Three Tips to Help Students Carry Their Healthy Reading Habits into the Summer Months

With just a few weeks to go in the school year, Stephen steps back to observe his fourth grade class during independent reading, reflecting on how far they’ve come as readers since the start of the year. He doesn’t measure their growth merely in terms of standards or discrete skills. Instead, he sees the ways his class of nine and ten year olds have worked to become a community of engaged and thriving readers over the past eight months.

He smiles as he thinks about how far some of his students have come. Elsa, who was a self-proclaimed non reader in September, is now devouring Jason Reynold’s Track series. Vince, who had a tough time establishing an at-home reading practice due to the challenges of sharing a small bedroom with two younger siblings, is now carving out time to read during what Donalyn Miller refers to as on the edges– those in between times when a few spare minutes can be found here and there. While Stephen sees much to celebrate, the thought of summer approaching also brings concern.

On the other side of the school, Dolores is busy conferring with one of her first graders, Viet. Dolores can’t help but revel in how Viet now takes charge of her own reading life. At the start of the year, Viet had a tough time holding a book and turning pages one at a time. Now, eight months later, Viet takes great care making choices while book shopping and carefully creating an ordered stack of books at the start of independent reading time. She now happily readies herself for 25+ joyful and purposeful reading minutes each day in class.

Like Stephen, Dolores worries about what the summer months may mean for her readers when they are away from the guidance and care of a teacher, a classroom library full of books, and a predictable time for daily independent reading.

Educators like Stephen and Dolores all over the country are thinking about the impending summer away from school and what it means for our students. We’re guessing you probably are, too.

Summer can be a scary, unpredictable space where our students take what we’ve offered and either use it or potentially lose it while they are away from school. The summer months humbly remind us that the point of school isn’t school at all. Rather, the point of school is preparing kids for life outside of school. When it comes to reading, summer is definitely a test of what has stuck in terms of reading habits and what has not.

To gauge and guide our work in this area of healthy reading habits we’ve come to rely on one powerful essential question, “Is the reader making intentional decisions that result in lots of time spent reading both in and out of school?” (To Know and Nurture a Reader, pg. 94).

Today, we offer thee specific ideas to support you and your students as you reflect on and respond to this question while thinking about each of your students during the last weeks of school.

These ideas are meant to help you to increase the likelihood that when summer arrives, students don’t leave their reading commitments behind, but instead are ready to carry the healthy reading habits they’ve worked so hard to develop during the school year with them into the summer months.

Tip #1 Plan Healthy Habits Lessons and Check-Ins Between Now & Summer Break: All year long, you’ve poured your heart into to getting and keeping kids engaged in lots of independent choice reading every day. Now, it’s time to support them in taking charge of keeping that reading going when you aren’t there.

Making time for reflection is the place we like to start. One way to do this is to consider offering a short lesson focused on inviting students to reflect on their current healthy reading habits and habits they’d like to commit to working on before summer arrives. This planning sheet for students may help.

Another idea you might try is highlighting the healthy reading habits that you notice in the classroom. Ask students to consider which of these they feel confident they are ready to carry over into their lives outside of school, and which they might decide to continue to work on.

When Christina did this with her class, they created the chart seen above together. The anchor charts you create with your readers will be unique to their thoughts and identified reading habits.

Tip #2 Invite Students to Create Individual Summer Reading Plans: Once you’ve helped your community of readers start to reflect on and talk about reading habits, you can move them into intentional planning for summer reading. As adults, we know the power of planning and goal setting in our own lives. We know that we are more likely to do something if we make specific plans before we embark on the task or goal. Now is the time to help kids leverage that same power in order to avoid the possible summer slide.

Summer reading plans will look different for each reader. Since no two students will experience the same summer break from school, no two readers should have an identical plan. As you help readers plan for summer, you’ll want to help them consider in detail:

  • What they have interest in reading
  • How they will choose books to read
  • How they might access books
  • When and where they will build in time for reading
  • Who they will talk to or connect with around their reading
  • Contingency plans- the best laid plans always have a back up!

We invite you to model this for your students. Creating your own summer reading plan in front of your students will support them in thinking about and creating their own plans. Let them see the process you go through. Allow them hear you think about how you’ll get books, when and where you’ll read, and how you’ll share your reading. This kind of modeling holds an immense amount of power.

To see what this might look like in practice, take a peek at a few summer reading plans created by students: Christina’s students’ plans from last year. For more detailed insight on summer reading plans, Kari offers specific ideas about summer planning in her free ebook here.

Avoid leaving planning for summer reading until the last days of school. The idea is to help your students internalize these plans before they head off for the summer. So, we suggest helping kids dig into planning as soon as you’re able- even three to four weeks out is not too early! Have kids keep those plans close at hand, sharing them with each other, revising, and visualizing what their summer reading might look like until the very last day.

Tip #3 Leverage the Power of Conferring: Once you’ve helped students reflect on their current habits and draft some concrete summer plans, you’ll be ready to leverage the power of conferring in a new and intentional way.

Of course it’s no secret that we believe there is no more powerful way to make a difference in a reader’s life than committing to the practice of conferring. This personalized one to one learning conversation is the perfect venue to help kids strengthen and realize their summer plans.

Taking the time to sit down with a reader, look in their eyes, explore and offer your partnership in strengthening their plans for summer reading will go far. Wondering about what and how they’ll read this summer, affirming the great ideas they have to help themselves read away from school, and offering additional ideas or suggestions will empower them. This personalized conversation you offer for each student can help to make their plans more intentional, more specific, and more likely to to happen.

Supporting young readers in reflection and planning not only helps to strengthen their reading habits now, but also sets them up for more success once they leave our doors. So, if you don’t want to see your efforts toward nurturing reading lives walk out the door with your students, now’s the time to dig in.

-Kari & Christina



			
		

Conferring with Students Who’ve Experienced Childhood Trauma

Mrs. Anthony is a third grade teacher with a classroom of 26 diverse students. This year, she has more students than ever who seem to struggle with emotional regulation, attention, and peer interactions. During recent professional development in her school, she and her colleagues have had the opportunity to start to learn about how the effects of childhood trauma can present themselves in school. Through the lens of trauma, Mrs. Anthony is working to take a careful inventory of her own practices and decisions in the classroom, working to create a calm, predictable, and safe place for learning to unfold every day. As she does so, she begins to wonder about how her conferring practice might intersect with the needs and/or triggers of her students who are experiencing chronic trauma in their lives. 

No matter where you teach, what your class size, or how long you’ve been in the business, chances are you’re working to build more skills yourself for meeting the needs of students whose exposure to traumatic life experiences is interfering with school success. Continue reading “Conferring with Students Who’ve Experienced Childhood Trauma”

This Week’s Quote, August 5, 2018

“If we are serious about nurturing lifelong readers, we must take seriously the work of book choice.” -page 74

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

This Week’s Quote, July 29, 2018

“There is not one right or wrong way to do this work. So loosen up, have some fun, and when in doubt trust your instincts to follow your students.” –page 6

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

This Week’s Quote, July 22, 2018

“This fierce determination to notice what’s right, right now, before we set about with other teaching, helps our students move from, ‘Oh, no, here comes the teacher’ to ‘Oh, yes! It’s my turn to learn more about myself as a reader.’” – page 28

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

This Week’s Quote, July 15, 2018

“Whether you’ve known a student for six minutes or six months, the goal of every conference is the same: you’re there to harness your curiosity in the service of better informed teaching decisions.”  –page16

 

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

This Week’s Quote, July 8, 2018

“Every book choice tells a story, about both the reader and their book-finding skills.”  -page 76

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

Coming Full Circle: A Thank You Note

Although we both love steaks bloody rare, legs shaved daily, and time by the water, the bedrock foundation of our partnership is built on a shared passion for nurturing readers through independent reading.  Yet we didn’t discover this shared passion by working side by side or meeting at a conference. Instead, we first because acquainted 140 characters at a time on the #G2Great twitter chat.

Who knew that regularly liking someone else’s tweets and following their blog could lead to writing a book together? Not us! And yet, here we are. And we can’t quite imagine that it ever would have happened without the #G2Great chat.  

If you don’t know about this chat, you’re going to want to check it out. Founded on the tenets of Dr. Mary Howard’s book, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters, the #G2Great is co-moderated by Dr. Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, Amy Brennan, and now Fran McVeigh. This incredible chat draws countless literacy educators across the globe and fosters thought provoking conversation, reflection, and professional learning, week in and week out. And while other chats come and go, #G2Great , now into it’s fourth year, just keeps getting better.   
Continue reading “Coming Full Circle: A Thank You Note”

Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!

Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!

As Carmen looks around her third-grade classroom, she sees her peers reading chapter books like Clementine, The One and Only Ivan, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and even Harry Potter. She mentioned to her teacher, Mr. Chen, that everyone’s books seem “so fat and brainy” and the books she’s reading look like “baby books.”  Most of her peer’s current reads exceed 100, 200, and even 300 pages. Carmen longs to read the same books as her friends. In Carmen’s opinion, most of the classroom library books at her current “level” look like they’re for much younger kids. Mr. Chen is at a loss. He knows that if Carmen is to grow as a reader, she’ll have to spend lots of time with books she can actually read and comprehend. But, Carmen is so determined to read what her friends are reading. Like many kids in her position, she just wants to fit in.

The last message we want to give readers is, “You can’t read this book. It’s too hard for you.” So, what can teachers like Mr. Chen do to help readers like Carmen find books they love, can read, and feel proud to hold in their hands?  Continue reading “Help! My students want to choose books I’m afraid are too hard!”

Tips to Help Students Develop the Independence They Need So You Can Confer

Question: I want to regularly confer with every reader in my classroom. But, how can I respond to students who persistently seek my attention while I’m trying to confer with others?

Aaron, a second grade teacher, is working to establish both independent reading and conferring in his classroom. However, as soon as he starts to dig in with one student, he finds himself interrupted by other students who want his attention. Joey needs to go to the restroom; Ava has can’t find her book bag; Isaac keeps tattling on the kids around him. Aaron is beginning to wonder if  his kids just aren’t ready for this level of independence yet, or if maybe they need something “more structured” than independent reading to do while he confers.

Because conferring calls on us to be wholeheartedly present with just one student at a time, What will the other kids be doing? often comes up when we talk with teachers about conferring. Our answer is clear and simple: they’ll be reading self-selected texts. After all, conferring is our primary means of reflecting on what students are doing as they read independently, so we can find meaningful ways to cultivate thriving reading lives. In other words, conferring is something we do while students read independently, in order to understand, affirm, and extend how they read independently.

However, helping your students learn to carry on with engaged independence is not something that just happens overnight. This is tricky, ongoing work that takes clarity, patience, and persistence on your part. To get you started we offer a handful of strategies that will work with any age or stage of reading development.  Continue reading “Tips to Help Students Develop the Independence They Need So You Can Confer”