Tuesday, May 27, 2014

if I were still in the classroom: reading relationships

In a few weeks, the Literacy Coaches and teachers from around our district are going to be doing some summer curriculum work. In an effort to prepare for that, I've been busy reading Lucy Calkin's Curricular Plan for fifth grade. Today I came across reading partnerships and I so wish I knew about this when I had my own classroom!

If I still had my own classroom, I would totally build reading partnerships into my reading workshop. Reading partnerships are pairs of students who stick together (I'm envisioning a pair who would stick for a quarter of the school year at least) and talk about their Just Right books. You can build these pairs in various ways: by ability, interest, friendship, or mentor partnerships.

Ability Paired
The first way to create a pair would be by ability. If you choose to put kids together who are like ability, they are more apt to read the same kinds of books, and that would make discussions easy for them to have.
Interest Paired
Another way would be to create pairs by interest. If you know you have a few kids interested in the Percy Jackson series, for example, you'd put them together.
Friendship Paired
Or, you could pair students up by friendships - essentially let them choose one of their friends to pair up with. As you can guess, this might be kind of messy because you might worry that they would focus more on talking about their plans for the weekend than about the books they are reading, but when our kids move on to high school, they will rely on their friends to support them academically as they call one another for support at night. So, if you choose to go this route, you will want to teach them self-discipline and model exactly what the behaviors of an engaged pair would look like, sound like, and feel like. (Actually, you should do this for all the kids - regardless of how you pair them's just good teaching!)
Mentor Paired
Finally, you might have your partnerships built as mentor partnerships - where one student will mentor another along their road to independent reading. Lucy Calkins reminds us that books bring peole together, and in this case, that is so. You may even find that children who otherwise wouldn't have ever talked to one another become friends with one another - all because of books!

So, what I'm envisioning for my hypothetical upper elementary or middle school classroom would be kids matched up in one way or another and then as a Do Now or as a share time at the end of the class period, they would get to talk to their partner about their Just Right book. 

Lucy Calkins says, "Pretty much every single day a reader needs protected time for reading and protected time to talk to someone about what he or she has been reading, as well as what work he or she has been doing as a reader. That is, these partnership conversations are sometimes full of talk about what is happening in their books - all readers love to talk about the characters, places, and plots of their books, especially as the books get increasingly complex. You'd never deny readers this pleasure because it is intrinsic to reading. At the same time, you want your readers to be able to answer the question, What work are you doing as a reader? What are you investigating? And you want that answer to show that they are responding to your instruction, moving across what Normal Webb calls Depth of Knowledge levels, so that they move from recall to synthesis to analysis" (A curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop, Grade 5, 2011-2012, page 20).

See that part in red up there? This is so true! One of the girls in my RtI group has been carrying around her new Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul book and every chance she gets with me she's reading an excerpt or telling me about another story in the book. This is a natural phenomenon with reading and if we create reading partners, it will help our kiddos engage more with the books they read. Additionally, we will have them add the content we teach in class to their conversations, moving them from just the general plot line, to application of our mini-lesson content within their conversations!

Your Turn:
Do you have reading partners in your classroom that talk about their books daily? What do you think of the idea? Is this something you'd be open to trying? Please share your experiences!

Happy Monday Tuesday!


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