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.


15 thoughts on “Day 9: What Readers Really Do and Don’t Do

  1. I love how we can use blogging as a tool for documenting learning that happens in the classroom, to remember the dialogues and thoughts we have with different students. I love peeking into different classrooms and into the heads of different teachers. I appreciate that you share.

  2. You are a very reflective teacher! I have wondered this about students in the past, too. It’s good that you are noticing this behavior and are taking action to help her. 🙂

  3. I love how you know so much about this learner and are working to learn even more so you can support her as a reader. You were able to get so close “to” her in your slice. Wishing you success today!

  4. That talking about reading talk is so important, and so difficult. I feel as though each time I meet with a student we edge closer to where we need to be – it’s the long game, right? the every day persistent nudging towards a deeper reading life.

  5. I love the deep conversations when students become enlightened about where they are as readers. It’s almost a magic moment.

  6. I love how you know your students on such a deeper level. She will drown in later years if she continues to plod along in text. I love the Under Armor commercials that emphasize how to get good at anything you have to practice it, a lot. Kelly Gallagher introduced me to them, they are on YouTube. Maybe your kids need to be reminded.

  7. The struggle is real! Kids are different and yet always this same problem persists… kids who don’t read enough… and their progress stalls, sputters, & sometime stops.

    Assessment can only get us so far. Motivating them is the challenge. And more to the point, helping them find the motivation.

    I always appreciate how honest you are about what is. Thank you for sharing this and “keep on!” to Miss Sara.

  8. When you have these conversations with your students, you learn so much about them, but they also hide themselves. Especially those teacher pleasers. They want to do better, but something is slowing them down. I wish I knew the answer.

  9. It’s such a mystery with some students. You check, then double check. All seems okay. There were times with some students that I felt they were so busy after school that they were simply tired during the day. I had one child who struggled and was about to leave for high school. He was a swimmer, drove an hour to his team, did not get home until about 8pm or so. Then he had to eat dinner, then homework & reading! It was a huge problem to solve. There just wasn’t time for everything, including a good night’s sleep. Keep probling, Julieanne.

  10. Thanks for showing us a glimpse into your teacher life. You’re doing such good work! I love the way you’re trying to figure out this reader. Giving your kids that time to read is so important!

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