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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting to Know Your Reading Self

I believe Lucy Calkins calls it, "Building a Reader's Life."  In either case, we also spent the month of September getting to know our reading selves!  I can't stress how important it is that children be given the chance to learn about themselves as readers.  Consider this:  when was the last time you were asked what books you like to read and the person asking really wanted to know?  Then...that same person asked you to set goals for yourself as a reader?!

This is just one of many questions I ask my students in September.  I also ask (Thanks to Amy Buckner):

  • What is your history as a reader?
  • What keeps you reading?
  • What I know to be true about reading...
  • Books I love!

We also set reading resolutions (A lesson I stole from the Units of Study), discussed how to read faster, stronger, and longer (again...Units of Study), plus learned and practiced the importance of working with our literature partners.

I am excited about the possibilities this year will continue to offer for my students.  I am choosing to embrace the Common Core standards as a way to deepen my instruction and to make my instruction more valuable!

As we worked through this first month we read the following books:

(I'm probably missing one or two..)

We are now reading the following chapter book by the awesome Montessori-trained Lee Wardlaw: 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents.  The lessons we have pulled from this book have been useful for both reader's and writer's workshop.

People have asked, what program do you use for your reader's workshop?  I don't use any one program.  I jumped into Reader's Workshop before it was the "in" thing in my district.  I read Amy Buckner and Frank Serafini in the summer.  I had just finished reading and using the Writing Workshop Units of Study.  I figured that I could do this for reading!  My RW is my own creation.  It is not a curriculum or a program, rather my RW is a framework for instruction.  I use my student's needs to select lessons and guide student learning.  That's how I, "get it done!"

The Genre of a Test

The month of September was a busy one!  In our Reader's Workshop we focused on two main areas--a quick review of the genre of a test, and getting to know ourselves as readers.

Frank Serafini states the following, "When students are familiar with the tasks required by the tests, they are better able to focus their attention and energy on the content of the test and to demonstrate their abilities."  He continues to point out in his short article that the skills needed for a standardized test may be different than the skills supported in the reader’s (and writer’s) workshop.  Think about it, when do you give children a question and ask them to pick the least likely answer or the most likely answer?  Most of the time we are having deep discussions and conversations about text-what we agree or disagree with in the story or article, symbolism, inferring and synthesizing information, and among other things, making connections between stories, articles, and the media.

I agree that we must show that a test has value if our students are to take it seriously.  On my end, we do discuss in our workshop unit all the ways that tests can be useful and brainstorm ways that the test helps my teaching. Between you, the Internet, and me it’s not the test that’s the problem it’s the crazy directions (Really, no water bottles on tables for 4th graders testing for 80 and 60 minutes??) and the way the tests are used.  (Home real estate values, teacher evaluations..)

My unit, the genre of a test, includes the following lessons:
  • Test vocabulary and language
  • How tests are set-up
  • What we know about tests
  • Test reading tips (Using deductive reasoning to evaluate answers)
  • Using the QAR strategy (which becomes a BIG strategy for the whole school year!)

Frank Serafini calls this demystifying the test—it’s an excellent description.  I am teaching the kids it’s just another unit of study!  This year I added one additional element to my mini-lesson, which was to make a connection from the daily mini-lesson to our study of non-fiction.  For example, we do and will use the QAR method quite a bit when we are reading non-fiction.

To read more of Frank Serafini’s short article on the genre of a standardized test go to the following link:

Happy Reading!

Mrs. Perrien