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; 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

New From Stenhouse

Most Recent Posts

Stenhouse Author Sites




Classroom Blogs