Thursday, October 6, 2011

Building a Reading Life Success Tip # 3

Tip #3: Know who your struggling readers are AS SOON AS POSSIBLE--preferably before the school year starts--use end of year data and the prior grade level's teachers as resources if your school does not already have a way of sharing who the VIP students are. Then, start asking questions. Ask the classroom teacher why they think the child has been a struggling reader (decoding? comprehension? inferences? attention? stamina? motivation? BTW, I call an unmotivated reader a student who just hasn't been led to the right book yet, but you might hear it as a motivation issue). What was this child's favorite book he/she read this year? (This probably means the book was on the child's just right level and they felt very successful when reading it. Their favorite book gives you insight into what level of books to choose and what topics to look for. But, I guess you should also be cautious of using this as too much of a ruler because the child could have enjoyed the book, like "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," but not necessarily have understood all of it or been able to read all of the words.)

Build a relationship with the student: I was lucky enough to already know who one of my struggling readers was before the school year started and able to build a conversational relationship with this student "Hey! How are you? You're about to be a big 4th grader--I hope you're reading up a storm." etc. before the school year started.

Have a round about idea of the child's reading level and know what books you are going to lead the child to BEFORE he/she walks into the classroom. Do you have a set of HIGH interest/LOW level books? The Stone Arch (capstone publishers) are my "go to" series/publisher for students with word-reading issues and boys especially like many of the titles. They have silly titles like "My Mom the Pirate," "My Dad the Dragon" but then they also have series topics like "Kids Against Hunger." You can find fantasy, mystery, comedy, romance, realistic fiction, and more within the Stone Arch books. Like many teachers, you might keep that child in mind while you are at the bookstore or library over your summer or weekends. (I know, we do a lot for our kids, but oh, how rewarding it is for me to say "I was thinking about you this weekend and thought you might LOVE this book I found." and how does it affect a child's reading life to know you care enough to be thinking about them outside of school?)

To help myself help my struggling readers head-on this year, I created a leveled list of popular series/ books so that I would have a quick reference of the books I might suggest for students. The great thing about a lot of the lower-leveled series is that they touch on so many topics that might get your struggling reader's attention. For example, I directed one student to all of the books about pirates in one series, while I directed another student to Pee Wee scouts that focused on holidays like Halloween and Valentines. Here's the list I came up with:

I could write about struggling readers forever (and perhaps it should be a focus for a week of quick posts :). But, let me say a few things about knowing your struggling readers:
1) There are ways to help struggling readers WITHOUT telling them a book is too hard for them. (You may eventually find, after trying many strategies, that you do have to tell some students that a book is not just right, but I try my best to teach a child what that means. This year, I have CELEBRATED when a child started a book that I knew was not just right and mid-day let me know that they wanted to stop reading the book because it was not just right. PERFECT! Some students will need more help than others to understand how to choose just right. I will give a tip for that later this week.

2) I never tell a child their level. If they are a struggling reader, they probably already know this. If they are an above grade level reader, I would hate for them to start tooting their horns because they were assessed at a level R, S, T, or higher because even my high-assessing readers have LOTS of work to do in comprehension with thinking at high levels and at being able to verbalize their thoughts. While Lucy Calkins and I disagree on this area and I think many teachers have successfully leveled their classroom libraries, I'm just not ready to tell a child their level until the day my strategies for steering a child to just right books doesn't work any more. I say this because I am talking about levels today, but I don't want to send the message that I tell a child they need to read Magic Treehouse because they are a level M, N, O. etc.

PS-The ideas I am posting this week (Why I think Building a Reading Life has been such a success) were NEW-ISH for me this year. So, I am posting from reflecting on what made this year different from the others. Why are my students reading on fire, keeping the passion for reading going?

The bottom line on today's tip--why knowing who my struggling readers were was different this year--This year, I went into it with a plan, not just a list of names. My goal, no matter how hard I had to strive was to get my struggling readers reading on fire. I had my toolbox ready before they walked in the door. (And I convinced them that they wanted to have THE BEST reading life EVER!) Welcome to a new year, today is your day!

1 comment:

  1. Do you have an email I can email you at?



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