Now Online: Still Learning to Read, Second Edition

Still Learning to Read 2nd EditionIn the decade since the first edition of Still Learning to Read was published, the prevalence of testing and various standards have changed what is expected of both teachers and students.

The new edition takes into account this sense of urgency that changing times impose on classrooms and focuses on the needs of students in grades 3-6 in all aspects of reading workshop: read-aloud, classroom design, digital tools, fiction, nonfiction, and close reading.

The book provides expanded examples of mini-lessons and routines that promote deeper thinking about learning. A new chapter includes information on scaffolding for nonfiction and showcases the authors’ latest thinking on close reading and text complexity. Online videos provide glimpses into classrooms as students make book choices, work in small groups, and discuss their reading notebooks.

You can preview Still Learning to Read in its entirety now, then watch Franki discuss the book and the changed environment student and teachers face:



Add comment July 28th, 2016

In the Classroom with Jen: Improving Stamina in Reluctant Readers

Today in our In the Classroom with Jen series author and teacher Jennifer McDonough shares her strategies for helping reluctant readers build their stamina. How do you help your students get to that “lost in a book” feeling?

jennifermcdonoughStrategies for Improving Stamina of Your Reluctant Readers in Reading Workshop

We will always have readers in our classroom who aren’t just having “off” reading days but consistently seem to be looking at the ceiling, rolling around on the carpet, or—better yet—spending their reading time coming up with new and interesting ways to get everyone around them off track as well. Here are a few suggestions I have tried in my classroom to help build the stamina of reluctant readers who haven’t quite found the “lost in a book” feeling that other kids have.

1. File folders (I got this idea from Chart Chums; chartchums.wordpress.com): Open a file folder. Put a green sticker on one side and a red sticker on the other side. Each child sets a goal for how many books he or she wants to read and puts those books on the green side of the file folder. After the child reads a book from the green side, he or she moves it to the red side. The goal is to try to get all of the books moved by the end of independent reading. This concrete way of measuring progress helps kids stay focused.

2. Have the students read independently for just long enough that the majority of the kids are focused and lost in their books. When things begin to get noisy or distracting, stop the independent part of reading workshop and move them into partner time. We don’t ever want to give the kids the idea that independent reading time is noisy and disruptive to others. To build stamina, have the kids set goals for the minutes they think they can read without going off task, and then record the time on chart paper so they can see the class’s progress. Partners who don’t spend the time reading or talking about books need to go back to reading alone until they can learn to stay focused. If you have one of “those” classes this year—the kind that doesn’t seem to be able to read long enough independently for you to be able to confer well enough—consider having the class read independently for as long as they can, switch to partner reading, and then go back to independent reading again. This may help stretch the time while keeping the kids on task.

3. Use an electronic device to read books aloud to a student as he or she follows along in the book. Then have that student reread the same book independently. I use YouTube for popular picture book read-alouds, but I can also use Audioboo (app) to record myself on the iPad reading aloud any of the books in my classroom. Listening to a book on CD or visiting websites that read the stories aloud (Raz-Kids, for example) can also be helpful.

4. Give a reluctant reader in your room the favorite class read-alouds that the kids love and that you have read over and over. Having heard the book read aloud allows them to read books above their independent level and also helps keep them excited about books. Readers who are struggling to decode often get bored or frustrated with decodable books that don’t always hold their attention.

5. Allow students to choose the books they read within a range of three reading levels. Having access to more books increases the chances that readers will find interesting ones. I tell my readers that the books one level above their independent reading levels are good for practicing decoding skills, books at their level are good for developing comprehension and understanding of what they are reading, and books one level below help build fluency because they should be easy for them to read.

6. I also create a “What Independent Reading Looks Like” chart with the class. We brainstorm what independent reading should look and sound like, and put it on the chart with photographs of kids modeling those behaviors. We go back to the chart all year long when certain kids, or the class as a whole, begin to lose stamina and we need reminders about what to do.

7. Videotaping is another great way to help kids build stamina in their reading. If you tell a reluctant reader that he or she is going to model for other kids what independent reading should look like, that child is likely to step up and stay on task. Every so often, I pull out the iPad and take videos of individual kids who need some reminders or do whole-class sweeps so the kids can evaluate how the class is doing.

8. Finally, when we think about the reluctant readers in our classrooms, we usually think about the kids who are reading below grade-level expectations. For a multitude of reasons, they just aren’t getting it as quickly and easily as the other kids in the class and simply need us more. I meet with these kids more often to teach them the spelling patterns and decoding strategies they need to know to learn to read. When I need to confer with the other kids, I either use one of the strategies in this list or have them shadow me and listen in on what I am teaching another student. Until kids become fluent readers, the world of reading is not that exciting to them, so it’s our job to figure out ways to keep them on task until they get there.

 

 

Add comment April 22nd, 2014

Quick Tip Tuesday: A unit about finding the main idea

In Test Talk: Integrating Test Preparation into Reading Workshop, authors Amy Greene and Glennon Doyle Melton show teachers that they don’t have to choose between best practice teaching and test preparation. In this Quick Tip, you can follow Glennon as she begins a unit on finding the main idea of a story and see how she weaves test preparation into her reading workshop.

It’s mid-October in Glennon’s third-grade reading workshop. The class has just completed a unit of study about recounting the plot of a text. Today the students will begin a unit about finding the main idea in fiction. The children are gathered at her feet, listening intently to their third Patricia Polacco book of the week, Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998). It is the story of a girl named Tricia who moves to a new school and struggles to learn to read. The students alternate between listening to Glennon read and reflecting on the text with a partner when she stops to ask discussion questions. After she is finished reading the text, Glennon draws a chart on the board and titles the first column Plot and the second column Themes/Main Ideas. She reminds the students that plot is the set of events that happen in a story or passage and can be found right in the text. She asks the students to recount the plot of Thank You, Mr. Falker to her, and she records the events in sequential order in the first column.

Glennon then turns her attention to the second column and connects students’ background knowledge to the new concept by saying, “Since you are experts about finding the plot of a text, today we are going to move ahead and start learning about another very important part of a text called the main idea or theme. The main ideas are the big ideas or lessons that the author wants us to think about and learn from his or her text.

“This is a really important skill to have because it helps us understand and enjoy our reading, and it is also a skill that the SOL will test you on at the end of the year. Let’s figure out how to find the main ideas together. Remember when we studied finding the plot of a story or a test passage? Can anyone think aloud with me about what you do when you have to find the plot of a passage, like on the SOL?”

B.J. raises his hand and says, “I just start at the beginning and try to think of everything that I read. It’s really easy.” “Finding the plot is pretty easy, isn’t it? To find the plot of a text, we simply recount the events that the author included in the text. But finding the main ideas is trickier because they are not usually written right in the text. We have to read and then use our schema with the text to infer the main ideas. We have to think about the characters and their feelings more. How do you think Tricia felt when her mom told her they were moving?”

Ahmed raises his hand and says, “I think Tricia felt scared that her new class would make fun of her because she doesn’t know how to read.” Glennon has modeled quality talk all year; she teaches her students to speak in complete sentences and support opinions with evidence from the text. The other students nod in agreement with Ahmed’s thought and Glennon records his comment in a notebook.

Next, she rereads a passage in which a bully named Eric is teasing Tricia about her difficulty with reading. She pauses to say, “Turn to a partner and discuss your thoughts about the way Eric is behaving toward Tricia.” After the students have discussed, she rereads the last page of the book and says, “Talk to your partner one more time about what you think Patricia Polacco would want her readers to learn from this book.”

During each of the partner discussion times, Glennon circulates among her students and records their ideas in her notebook to be used during the next part of the lesson. Glennon directs the students back to the chart at the front of the room. She writes the word fear in the Main Ideas column and says, “Ahmed’s idea was that Tricia was afraid that her new class would laugh at her. Does anyone have a connection with that?” Glennon’s first unit of study this year was about becoming better readers by making connections to text.

Giselle responds, “I have a connection with that. I know how Tricia felt because I was scared when I came here from my country. I didn’t think anyone would speak my language.” Glennon writes fear of being different on the chart paper. “I heard Nancy tell her partner that Eric was jealous of Tricia because Mr. Falker seemed to like her drawing,” Glennon adds. She writes the word jealousy on the chart paper and asks, “Who can connect with jealousy?” “I felt jealous when my baby sister was born. I felt like my parents would forget about me,”says Rokshar. Other students show their connections to Rokshar’s comment by nodding.

Michael raises his hand. “I think it is cool that Tricia can’t read but can draw really well, and Eric can read but can’t draw well,” he says. Mark agrees. “Yeah, everyone has things they are good at and things that they need help with.” Glennon writes strengths and weaknesses on the chart paper. Then Glennon asks, “What do you think Patricia Polacco wants us to know or learn about life from her book Thank You, Mr. Falker? What were the main ideas in the book? Use our list and the text-to-self connections you made while we read to help you.” Students partner-talk and then share ideas such as fear, family love, and learning not to give up.

Glennon concludes by connecting their ideas and discussion to the test once again. At the bottom of the chart, she creates a multiple-choice question in the same format the SOL uses.
Which is NOT a main idea in Patricia Pollacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker?
A fear
B jealousy
C strengths and weaknesses
D sportsmanship
Glennon encourages the students to use their test-taking strategies to navigate the question, and, after they have answered, she asks, “Why is it important to be able to find the main ideas in a text, beside the fact that it will be on our SOLS?” The class giggles and Bo Hyun raises her hand. “Because reading a story is sometimes like learning a lesson,” she says. “If you can’t find the main idea, you don’t get the lesson!”

Glennon reinforces his thinking. “That’s so smart! When readers read fiction and test takers read passages, they can’t just read the text. They have to use their schema and their hearts to decide what the author wanted them to learn or think about. Sometimes tests call this the main idea or theme. We’ll learn more about this tomorrow.”

Add comment November 30th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Finding the main idea

In their recent book Test Talk: Integrating Test Preparation into Reading Workshop, Amy Greene and Glennon Doyle Melton show teachers ways to empower students and raise test scores without compromising their beliefs about good teaching and learning. They demonstrate how to imporive performance on tests without responding to “teaching to the test” pressures. In this week’s Quick Tip, Glennon shows how she conducts a unit on finding the main idea of a story, while also preparing her students for the language they will find in their standardized test.

Beginning a Unit About Main Idea
It’s mid-October in Glennon’s third-grade reading workshop. The class has just completed a unit of study about recounting the plot of a text. Today the students will begin a unit about finding the main idea in fiction.

The children are gathered at her feet, listening intently to their third Patricia Polacco book of the week, Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998). It is the story of a girl named Tricia who moves to a new school and struggles to learn to read. The students alternate between listening to Glennon read and reflecting on the text with a partner when she stops to ask discussion questions. After she is finished reading the text, Glennon draws a chart on the board and titles the first column Plot and the second column Themes/Main Ideas. She reminds the students that plot is the set of events that happen in a story or passage and can be found right in the text. She asks the students to recount the plot of Thank You, Mr. Falker to her, and she records the events in sequential order in the first column.

Glennon then turns her attention to the second column and connects students’ background knowledge to the new concept by saying, “Since you are experts about finding the plot of a text, today we are going to move ahead and start learning about another very important part of a text called the main idea or theme. The main ideas are the big ideas or lessons that the author wants us to think about and learn from his or her text. This is a really important skill to have because it helps us understand and enjoy our reading, and it is also a skill that the SOL will test you on at the end of the year. Let’s figure out how to find the main ideas together. Remember when we studied finding the plot of a story or a test passage? Can anyone think aloud with me about what you do when you have to find the plot of a passage, like on the SOL?”

B.J. raises his hand and says, “I just start at the beginning and try to think of everything that I read. It’s really easy.” “Finding the plot is pretty easy, isn’t it? To find the plot of a text, we simply recount the events that the author included in the text. But finding the main ideas is trickier because they are not usually written right in the text. We have to read and then use our schema with the text to infer the main ideas. We have to think about the characters and their feelings more.

“How do you think Tricia felt when her mom told her they were moving?” Ahmed raises his hand and says, “I think Tricia felt scared that her new class would make fun of her because she doesn’t know how to read.”

Glennon has modeled quality talk all year; she teaches her students to speak in complete sentences and support opinions with evidence from the text. The other students nod in agreement with Ahmed’s thought and Glennon records his comment in a notebook. Next, she rereads a passage in which a bully named Eric is teasing Tricia about her difficulty with reading. She pauses to say, “Turn to a partner and discuss your thoughts about the way Eric is behaving toward Tricia.” After the students have discussed, she rereads the last page of the book and says, “Talk to your partner one more time about what you think Patricia Polacco would want her readers to learn from this book.”

During each of the partner discussion times, Glennon circulates among her students and records their ideas in her notebook to be used during the next part of the lesson. Glennon directs the students back to the chart at the front of the room. She writes the word fear in the Main Ideas column and says, “Ahmed’s idea was that Tricia was afraid that her new class would laugh at her. Does anyone have a connection with that?” Glennon’s first unit of study this year was about becoming better readers by making connections to text.

Giselle responds, “I have a connection with that. I know how Tricia felt because I was scared when I came here from my country. I didn’t think anyone would speak my language.” Glennon writes “fear of being different” on the chart paper. “I heard Nancy tell her partner that Eric was jealous of Tricia because Mr. Falker seemed to like her drawing,” Glennon adds. She writes the word “jealousy” on the chart paper and asks, “Who can connect with jealousy?” “I felt jealous when my baby sister was born. I felt like my parents would forget about me,” says Rokshar. Other students show their connections to Rokshar’s comment by nodding.

Michael raises his hand. “I think it is cool that Tricia can’t read but can draw really well, and Eric can read but can’t draw well,” he says. Mark agrees. “Yeah, everyone has things they are good at and things that they need help with.” Glennon writes “strengths and weaknesses” on the chart paper.

Then Glennon asks, “What do you think Patricia Polacco wants us to know or learn about life from her book Thank You, Mr. Falker? What were the main ideas in the book? Use our list and the text-to-self connections you made while we read to help you.” Students partner-talk and then share ideas such as fear, family love, and learning not to give up. Glennon concludes by connecting their ideas and discussion to the test once again. At the bottom of the chart, she creates a multiple-choice question in the same format the SOL uses.

Which is NOT a main idea in Patricia Pollacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker?
A fear
B jealousy
C strengths and weaknesses
D sportsmanship

Glennon encourages the students to use their test-taking strategies to navigate the question, and, after they have answered, she asks, “Why is it important to be able to find the main ideas in a text, beside the fact that it will be on our SOLS?” The class giggles and Bo Hyun raises her hand. “Because reading a story is sometimes like learning a lesson,” she says. “If you can’t find the main idea, you don’t get the lesson!”

Glennon reinforces his thinking. “That’s so smart! When readers read fiction and test takers read passages, they can’t just read the text. They have to use their schema and their hearts to decide what the author wanted them to learn or think about. Sometimes tests call this the main idea or theme. We’ll learn more about this tomorrow.”

Add comment May 5th, 2009

Questions & Authors: Responding to reading journals

If the stack of reading journals on your desk seems impossible to conquer and you find yourself at lunch quietly calculating the number of pages you have to read tonight, you are not alone. Many teachers across the country struggle with giving valuable, meaningful feedback to reader’s notebooks, but find it hard to keep up with the responses.

Pam Juday, a reading specialist from Elkhart, IN, said that teachers in her building would like to use reader’s notebooks, but they hesitate because of the time required to keep up with responses. “One teacher, who is responsible for around 50 students, reported that she saw a significant decline in quality and motivation when she failed to keep up with her responses,” Pam wrote, asking for suggestions from our authors.

So we asked Adrienne Gear, author of Reading Power, and Cheryl Dozier, author of Responsive Literacy Coaching to help Pam and teachers in her school find a solution to managing reader’s notebooks.

Adrienne’s response:
As a literacy mentor in the Vancouver School district (Canada), I have worked with many teachers who have begun to use reader’s notebooks in their classrooms. Successfully managing the marking of these notebooks has been an issue that often arises. Here are two ways that teachers in my district have attempted to solve this:

1) Students might write 3-4 entries in their reader’s notebook per week, however, the teacher will only respond to ONE of these entries. Students select, indicating with a star inside the margin, which response they would like the teacher to read and respond back to.
AND/OR
2) Another way to cut down on daily responding is to divide your class into 5 small groups. Each group is responsible for handing in their reader’s notebook on a different day during the week. (i.e. Gr. 1 – Monday, Gr. 2 – Tuesday) Groups and “hand-in” days are posted in the classroom. This way, if there are 30 students in the class, for example, the teacher will read and respond to six per day. This is more manageable than reading and responding to 30 notebooks two-three times each week.

I believe that we need to be realistic about the amount of responding we can manage each week. However, one careful and thoughtful response per week is, in the long run, of more benefit to the students than several short and “tired” responses. When students look forward to their teachers’ one longer response each week, motivation is less likely to be compromised.

Cheryl’s response:
While there are numerous benefits to reader’s notebooks, it can be daunting to take a pile of reader’s notebooks home over the weekend – especially if the pile remains untouched until Sunday evening. I now respond to a set number of reading responses each evening. Then, I am much more likely to engage deeply as I read. Sometimes my responses are short, sometimes they are lengthier. Regardless, when I write a response, my guiding question is: “Is this response thoughtful and genuine?” I want my responses to be open ended and focus on continuing conversations.

I see reader’s notebooks as places for conversations – reader to reader. I love reading children’s responses and seeing how they interpret, question, or read against texts. Through their responses (written, artistic), we can learn where children are confident as readers. What authors or genres resonate for them? We also learn what is harder for them to navigate. Do they take risks as readers and writers? When I read responses, I often gain additional perspectives, begin to ask new questions, or make connections I had not considered previously. I see reader’s notebooks as generative spaces to engage in a collaborative dialogue.

Writers write for an audience. When students do not receive a response, they may take their responses less seriously. I agree, it does take time to respond to letters written by students. The benefit? When we view these letters/responses as windows into children’s understandings and how they make sense of and connect to books, we learn from and with one another. Student responses serve as an anchor for continued conversations.

Several questions come to mind: How are we defining responding to students? What do our responses look like and sound like? Are there ways to open up responses (for both teachers and students)? In addition to responding in writing, I have also asked children to select a piece or sections they would like to share with the class to encourage multiple or contrasting viewpoints. Responses in notebooks can serve as conversation starters as children discuss texts together. After engaging in conversations with partners or with the whole class, students can then revise their responses. Younger children often sketch responses and are delighted to share these with their classmates.

9 comments October 13th, 2008


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