Tag Archives: Independent Reading

How to Support Student “Book Shopping” in Your Classroom

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Managing classroom libraries requires a delicate balance between organization, choice, behavior, and matching children with appropriate texts. Classroom libraries can be organized in many ways– by genre, series, or some other category. Susan Taberski (2000) suggests having bins of unleveled books from which students choose their independent reading selections and bins of books by level for when they need practice with something "just right." Other teachers label their books using the Fountas and Pinnell A through Z gradient. 

Because an "assessed" reading level doesn't always correspond with a student's level of comprehension, it is important that students spend time with more than just independent-level texts. To do this, it is necessary to spend time working with students on independent text selection that supports decoding development, fosters comprehension and thinking, and pique students' interests in reading.

"But How?" you might ask…

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Heinemann Fellow Kate Flowers Asks: What’s Your Five Percent?

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By Kate Flowers


One of the things I love most about teaching is that it constantly offers us new beginnings. Every semester is a chance to reinvent ourselves, our teaching, and our classrooms. Few professions offer this opportunity for reinvention, and all around me I see brilliant educators embrace it again and again.

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Simple Starts: Bravely Begin With Kari Yates

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Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom is author Kari Yates’ getting-started guide to creating the reading classroom of your—and your students’—dreams. In today's post, Kari explains the need for, you guessed it, simple starting points to create lifelong readers in your students. The process is complex, and it's a great challenge to make your classroom reader-centered, but all you need to do is bravely begin.

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Reader-Centered Classrooms? Why Not?

Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom is out now. Heinemann’s newest offering is author Kari Yates’ getting-started guide to creating the reading classroom of your—and your students’—dreams. In today’s post, Kari compares reader-centered classrooms to other-centered classrooms and warns that making the move from one to the other is a process, not an event.

By Kari Yates

In reader-centered classrooms, we commit to putting readers first.

Sounds simple enough, right?

But sometimes external pressures, tight schedules, past practices, and uncertainty can get in the way, leading us to other-centered classrooms despite our best intentions.

Sometimes our classrooms become curriculum-centered. We follow the script. We cover the content and the standards but pay little attention to how our students respond.

In reader-centered classrooms we find the courage to follow our students’ leads. We are clear on the learning outcomes we must work to achieve, but we watch and listen carefully as our students reveal their strengths, interests, and needs. We know them better than any outside “expert” and we’re not scared to say so. We adapt instruction in ways only a teacher who knows them well can.

Sometimes our classrooms become teacher-centered. We do most of the talking and decision-making. We work harder than anyone else in the room, leaving us frazzled and focused on management.

In reader-centered classrooms students are empowered as decision-makers. We have simple, predictable routines. Students make choices within this structure. They do most of the talking and decision-making. We act as coaches, providing varying levels of support, based on what they reveal is needed.

Sometimes our classrooms become activity-centered. We let projects, products, and proof take center stage. These tasks (worksheets, workbooks, packets, step-by-step projects, cut-and-paste, etc.) can take our kids away from the real business of reading and leave us feeling exhausted with the constant cycle of creating, collecting, and correcting stuff.

In reader-centered classrooms students spend most of their time building authentic reading lives. Their primary activities are reading, talking about reading with other readers, and writing about reading. We spend less time wondering, “What could I have them do?” and more time considering, “What do these readers need next?” Time for independent reading is placed on the schedule first, not last.

Sometimes our classrooms become reward-centered. We focus on points and prizes as a means of “getting kids to read”. We confuse our kids with the absurd notion that these carrots and contests are real reasons for reading.

In reader-centered classrooms readers celebrate books and reading. Kids never choose a book based on how many points it can help them earn or what they will “get” for reading it. Instead, readers learn how to find books that they can’t wait to start reading and don’t want to put down. They are motivated by access to amazing books and the power of choice. Joyful engagement is both the goal and the reward.

Sometimes our classrooms become text-centered. We choose and control most of the texts our students read, and even the pace of their reading. We’ve come to believe there are certain texts that everyone must read or that we must be use to teach particular skills or strategies.

In reader-centered classrooms, we dare to let students choose most of what they read. We know that when readers are motivated and engaged, most any text can become a powerful tool for learning. Instead of choosing for them, we empower them to pursue their own interests, passions and inquiries as readers. We’re building their skills for a lifetime—not just for a class period.

Sometimes our classrooms have become proof-centered. We present ourselves more like the “reading police” than reading partners.

In reader-centered classrooms we work to build a community of readers. We share our joys, wonderings and struggles as readers. We use the power of read aloud, partner conversations, book clubs, book talks, and conferences to build reader-to-reader relationships with and among our students.

Creating a reader-centered classroom is not a goal to be accomplished and checked off your list. It is an ongoing cycle of reflection, planning, and action. Each thoughtful move potentially takes us closer to the classrooms we’ve imagined. Day-by-day. Student-by-student. Move-by-move. The next move on the path to a reader-centered classroom is yours.

What will it be?

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Kari Yates is a program manager for literacy and English learners, helping teachers and administrators plan literacy instruction. Visit her web site and follow her on Twitter at @Kari_Yates.

Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom is out now.

5 Ways to Reclaim Time for Independent Reading

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Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom is out now. Heinemann’s newest offering is author Kari Yates’ getting-started guide to creating the reading classroom of your—and your students’—dreams. In today’s post adapted from the book, Kari gives you five ways to find time for independent reading within your already packed daily itinerary.

By Kari Yates

There’s no question that running is good for me. It keeps me healthy, gives me energy, and helps me clear my head, process ideas, and just plain feel good. But if I didn’t push back against a long list of competing demands, my running shoes would never see the light of day.

The same thing can be true in K–5 literacy classrooms. It’s not enough to agree that independent reading is good for kids; we have to push back against the long list of competing demands to make sure independent reading gets the time it deserves.

As Mike Schmoker points out in “The Crayola Curriculum” (2001), the unfortunate reality in many literacy classrooms is that way too much other stuff is taking place in the name of literate activity: worksheets, crossword puzzles, word searches, cut-and-paste activities, coloring pages. None of these activities honor what study after study has concluded about how kids learn to read: they need books in their hands, books they can and want to read.

To become strong independent readers, students need to spend big chunks of uninterrupted time reading independently every single day. For that to happen, teachers and administrators need to work together to get independent reading on the schedule; keep it there; and honor it every day as sacred.

Simple Starts is packed with smart steps for transforming independent reading into a truly reader-centered, joyful time of day. But before you can begin to provide reader-centered instruction, you’re going to have to find time for generous amounts of daily independent reading.

Kids can’t learn to read at the level required for success if they are not spending the majority of the time authentically reading real texts and talking and writing about their reading. The formula for learning to read is clear:

TIME + GOOD-FIT BOOKS + THINKING, TALKING, AND WRITING = SUCCESS

Everyone who ever found more time for independent reading started off wondering where the time could possibly come from. The good news is, thousands of teachers have figured it out and so can you. Here are five simple starting points to help you reclaim precious minutes:

  1. Tighten up transitions. You can “find” an extra ten to twenty minutes each day by sticking to the schedule and making clean transitions. Trim three minutes from bathroom break, another two when the kids get back from music or art, and a few more by shortening the snack break, and you’ve already grabbed an extra six or seven minutes.
     
  2. Trim some fat. If there’s no single activity you can completely eliminate, trim five or ten minutes from several. This adds up quickly.
     
  3. Integrate social studies and science with reading. Supplement your science and social studies instruction by reading aloud high-quality historical fiction, biographies, and expository texts. Integrate content area learning into independent reading by stocking your classroom library shelves with nonfiction related to social studies and science.
     
  4. Have kids read while you are working with small groups. You are probably already working with guided reading groups or providing other small-group instruction. Rather than have kids work in centers or at stations, gradually introduce independent reading as the primary activity for the rest of the class.
     
  5. Eliminate artificial activities. Reclaim any time spent filling out worksheets and workbooks. These are not authentic tasks. By substituting real independent reading, you’ll not only help your kids grow as readers but also have a whole lot less “correcting” to do at the end of the day.

Saying yes to daily independent reading will require the courage to say no to something else. But something you truly value is worth fighting for.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Kari Yates is a program manager for literacy and English learners, helping teachers and administrators plan literacy instruction. Visit her web site and follow her on Twitter at @Kari_Yates.

Simple Starts: Making the Move to a Reader-Centered Classroom is out now.