Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Reading Life Tip #6--Change Reading Requirements to Students Setting Goals
"Building a reading life" means that I want students to TRULY build a life where reading is enjoyable, entertaining, and something children WANT to do. With that in mind, I decided to be BRAVE this year and try a different approach to the nightly reading assignment…
Prior to this year, 5 nights a week for 25 minutes was required in my classroom. But as students record their nightly reading,how are we sure they are being honest? Are they really not reading MORE or LESS? What if there were no specific time requirements? In my experience, the kids who already loved to read went above and beyond but most of them only wanted to record their minimum reading to show that they had completed the required homework. Students who were apathetic readers (for the most part) were not motivated by having to write down their homework. I decided to stop telling children that they had to read for 25 minutes each night!
Last year I attended Lucy Calkin’s Reading Units of Study workshop. One thing she said really hit me. If students are still only reading the “required” amount in their own time, something is really wrong. Wow! Students who are only reading the required amount are showing us that they have not yet built a true reading life, but are complying with our assignment and I believe this is the opposite of what reading teachers want and the attitude students need in order to be successful.
With this in mind, I modified my assignment sheet to allow students to set a goal for their reading life each night. These goals ranged from the typical “read for 30 minutes” and “finish a book” but I also got some surprises that showed me the power of leaving the requirements up to the students. Many students often set goals to read for an hour or more or ENJOY their reading life. This new approach has beautifully allowed reading assignments to be individualized—students working on finishing more books in an appropriate amount of time can record the number of pages they need to read in order to meet their completion goal, students having a hard time getting into their book can make it a goal to enjoy their reading that night, and students with distractions at home can record that they will find a quiet place for reading.
Each day I stand at the door to sign students’ assignment sheets. I read their goals and give them feedback that hopefully makes them confident and excited about their goal. If a student has written “read for an hour,” I say “Wow! That’s a high goal for tonight. I hope you can do it, but I would also be happy if you were able to read for 45 minutes.” I also sometimes remind students of their individual goals and help them add to their assignment sheet.
During the first two weeks of school, as we were working on and discussing our reading lives, I was able to assess students love of reading and how much they were buying into my reading life lessons by the goals they set each day. I allowed my apathetic readers to set 15 minutes goals and took note. Later, as our relationship with one another was established, I started to push. “Oh, 15 minutes, you should try to read for 20.” “Oh! We are reading more than 15 minutes in class, I know you have enough stamina to read longer tonight.” Etc. Probably a month into the school year, I started to say “Oh, 20 minutes! That’s the min-i-mum! Are you really busy tonight? I hope you are able to read more tomorrow night.”Eventually, I was able to let students know that I expected 20 minutes or more, but they were already in control.
Students now have more ownership over their nightly reading and they understand that it is their reading life and they are in control. If you use CAFÉ in your classroom, this new system works beautifully with the goal setting embedded in CAFÉ. I won’t pretend that all of my students are recording their reading on their reading logs (which I use in addition to the assignment sheet) and I can’t say I have done a good job of staying on them and checking reading logs each day, but I can say that I am sure each student is reading 5 days a week or more and really enjoying their reading life!
Now, I am wondering whether or not I really need the reading log. Maybe I can combine it with my assignment sheet before we start back next week. If I make changes, I will be sure to share!