Encouraging Independent Reflective Readers

This year, I have a group of students who are “readers,” and I imagine much of the credit for that is with their parents (thank you) and their former teachers (double thank you). There are signs of this all over the place: the books they bring into class and the number of students who signed up for our library’s Book Club elective (triple thank you to our librarian, Pati). Not every year is as strong a crop of readers as this one, which is a great pleasure to see and to experience as a teacher.

We’re still doing a mix of class novels and independent reading in my classroom, with a slow but steady shift towards more independent reading that will be aligned along the lines of our Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment work (we’re only in our second year of collecting data and I, for one, am just getting more comfortable with the assessments. Now, I need to get more PD on how to use the data.)

For the next few weeks, my students are all choosing their own books to read for class. We spent the first part of the year reading class novels (Flush, Tuck Everlasting, Regarding the Fountain, etc.) so that the framework for being reflective readers and writers should be in place (should be). The other day, we had a discussion about how to choose a good book.

Some of the elements of our class discussions:

  • Choose a book that has high interest for you. Don’t choose something that you know from the outset is going to bore you. Get comfortable with a book.
  • It’s OK to abandon a book that seems to start strong and then fades away. I let them know that this is what readers do: we make judgments about the books and either continue because we’re interested or abandon if we’re not.
  • Be an active reader. Since this is the classroom, I will be forcing some of that reflection on them through the use of reading journals, one-to-one conversations and some reflective open response writing. And this is as much to instill good reading habits as it is to assess them, I think.
  • Recommend books for others to read. Since we are a reading community, I want students to be highlighting the books they are in love with and passing that love on to others. I am still considering the best system for this (online or on-walls of the classroom, or both?).
  • Challenge yourself as a reader. It’s OK to pick a book that interests you but is a bit easy for you as a reader. Just don’t get locked down into the easy mode. We talked about making sure that you follow up an easy read with one that may be a bit more challenging. The beauty of this shift is that the more challenging books are often also the more interesting, as writers take you off in different directions.
  • Pay attention to the craft of writing as you read. Since my students are writing most of the time, I want them to notice the techniques and approaches of the novelists they are reading. (By the way, one of the components of the Benchmark Assessment that I really like is the comprehension element, where one part of the questions deals with ‘beyond the text’ and all of the writing approaches).

To demonstrate some of my own reflective practice, I shared this Prezi that I made last year when I read the novel, Powerless. I found it helped students to see my own thinking as a reader, and made their own responses in their reading journals more reflective, too.

Peace (in the reading),

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