Time is number one on my list because without time for students to read and see themselves as readers, they never will be. As teachers, we must put our money where our mouth is. If we say we value students seeing themselves as readers, but never give them any independent reading time during class, we are contradicting what we say we value. I have witnessed time and again reluctant readers in my classroom who say they hate reading matched with the right book, and given an uninterrupted amount of time to enjoy it, get hooked and become almost addicted to reading. It is human nature to make time in our life for the things we enjoy, and to not make time for other things that we have a negative connotation with or do not find important enough to incorporate into our schedules. The more we get students "hooked" into reading during class time, the more that will transfer to them reading outside of class, and we all know the correlation between students' reading time and reading levels. The more students read, the better they will be at it. Seems a little too logical, huh?
For me, personally, I know that in order to give students more independent reading time, I need to be more cognizant of keeping my minilessons mini and work really hard to keep transition time and routines efficient to maximize the minutes we do have.
2. Exposure to text in a variety of instructional contexts
Using the Reading Workshop model to teach reading, I ensure that all of the students in my classroom will be exposed to a variety of authors, genres, and topics throughout the school year. The daily Interactive Read Aloud I read with them allows students to hear a text and experience it as an audience. Students' independent reading is self-selected and gives them the opportunity to read what they want, when they want. Guided Reading has students reading at their instructional reading level with teacher support in small groups. Literature Circles expose students to reading grade level texts and engaging in conversation with their peers. All of these different instructional contexts allow students to get to know who they are as readers and who they want to become.
Students must learn how to put words to their thinking about reading. If we constantly require students to only write down their thinking about reading, we are sort of squashing the awesome conversations students could be having with one another and as a class. I am going to make a conscious effort this school year to build in time for student talk about text at the end of the class period during the "share" portion of the minilesson. I also want to really dig into helping students develop the skills necessary to engage in meaningful small group conversations about reading. It's one thing to put them in a group to talk about a book, and it's completely another to teach them how to engage in meaningful conversation.
4. Focus on skills not tasks
A huge focus of teaching right now is always making the standard you are covering that day known by using an "I Can" statement, a minilesson statement, writing the standard on the board, etc. I think sometimes we, as teachers, get confused between what we are asking students to do that day and what we are asking students to take on as readers to carry with them and apply again and again as they read any book in their future. I want to be the teacher that teaches students what it means to be readers who are able to think deeply about what they are reading. I don't want to be the teacher who teaches that readers "do Venn Diagrams." Here are a few examples to add a little more clarity to what I am saying.
Minilesson Focused on a Skill:
-Readers think about how the characters change in a story so that they can analyze how the changes impacted the plot.
Minilesson Focused on a Task:
-Readers keep a chart of how characters change in a story so that they can analyze how the changes impacted the plot.
The difference in the minilesson is subtle, but the wording we use with students when it comes to the minilesson statement for the day is our way of communicating with students what's important for them to take on as readers. These minilessons MUST be based on thinking.
5. Celebrate Reading
I'm not talking balloons and cake, although these things are never out of the question. I'm talking about the moments where students feel valued as a reader by their teacher, their parents, other students, etc. As teachers, we can deliberately create these moments for students to celebrate what they've accomplished as readers by:
-Holding reading conferences with students and then continuing to informally follow up on the progress students are making on their independent reading material. It's amazing the impact a teacher can make on students as readers just by showing interest and asking how a book is going.
-Having students give book talks on books they've finished and loved. Giving students ownership on sharing a book they liked with the class is going to create a positive domino effect.
-Assign students to talk about their reading with parents at home.
Students need to feel good about what they've done as readers. It will make them more likely to want to accomplish even more.