My first four days of school have come and gone. It’s now the weekend, and I am back in my beloved, currently fog-draped, city of San Francisco for a couple days reflecting on the past week and planning ahead for the days to come.
This morning, I’m thinking about our first few days of reading workshop. Specifically, I’m thinking of the first day.
On the first day, I gathered my class in our meeting area, and told them that my one goal this year is for each and every one of them to consistently find books that they love, find a lot of them, and happily read those books every single day in fifth grade and then beyond. And, that there is only one way to make this happen…
“The most important thing you can do as a growing reader and citizen is read. So, today, you will explore the classroom library, choose a book or two or three, and just read!”
As my fifth graders sat listening to my words, I noticed many of them peeking back at the classroom library. It appeared that the anticipation for exploring all that the library had to offer was growing. After a few more brief words about taking time to choose a book they actually want to read, I set them free! I gave my fifth graders free reign of the classroom library, and just simply let them read. As they started reading. I stood back, wondered, and observed. Using my trusty clipboard, I recorded what I noticed.
What did I look for and Take Note of?
- Who quickly found a book?
- Who took time to carefully select a book?
- Who had a difficult time finding a book, or didn’t find one at all?
- Who settled into engaging reading right away and never looked up?
- Who eventually settled in after carefully choosing a book?
- Who had a more difficult time settling in?
- Who never really settled in?
- Where did they choose to read? Their tables, on the floor, in bean bags, near others, away from others, etc…
- Which books were chosen? (I wrote each title down next to each reader’s name on my clipboard)
- Were any conversations authentically started around finding books or reading?
- Were any sticky notes used for jotting things down? What was jotted down?
As I stood back with my conferring clipboard, I just wondered about these new, fifth grade readers in front of me. I did not intervene, I did not jump in to teach, I simply stood back, wondered, and took notes about each and every one of them for those 30 minutes of independent reading time on the first day of school.
My wondering did not stop with independent reading time. With about five minutes left, I invited my readers to give an informal book talk about their current read or about any book they read this summer. Two readers took me up on that invitation! Listening to their book talks and observing the rest of the class during the talks also revealed quite a bit about my readers.
On day two, I did the same. I simply invited my readers to read, stood back, wondered, and took note of what I observed. Four more readers asked if they could give book talks that day.
On day three, I knew quite a bit about each and every one of my new readers! I was ready to give a whole group lesson based on patterns I saw. In addition, I was ready to sit down with my readers to confer- to have one to one, in the moment, individualized conversations.
It was a great start to the school year! If you have not yet started school (or even if you have), before you jump in to teach your readers, I invite you to take a step back and truly wonder about each and every one of them. Try to get to know them as the unique people and readers that they are. Look for what is going right first, and then what might need a little guiding. Really try to learn what they need before you teach. Let your readers guide you. Your teaching and your readers will be so much stronger because of it!
Happy Back to School!
My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and fun!