This post has been inspired by a wonderful resource recommended to me by Leslee, our Literacy Leader at CLPS: Guiding Readers and Writers, by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
I find it challenging to consistently engage low literacy students who need extra scaffolding to find success in Reading Workshops in guided and independent work. This post contains some ideas for fostering your struggling readers’ approach to independently selecting, reading and engaging with literature, thus supporting their continued development in reading.
1. Keep track of ‘Reading Conferences’ with lower-level readers, give regular feedback
Direct, relevant and regular feedback is the single most important teaching practice that we can employ as practitioners. Giving lower-level readers the opportunity for regular 1:1 teacher-student conferences is therefore of utmost importance. I also utilise our morning meeting roster as a conference roster for my struggling readers, letting them know when I plan to read with them (informally, or formally assessed).
2. Communicate with parents and establish expectations for a consistent home-reading program
Regular feedback at home, combined with a daily routine, is equally as important as feedback and engagement with reading in the classroom. Supporting parents with the home reading process is something that I focus on in my initial meetings with them, and continue to deliver feedback on during the year via parent-teacher interviews and report comments. Unfortunately, for some of my students, this has proved to be the most challenging aspect of our reading program.
3. Encourage good role-models for reading
One technique I have used to cater for different reading abilities is seating them with confident readers in the classroom. I often find that any research-driven, whole group learning activities, are best supported with these mixed ability pairs. By strategically placing students in the classroom, I support elements of my practice and encourage less willing readers to emulate their peers’ reading behaviours.
4. Expect organisation for independent reading activities
Setting high expectations and a firm routine is essential to preparing lower-level students for independent work. Uninterrupted guided reading time with other ability groups is essential to individual student progress; it should not be comprimised by students who find it more difficult to begin independent tasks. I often check-in with my lower-level group at the beginning of each reading group to check that they have the materials they require, and that they are aware of the expectations for the learning activity. This extra support teaches them the skills needed, over time, to become independent learners.
5. Make books accessible in your classroom
A variety of text types (linked to your integrated/project-based) theme for the unit you are teaching, gives students more opportunity to become involved in the books around them and increases the possibility of engaging students by sparking a personal interest. As well as sourcing books from the school library, try placing relevant hyperlinks online (for example, via a class wiki) where all students can access relevant information from anywhere, any time.
Lastly, one more technique I have recently implemented is the ‘Post-it Book Review’, whereby students who have read a topic-specific text in the classroom write a few short sentences on a large post it note about why they enjoyed the text. Other students can then choose books based on their peers’ reviews. I have really enjoyed reading their reviews too!
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.
What challenges do you face when teaching reading in your classroom?
Which strategies have you found useful in supporting your struggling readers?
Are there any tools/resources not mentioned here that you have found success with?
I look at the last hour of the week as a valuable time for reflection, sharing and wellbeing, rather than an excuse to stop learning and run to the games cupboard. I find it interesting that in Australia we spend so much time focusing on getting our students to school, on time, then only to not value every minute of the day that they are in the classroom.
A Reflection, a Goal and a Wish
During the last hour on a Friday, students relax and choose their working space in the classroom. They then discuss and choose two relevant sentence starters that they finish in their learning diaries.
Their learning diaries are accessible in the classroom whenever they need them to set goals or reflect.
Once they have finished their reflection and goal setting (and received instant feedback via a quick conference) they take a post-it note and write a 'wish' for the following week – this might include an area that they wish to learn more about, an iPad app they would like to use or a Writer's Workshop they think would benefit their project.
I hope this reflective tool encourages some valuable learning time and reflection in your Friday afternoon classrooms and has a positive effect in your daily program!
What reflective tools do you use in your classroom?
What other strategies do you have to promote student voice?
How do you give students some ownership of what they are producing in the classroom?
I'd love to hear your suggestions, thoughts, comments and reflections in the space below.
I have taken some time to edit and share a resource that I have modified and use in the classroom on a daily basis. A big thank you to my colleague, Catherine Barnes, for introducing me to this one last year in my graduate year!
I often begin my guided reading sessions/reading workshops/running records by asking my students to verbalise the strategies that will be most important when we read together. I also send home a spare with my home readers. This bookmark is a great way of encouraging each student to always ‘bring their strategies with them’, and includes prompts to help them recall important reading skills. I add a visual to one side of the bookmark and have the word prompts on the opposite side in the corresponding rectangle.
You can download the Reading Strategies bookmark template here.
Please feel free to edit the template to suit your classroom practice and find a style that suits you and your students. All I ask is that you retain the copyright watermark to enable OpenEdToolbox to keep sharing resources with educators worldwide.
What quick, easy strategies could you share for recalling and using reading strategies?
Do you have any quick tips or great tuning in ideas to share?
I managed to keep the balance between school and personal reading over the holidays. Here are a few that I am enjoying at the moment.
Making Thinking Visible, How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, Jossey-Bass 2011)
After seeing a huge amount of discussion about this book between educators on Twitter, and having discussed it with a few members of my PLN, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. I have already found the content to be relevant to current practice, and the arguments to be concise and well explained. I love the analysis of the revised taxonomy early in the book. It is a must read for any teacher who wishes to expand their understanding of how our students apply their thinking and knowledge in everyday context.
What’s the Point of School? Rediscovering the Heart of Education (Guy Claxton, Oneworld Oxford 2008)
This was also recommended to me by a member of my PLN. Claxton is touted as one of the UK’s leading academics and thinkers on creativity, thinking and the brain. I’m not finding that this is necessarily a text that I can pick up/put down (as I like to do), and that is making it quite heavy going. This has lead to me being slightly out of touch with Claxton’s argument. Having said that, there are some interesting points raised that have made me reflect elsewhere in my studies and discussions with my PLN. Hopefully I get a chance to follow this up in more detail in a future post.
Inca-Kola, A Traveller’s Tale of Peru (Matthew Parris, Phoenix 1990)
I have been reading as many accounts of South American travel as I can in the lead up to my big trip next year, and this 90’s gem from journalist Matthew Parris was no exception. It is an extremely well-written, gripping, often humorous tale of his experiences in and around Peru in the late 80s. If you are planning on any travel yourself, a great idea is to read as much as you can before you go. It is exciting and incredibly informative, I have added so many travel plans since reading this book!
The Snowman (Jo Nesbo, Vintage Books 2010)
I’ve been a little bit sneaky here, because I’ve actually been too busy to start this one. However, I have read The Leopard (another of Nesbo’s thrillers) and I am convinced this book will be worth the wait. As the cover indicates, if you’re a fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy you will enjoy this series too. The dark, twisted plots aren’t for those with a weak stomach though!
Twitter has been a great tool for me so far in terms of receiving recommendations from other educators. However, it is difficult to keep a record of great texts to read that everyone can access. For this reason, please use the comment space to share what you are reading, and any other recommendations so that we can all comment and enjoy!
First of all, sorry for the delay between posts. End-of-term-itis (self-diagnosed), combined with a major whole-school event and a master’s assignment, have pushed any potential ideas for sharing to the back of my mind.
I’d like to share some of the thoughts and reflections I’ve been considering lately while my class have completed several writer’s workshops, individual student/teacher conferences and ultimately, published pieces of writing.
All too often, certainly throughout my late primary and secondary education, the term ‘publishing’ has given too much emphasis to word-processing a finished piece of writing, adding a nice title and a bright yellow, unreadable form of ‘Kahootz’ font. I quizzed my students on what they thought ‘publishing’ was, and was fairly unsurprised to hear similar responses.
However, by taking my questioning a step further, I was able to tune them into my line of thinking a little more. Over the course of several tuning-in parts of our Reading and Writing lessons, I introduced my 3/4s to a variety of texts (online newspapers, YouTube videos, Twitter to name a few), explaining that books were just one example of a text that we can learn and gather information from. After giving them this as the ‘hook’, I was able to encourage them to volunteer what our understanding of other texts might be, their answers looked something like this:
This set the basis for the discussion that we have been having this term – what are the ways in which we are able to publish our ideas? As the title and introduction of the post indicates, I began to feel that students simply typing their work wasn’t enough to consider it ‘published’, and I wanted them to feel this way too. After all, if a student has already conferenced with me, received feedback and refined their writing – isn’t word processing it just replication of that final handwritten product?
Now that my students are grounded in new (and some old) forms of media, they are beginning to have a deeper understanding of how and why people did/do things that way. Now that we have a comprehensive portfolio of conferenced writing, and some resources available, there are so many options open to us for showing our ideas. We ended up using the first mind map to develop a classroom poster, ‘Ways we can Publish’ (photo on the way!). One of my Grade 4 girls hit the nail on the head just the other day:
‘Teddy, I’ve typed up my fictional recount and turned it into a podcast. If I publish it another way, to show someone else, that’s okay isn’t it?’
‘Fireworks! Excellent! Fantastic!’ I beamed, ‘Here is a year’s supply of stickers!’ After all, isn’t this what we want our students to be doing with their learning? Understanding how to use the tools that we have got at our fingertips to do something better, cooler, more awesome. Instead of replicating, we are generating something new each time, constantly adding new angles and ideas. This is what I call publishing for a purpose: turning old ideas into new forms that encourage people to become switched on by our way of presenting and thinking.
Where does this all fit in? To finish, let me refer to data generated from the 2009 PISA survey results showing Math data that has been compared with entrepreneurial capabilities by Yong Zhao:
Look closely and you’ll notice that the Asian countries leading the way in regards to testing aren’t achieving the same creative outcomes in entrepreneurial capabilities as Australia and the United States. I’ll reflect on this in more detail in a future post.
For now though, we have success among creative entrepreneurs in our education system. Let’s encourage our students to continue publishing ideas in these new and exciting ways.
Of course, this idea of presenting our knowledge doesn’t just stop in the literacy hour, it extends into every area of the curriculum. This publishing focus was begun after students were immersed in the inquiry writing process for Term 1, and spent time learning revision and editing techniques in Term 2.
I invite any responses and feedback to this post as I would love to see what you are doing in your Literacy classrooms and offer some feedback of my own.
What is working for you in your literacy classrooms this year?
What have your students have really taken hold of and enjoyed?
Are there any publishing resources that I haven’t mentioned here worth sharing?
Okay so I’m writing this post to avoid doing my master’s assignment, but I thought it would be interesting.
I always tend to be reading a few books at once, I like to try and keep a work/life balance and I’m always appreciative of the books that I can pick-up, put-down (such as Hattie’s brilliant Visible Learning adaptation below).
Ballarat has a top-notch selection of commercial book retailers and various second-hand book stores, my favourite being The Known World in Sturt St – I can spend hours in there! Anyway, listed below are some of my current reads.
Engagement Matters, Personalised Learning for Grades 3 to 6 (Kathy Walker & Shona Bass, Acer Press 2011)
This inspiring resource is a follow-up from Play Matters, and offers educators an overview and step-by-step instructions and resources for implementing the Personalised Learning approach in your school. I read this book at the beginning of the year and find something reaffirming and new every time I come back to it. A practical guide for all teachers which I highly recommend.
Visible Learning for Teachers, (John Hattie, Routledge 2012)
Speaking for itself as ground-breaking research, me and my colleagues aptly refer to this book as ‘The Bible’ (Which leads us to ask, ‘is John Hattie God?’). Dispelling myths about some strategies, and providing concrete evidence to support others, this is a book that I constantly refer back to throughout the year to affirm and inform my practice.
The Gringo Trail, a darkly comic road-trip through South America (Mark Mann, Summerdale 1999)
Pulled off a dusty shelf in the ‘Travel – South America’ section of The Known World, this account of three friends’ journey across the turbulent continent has been a stepping stone in my future travel plans for 2013. This book lends itself to the rich history, culture and drama of a range of South American countries and inhabitants.
The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain De Botton, Penguin Books 2000)
De Botton has recently become one of my favourite authors. He has an extraordinary capability to work philosophy and its thinking into layman’s terms. He does this by exploring some of history’s great (and sometimes not so great) characters and exploring their lives in incredibly succinct, relevant detail. In The Consolations of Philosopy, De Botton offers consolation for: Unpopularity, not having enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken heart and difficulties. He is also author of a number of other subject-specific books.
Until recently I used Fishpond for my online orders. A colleague has recently recommended Book Depository for their quick postage and excellent prices, but I cannot speak for them myself.
Please use the comments section to add any feedback. I have posed some questions below to help with discussion.
Back to my essay!
What is on your teacher bookshelf at the moment?
Have you got any particular educational researchers/writers to recommend?
What do you read in your spare time?
Have you found this post useful?
Please share your feedback in the comments, I am always on the lookout for a good read!