opportunities to self-select books for reading independently. And of course, that was a lot more engaging for students. Kids being kids though, were they always doing the right thing at self-selection time?

We teach kids explicitly how to find “just right” books that are neither frustrating nor so easy that kids don’t grow as readers. In my classroom, students received a readers’ license to help them remember where their proximal reading level was. (For information on how my classroom library was leveled, see The Leveled Library Project above.)

The license included a digitized photo of the student created on one of the first days of school, the student’s name, and a color code sticker as a reminder of what just-right-level should be the current target. Students were encouraged to choose 1 book from a level down and 1 book from a level up (the challenge) as well as 2 just-right books. I usually printed all this on a 4×6 plain index card or some heavy card stock paper.

At conferencing time, the student arrived with book box and license and we’d always spend a minute or two making sure selections were a match. New color code stickers were added throughout the year as the student progressed; we’d talk about a goal or next step to work on, record that idea in the student’s reading notebook and move on.

Did I have students who tried to fake their way into a level because a friend was there? Some did from time to time. But I also had students who wanted to prove that they could read more challenging books. How I loved when a student was so bent on proving that higher challenging level was really “just right” that the student doubled down on effort to move forward!

A “license” to read… just another way to track whether book choices match independent reading levels.

Whew – 4 down one to go

We are still laying down the routines and expectation for the Daily Five. Here’s how my morning goes: Get up (usually before the alarm), start coffee, sit down with my laptop, check email (and Facebook, okay I admit I’m addicted) and then watch one of the Sister’s videos on the Daily Cafe website.

Most of my students – with the exception of two who are exceptional in that they have significant developmental delays – are able to sustain 15 minutes of Read to Self  followed by 15 minutes of Writing.  I don’t suppose it is that unusual at this point in the year to find my students can sustain stamina for nearly 30 minutes for the first choice session, but the stamina in the second choice session  is about 2/3 of that.

There are a few glitches. I can hear my students using Check for Understanding when they Read to Someone. But the voice levels are so loud – or at least I think they are. Coming from a background in constructivist mathematics where the classroom can be a noisy place, I am torn about stopping and restarting the students – they are talking on topic after all.

Next week we will add Listen to Reading — without the benefit of a listening center. (shameless plug: I’ve written a proposal on Donorschoose.org if you are feeling supportive). We will be using our boombox for that… wish us luck!

What I am seeing is a powerful transfer of responsibility to my students. They are starting to feel empowered by choosing what they will work on. And I am delighted that I was able to give a complete Fountas & Pinnell benchmark test without waving off at least one student who didn’t know what to do next and who wanted to interrupt me.

I think we’re getting somewhere.

 

 

D5 One Day at a Time

We have been in session with our students for 3 days now. At one point yesterday afternoon I came to the realization that these third graders are funny and likeable and want to learn. Being somewhat superstitious I’m a little nervous about saying that out loud so early, but there you go.

We started our journey with the Daily Five on our very first day of school – just like the Sisters advocate.  I picked out one of my favorite read alouds, Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems and began by asking students about the ways they thought this book could be read. That resulted in a blank look that telegraphed, “Lady, if you don’t know how to read a book, we’ve got a big problem here.”

It took some coaxing, but we finally came up with 2 bullet items to add to our anchor chart. We tried reading the pictures for Knuffle Bunny first and then I modeled reading the words. I have quite a few students for whom reading is a challenge, the permission to read by pictures gave them a sense of accomplishment — just as the Sisters said it would.

We continued building the anchor chart for 3 Ways to Read on the second day of school by adding “Retelling the story”.  We’ve been talking about good fit books and will continue to develop that concept over the next week.

Working on developing the I-Chart for “Read to Self” was quite an eye-opening experience for me. It took a bit of coercing to get kids to realize that reading to yourself can be fun — but it also makes you smarter.  That’s a term I use a lot with my students as I am a big proponent of using attribution theory in developing habits of mind for effective effort. So instead of “becoming a better reader”, I’ve tweaked the sense of urgency to get smarter by reading.

As teachers, I think we assume that children intuit that we are working hard when they are working hard. my students had absolutely no clue what I might be doing while they were reading to self… really.  Blank stares followed by tentative guesses that I might be walking around the room.  So we stopped and took the opportunity to talk about teachers listening to students read, coaching students to improve their reading, and meeting with a small group.

I’ve paid close attention to the purposeful use of a good model and a  not-good model of nearly every routine we are working on. What a powerful way to get my barometer kids to buy in to successfully participating in focused and meaningful reading activities!

I find it is challenging to resist the urge to just dive into a fully developed schedule; I want to get everything rolled out all at once, but I know that doesn’t work. This year as I implement the Daily Five more purposefully, I am resisting the urge to rush building stamina and go right to sustaining a block of reading for 15 minutes. I learned from experience last year that even though I felt like the kids could sustain their attention, in reality, they could not. We’re up to 5 minutes as of today; five minutes when they are truly independent, when they are truly employing those 3 ways to read a book, 5 minutes when they are totally ignoring me because they are focused on reading. Awesome!

So far…. so good.