My last post discussed a challenge common problem in workshop classrooms – how to keep every child reading during independent reading time. In this second post, I will look at another challenging aspect of reading time – keeping kids accountable for the thinking work.
When you are first instituting reading workshop, the scariest part is just letting kids read. In our minds, we feel that we are letting them down in some way. What are they learning? How can I tell? And although we know reading is good for them, we still feel that they should be practicing strategies that would make them even better readers – and they should. But that practice doesn’t have to be in the form of worksheets. It can be more authentic by having kids keep track of their thinking on post its.
When I first started using post-its with my class during independent reading time, it was a free for all. Post its were everywhere! Kids loved using them! They had them on almost every page and usually all over their desks. The problem was not if they could use them, but rather that the quality was not fourth grade work. I would have expected the same kind of thinking from a second grader with examples like… “I predict she will win the game,” or “This reminds me of my grandpa.”
If we want kids to practice deep and important thinking during independent reading time, then we have to teach them how to do that. A huge lightbulb moment for me was when I read DIY Literacy by Kate and Maggie Roberts. (Click here to read my post on Chaps 3-4) They talk about using micro-progressions so that students know what the expectations are for the work they are doing. Micro-progressions give kids concrete examples on how to lift the level of their work.
So, if you were asking students to think about how a character changes, you could show them these 3 examples from the book, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate.
The next step would be to ask the students what differences they notice about each level of thinking. What kind of work does each of the post its display?
You could then ask students to compare their post-its to the micro-progression. Working in pairs, students can set goals on how they could improve the level of their work and look for evidence of that in their future post-its.
Another way to give the students an opportunity to practice the thinking work that goes along with reading is by having them write “long and strong” about one of their post-its. The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have long recommended students do this to expand their thinking and get used to writing about their reading. Students choose one post-it from the week that they feel they could write more about and then take 15-20 minutes to write as much as they can on it. Here is an example of what that could look like.
As with anything you would ask kids to do on their own, you first need to model, model, model! Read aloud is a great time to do this work so that you have a text all students are familiar with. After writing like this in front of them, (click here for an example of how this lesson could look) ask them to tell you what they saw you do or what they heard you do in your think alouds. What does good writing about character change look like? These thoughts can go on an Anchor Chart that can then be posted for students to refer to when they do this kind of writing.
This is just one way that the anchor chart can look. You could organize it any way you want, with whatever information you are looking for. You could make it more general, not just about writing about character changes, or you could add in visuals for every section or paragraph. In their book, Kate and Maggie suggest that you use illustrations and/or icons to enhance your anchor charts. I am not there yet! I still need to work on “embracing my inner Picasso!” It will be my goal for 2016-2017.
There are a number of ways that you can raise the level of thinking work that students do during independent reading. This post described only two. The important thing about this kind of work is that it is authentic work that students do with a book of their choice and at their level. If your students are completing thinking work like this during independent reading time, you can rest easy that it is time well spent!
Click here to see Part I of this series on Keeping Kids Accountable during Workshop – Keep Them Reading!