Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Growing Readers

This past week marked the last week of our first quarter. My students and I took this opportunity to reflect on our growth this year. It helps me see what worked and where I need to make adjustments in my instruction. For example, my students made goals for their reading during this quarter but as I suspected, they weren't very connected to their goals. This is where I need to change my focus for second quarter. I framed the discussion like this: 

Think of yourself as a reader in September. How did you feel about reading? How much did you read? What were you reading? And now think about yourself as a reader now. What's changed? Why has it changed? 

During our discussions, the first thing that came up in all of my classes was choice! All of my students agreed that they read more because they get to pick what they want to read. Some students said they liked reading before, but they never got time to read in class. The responses that set my heart aflutter: 

One of my boys told me, "Last year I had a teacher who really loved science. You really love reading. You love books. You have lots of books." 

I asked this class, "Is it important that your reading teacher likes to read?" They looked at me like I'd just asked them the silliest question. 

Nodding their heads, they all said, "Well, yeah!" And I'm that teacher for them. I'm the one who loves books and knows books. They recognize that and it matters! 

We were talking about how we find good books and they talked about following an author or a series or even a genre...some students talked about books their friends were reading and books that older siblings had read...and some said me. "If I need a book, you always know exactly what I need. I know you'll find something good for me."

My sixth graders continue to surprise me with the depth of their reflections. I am impressed. Here are a few excerpts from student reflections: 

"I don’t like it when I am forced to read something because that just completely ruins the whole dynamic of what I think is reading and I hate it when people who do that."

"Reading is relevant to my life because I get pulled into my happy place when I read and it takes all of my stress away so I can relax."

"I like reading if it is the right book!"

"I find the right stuff to read by Ms. Haseltine.  She helps me find the perfect books because she recognizes what kind of books I read before that and what I would like.  I think Ms. Haseltine is the way to go with book recommendations."

"Sometimes I just have to stop and think about my reading. I also realize when I almost feel like I just woke up because I feel out of where I am and I’m surrounded by words. Also sometimes I don't realize it until I laugh or feel a tear slip out of my eye."

In this day and age of data and testing, the words of my students bring me peace. They have become readers because of how we spend our time in class. Many of them have changed from reporting that, "Reading is ok" to "Please, can we please have five more minutes to read?!?"...and there's no better feeling than that!


  1. Michelle, thank you for reminding me about the importance of reflection. I will make room in my lesson plans to spend some time reflecting on our reading goals with my ESL students this week. Many of them are now ready to make real goals in reading. Thanks for teaching me even before a cup of coffee this morning!

  2. You are the book whisperer for these kids. That is an awesome role to fill! I love how you had the kids to reflect, I don't think we do that enough. It makes them aware that they have some responsibility in this world of school.

  3. I love that you took the time to talk this over, too, Michelle, and thank you for emphasizing such important parts about reading in school, choice & time! Love this, and others also: "sometimes I don't realize it until I laugh or feel a tear slip out of my eye." Thank you!

  4. You should be so proud of your students and yourself for their responses and for you holding on to what matters. I am facing that same reflection about my students. They are loving reading this year because I have given them choice without the pressure of scores. The worry I have is about grades. Many don't meet the Common Core Standards, yet. They care so much about their grades, their scores, but I want them to care more about reading!!

    Thank for the insights of your students. It's given me ideas about how to approach my students about grades vs. reading, I'll just ask. And thank you for your warm welcome to SOL.

  5. Wowza, that is some good data there! I'm celebrating their accomplishments and their love of reading with you! I think it's wonderful that you are so reflective and looking to push them further 2nd quarter! Keep us posted!

  6. If all teachers realized the importance of choice...what a wonderful world this would be! Loved the reflections. This must be such validation for you as their teacher. It's a great feeling to know you are doing something right!

  7. My favorite line is from the student who said that reading takes her to her happy place! I've had similar conversations with my 7th graders who came in telling me they hated reading. Now they are tearing through books because they have choice in what they read.

  8. That's great - reading is a happy place, and bravo to you for leading your kids there!

  9. I love that you reflect and encourage your students to do so, too. I love that they value choice and empowerment. I love that you have, somehow, sheltered them from the dominating forces of the testing industry and found a way to help them have an oasis in which to learn to be readers and writers who think and care....Reading the quotes of your students, I felt a tear slip from my eyes!

  10. You're making such a huge impact on your students by sharing your love of reading with them. They're sure lucky to have you as their teacher!

  11. choice is # 1 for me also...I loved the student that talked about being in her happy place when she reads, very powerful...books have always led the way for me also...I missed sixth grade when I read your post xo


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