So, it’s directed reading time. I have my readers grouped according to ability and the groups are reading different books, which I have geared toward the students in the particular groups. I have a group who collectively love animals, so we are reading Trouble According to Humphrey. I have another group who are mostly boys and they enjoy non-fiction and the occasional gross body function book, so they are reading Stinky Feet.
My first group, consisting of five students, comes to my table. All but one of them is eager to find out what trouble Humphrey’s students are going to get themselves into today. All except one. My little friend was diagnosed with dyslexia this summer and reading has always been a challenge. Although this student has grown by leaps and bounds, reading has prickly edges and still does not come as easily as this student would like. “The words jump around on the page.” I’ve heard this many times throughout the year and totally understand how challenging this can be. I smile reassuringly and pat a chair next to me. I lean forward and whisper, “You’re gonna do great!” I get a small, but hesitant smile in return.
We begin reading, each child taking a turn with a full page and moving through the chapter. Some read quickly with the correct inflection and prosody. Others are working on volume level and rhythm. All in all they are doing a great job, even my little friend who struggles.
Our time is up and I reward this group with stickers or a small treat and call my next group to my table. This group is tough. These boys are not very excited about reading, although none of them have difficulty with reading. They just don’t like it. I have to be very careful in the books I choose in order to keep their interest and therefore help create fluent, comprehensive readers. We open to the page where we left off the day before and my first friend begins reading. I watch him and notice eye rolling and giggles from the others. Thankfully we are reading a book where the giggles are not too inappropriate and we make it through the next chapter. Whew. I usually come out of that reading group feeling like I need a break or medication.
The two scenarios above show two different groups of readers: readers who struggle and readers who are reluctant. These two groups are NOT the same.
Struggling readers usually are challenged by reading due to some issue holding them back from reading fluently and with comprehension on level. These issues can include spatial-relations, processing or muscular vision challenges, just to name a few. Struggling readers have usually been challenged by reading from the get-go: learning letters and sounds were difficult, learning sight words was horrendous and trying to comprehend choppy reading was a nightmare. These challenges have created readers who are not confident, which hinders them wanting to read, which affects becoming a better reader. It’s a vicious cycle, you get the picture.
Reluctant readers on the other hand usually do not have challenges in reading: they just flat out don’t like to read. These kids are the ones who find no enjoyment in reading, who don’t see the reason to read and couldn’t care less about visualizing and being imaginative in their reading. Reading is just not appealing to them. These students are usually very strong in other subject areas. Unfortunately, they still need to read and need to learn all of the skills that come along with reading.
So how do we create strong reading environments for these two groups of kids? We all have specific objectives that we must meet in order for our children to advance academically in reading. It can be very challenging to meet each objective effectively or each child when dealing with these two types of students, of whom we all have scattered throughout our classrooms.
Here are five things that I do in my classroom which I have found effective with all of my readers.
1. Group readers according to ability. I have a multiple grade-level classroom, but all of us have differentiated learners. I always group readers according to ability and throughout the year I move students from group to group as needed.
2. Find books that a majority of each group ENJOYS reading. If you can get a group hooked on a specific genre or series, then go with it. None of us like to read about subjects we don’t enjoy, and believe me, some of the passages on the standardized tests would put the dead to sleep. Why do this in your directed reading group where your focus is on creating better readers? Find out the students’ interests and run with it.
3. Create a summary chart after each chapter. I use a separate poster board for each reading group that I have split into sections: Characters, Setting, Conflict, Solution. I have laminated this poster board so I can reuse it after each book. After each chapter we go through as a group and discuss each section. I record the students’ responses then draw a line after we are done. This not only visually splits the book up by chapters, but also allows us to know what happened in each chapter. We don’t get wordy. The kids are short and sweet and to the point, allowing them to see a brief summary that we can review at the next reading time.
4. We keep a vocabulary notebook. I have groups of second and third graders. These kiddos may be able to sound out words, but have no clue what the word means, which affects their comprehension of the entire story. We read the chapter, record at least seven vocabulary words and I give them two or three word definitions of the words which they record in their vocabulary notebook. All authors have styles of writing and usually use the same vocabulary words throughout their books. Chances are the vocabulary words will keep reappearing. As the students come across these words they will retain the definitions, which will enhance their understanding of what they are reading.
5. Re-read the chapter with the kids listening. Remember, we have different styles of learners. Our visual learners will get the most out of reading by doing it themselves. Our kinesthetic learners will get the most out of filling out their own summary chart and vocabulary notebook. What about our auditory learners? Sometimes it’s very difficult for our auditory learners to put the story together while listening to young readers read. Our auditory learners need to hear a seasoned reader read with the correct rhythm, inflection and punctuation in order to really understand and enjoy reading. Remember, young children who are auditory learners are usually a very small percent of a classroom. They usually have a challenge that is preventing them from learning visually or kinesthetically. They NEED to hear it!
6. Reward, reward, reward. I always have some type of reward on hand: stickers, a piece of candy, a short game we get to play after successfully making it through our reading time. Remember, we want to motivate children to read, not make it a dreaded time of day. This goes doubly for our struggling and reluctant readers.
I tell my parents and students all the time that reading is ten percent know how and ninety percent confidence. If we can create confident readers, we will have children who want to read. When we have children who want to read, they will read more, which will create confidence. We need to continually encourage this cycle.