Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Monday - What My Students Are Reading

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It's Monday. It isn't the last Monday of the month so I am not going to share what I'm reading, but I will share some thoughts about reading in my classroom. That isn't even completely accurate. What I want to talk about is regarding students sharing what they've read. 

My teaching about reading has been HUGELY impacted by Donalyn Miller originally via The Book Whisperer. Now, as I make decisions about reading in my classroom, I go back to the underlying principle of teaching students to do things that 'real life' readers do. 

Exhibit A - I now longer have students fill out a weekly reading log. This has been a reality in my classroom for years now. I think of it as 'normal' until I read an article like Gigi McAllister posted for Choice Literacy reminding me that it is still new idea for many. 

The two biggest reasons teachers I know give for using reading logs are because that's the way it has always been done, (but as they say it, or even think it, they realize that isn't a great reason) and to know what students are reading.

I don't know about you, but I have seen plenty of students outside classrooms frantically filling in a week's worth of 'reading' moments before it is due. I even know parents that just sign the whole week when it first comes home. So, does a reading log really show us what a student is reading?

On the flip side, as an adult I have never looked at my watch to note the time I started reading and what page I am on. Have you?

I agree, we need to know what our students are reading. And I can tell you, my students are reading. How do I know? 

I confer with them. Regularly having conversations with students about their writing is a way to gain all kinds of information about them as readers. When a student hasn't read more than a page or two since you last met with them, you know they aren't reading.

I intentionally have not digitized my classroom library's checkout system. I have a very simple system, but it ensures I am part of the process. This gives me the opportunity to have quick chats as a student checks out or returns a book. Sometimes it gives me the opportunity to give some background knowledge. It might also allow for some guidance when a book might be challenging. (I don't tell a student that they can't read it, but let them know that if it is frustrating it could be because the book is challenging for them and I encourage them to come talk with me about it.) Sometimes students have a pattern of frequently choosing books that are not challenging them at all as a reader. I can also help guide the choice of that book, or the next book. These conversations happen at other times as well, but in the moment of actually checking out a book they know I am going to be a part of the process.

While there is no reading log, there is a Reading Challenge. I write down the books I write and I expect my students to do the same. As growing readers they do need some support. The Reading Challenge requires students to read a book a week for every week we are in school. In addition, there are some genre requirements. Many slots are their choice, but there are some specified for realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biography/autobiography/memoir, information, and picture books.

In addition to the ways I engage with students about what they are reading my students also have the opportunity to share the books they are reading with one another. A few times a week there is a share time at the end of reading where they can talk with a neighbor. About once a week there is a chance to share a book review with the entire class. Now we are moving from oral reviews to written reviews. (I'm launching Bookopolis tomorrow!)

So, no reading logs in my room, but there is lots of student choice and more importantly student love of reading.

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