Day 9: What Readers Really Do and Don’t Do

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my day every day in chronological order,11454297503_e27946e4ff_h sequentially.

I make a point of giving students time to read every day in the classroom. They have the opportunity the first thing in the morning and during Reader’s Workshop. It takes a chunk of time, but it’s essential.

Most of my kiddos are not avid readers. In their spare time, they’re at practice, using some kind of electronic device, taking care of siblings, or just being a kid. Picking up a book outside of class is done when a parent asks. I know this. That’s why in my room a there is always time for reading.

As students read independently, it’s my job to watch their engagement and dip into their thinking. Once they get settled, I check in with several students who had just started a new book. Even though they picked the books, I want to make sure they are still interested. I get a thumbs up from everyone I check in with, so I leave them be. Interrupting their reading is something I do with purpose, knowing if I’m talking to them, they aren’t reading.

Sometimes requesting a post it. A simple “what ideas did you get from your reading today” can show a lot. These notes took a few minutes to compose at the end of the workshop. They serve as launch points for conferences and club discussions.


Yesterday, I approached a student during workshop time who has had Wish by Barbara O’Connor for a week. She looks to be in the first third.  Sara* creeps through books. I know she doesn’t read at home. I believe she has the ability, but the passion isn’t evident.

I sit down next to her. My open-ended queries result in minimal responses.

How’s it going?

So what are you doing right now in your book?

Can you show me?
I’m right here. (she points to the top of the page)

Can you read some more with me?.

She starts to read aloud. Her fluency is slow but persistent. After a few paragraphs. I ask her, so what are you thinking?

She tells me the gist with a bit of inference. I know this book as a story and its difficulty. It’s right where Sara should be able to work independently. And she is — sort of. Her reading rate is a big problem. I ask here to read silently, and I read over her shoulder. After a few minutes she’s turned one page.  The pages are not dense.

We talk a bit more about the story and her thoughts. She can do this work, but it is labored. We talk about reading habits.  This is not the first time we’ve had this discussion. I ask a few more questions about club discussions, reading aloud versus silently, reading environment. Then I ask if this is a book she wants to read or has to read.  She thinks she wants to read it.

We’re not done, but I decide to table the conversation.

The amount Sara reads is far less than what she should. She can do the work, but she isn’t. It could be the story, but it seems to be something more. Something I wrestle with. And not just with Sara.

What students can do in a short teacher-driven assessment required by a running record and what they can maintain independently with sustained focus over a 150-plus page book are often two different things. Both tell things about a reader. When Sara chose this book, it felt doable. The first few pages, maybe first few chapters. But something got in the way.

Tomorrow I’ll sit with her group and try to figure it out. We’ll talk about wanting to read and having to read. About talking about reading. About reading at home. About book choice. About reading a lot more.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.