Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Reading Class: A How To

I recently realized something as I was teaching my 5th graders during reading class. I realized that my class structure has become truly unique. I realized that my structure no longer follows the district guidelines (although it is still within what the district wants, it is not a clone), it no longer follows traditional thought, and it no longer follows what anyone else in the building does.

The teaching of reading in elementary school is basically broken into three components: teacher led reading (read aloud, shared, or modeled reading depending on the jargon where you work), group reading, and individual reading. Activities that are done in reading fall within one of these three areas.

My students enjoy teacher led reading immensely, they beg for more. The reason for this is the lack of textbooks, more often than not called "basal readers," which are books of story excerpts. Some of the excerpts are from great stories, so early in my career, I began to question this by saying that if the story was so good, shouldn't we read the whole thing? Isn't that part of the experience? My quest for the authentic literacy experience led me to where I am now.

For the first 30 minutes of each reading class (which run for 90 minutes, within my currently self contained classroom), I read to my students. I read to them from books that are basically above the reading level of 75% of the class, but not substantially above their level. I have read books like "The Castle in the Attic," "The City of Ember," "Coraline," and "The Giver," all books that I have read personally and consider to be masterpieces of children's literature. It is important that the teacher is familiar with the books before reading them out loud, don't just pick one because I or somebody else recommended it and start reading it. I am comfortable reading "The Giver," but somebody else might find it outside of their comfort zone, so be knowledgeable first.

After that 30 minutes is over, students work in groups for 30 minutes, reading a book that they selected together, or working on a project that I have given them. This block is where students are actually ability grouped and rotate between "stations," this is in following the Guided Reading model that my school district has mandated. This is another rule of reading. If your school district tells you to do something, do it, but make it work. Don't just say "I'm not doing that." In their groups, one of the big things I have going on is computer work. Students complete various projects on the computers during group.

At the end of group, there is 30 minutes of individual work. The activity most often done and preferred in individual time is sustained silent reading. Students love self choice, they love the joy that comes with a good book, and they love the time to themselves after a long day of lectures, group work, discussion, experimenting, and everything else that makes the school day so great. I guess I should say that my reading is taught at the end of the day (not my choice, but that's the way it goes).

So that's just a quick overview. I'll be back during the week with more book reviews, more ideas, and more discussion. Please check back soon.


Terry said...

I appreciate your contrast with elementary reading. Glad to find your blog.

Deanna H. said...

Totally agree about the basals. Why just put part of the story out there? Plus, kids like to hold a real book in their hand. Thanks for the post.

The Buss said...

Thank you both for your comments, I appreciate them very much!