Celebrating Growth, Goals, Beautiful Endings and Getting Real about Reading

Three things to celebrate in my classroom:

1) completion of parent conferences

2) a satisfying end of a read aloud

3) freedom in reading

Parent conferences are stressful for all parties. My goal was to send a message of growth and goals. I didn’t discuss grades at any point. A form designed to help all parties focus on this helped things go smoothly. conferences 2013  For writing the beautifully designed TCRWP checklist/rubric for narrative writing provided a perfect focal point. Growth was acknowledged, the place on the continuum each child had attained defined. Goals were clearly stated for the next round. For reading running records and lexile levels were discussed around our expectations at this time of the year. But more importantly each student’s writing about their reading (really their thinking about reading) was discussed. In each case, where the student was on the map of expectations was clear. In many cases students weren’t meeting expectations fully, but parents were able to see that that it wasn’t a verdict on their child it was a progression of learning. It wasn’t about grades it was about growth. CELEBRATE!

Our class read aloud, Wonder, came to a close. On Friday, students knew they were coming to the end. They were excited, yet at the end of every chapter they held their breath thinking, is this it? A sign of relief would escape as they saw there was another chapter. It wasn’t the end yet. We all know that wonderful yet painful feeling of getting to a satisfying end but the knowledge that this connection, this world we are living in is coming to a close. Beautiful yet tragic. My students felt this. At this moment, Wonder is the scale by which all books my students read independently will be measured. Does it feel like it did when we read Wonder? Is this character reminding you of a character in Wonder? Does this story connect to ideas in Wonder? You know how you walked away with something you held on to when we finished Wonder? What did you walk away holding on to after reading this book? The effect of Wonder will live on in them not only for the beautiful messages it put forth, but with the experience it gave each and every student of what it means to be a reader. What reading should be.  CELEBRATE!

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This year my students are allowed freedom to go outside their reading level when choosing a book. Students still know their running records level and they take a monthly SRI assessment. But this year, their book selections are not constrained by a levels. This year, I have baskets labeled by interest that are mixed levels as well as leveled baskets. Levels are there to help guide student selection, but not determine it. There will be books that students attempt that are way beyond them even though the book is technically, their level. And by the same token, there are books above their level that they will be able to access if it happens to be in an area they are interested in or have knowledge of. It is more important that students are able to recognize when a book is doable, a good fit. Because of this “liberal” approach to book selection, students are not allowed to finish books that they are struggling with. They must return them because for whatever reason, at this point in their life, the book isn’t right for them.


This “liberal” approach to reading can happen as long as there is 1) direct reading instruction, 2) clear authentic accountability measures that promote reading volume and 3) the student’s knowledge of when reading is a struggle and conversely, when it isn’t pushing them. Reading must be closely monitored with varied assessments beyond running records (conferring, writing about their reading, quick checkups with a title I know well) that lead to small group strategy coaching and direct instruction. Accountability measures such as regular status of the class a la Donalyn Miller, partnership reading, and weekly measurement of reading volume puts an emphasis on reading and reading a lot. These things along with firmly redirecting students to books that will fit their current needs, moves students reading level while making reading not about a level but about finding books that work for them so they can and want to read. This evolution in my view of reading has take a while. Choice has become bigger and levels do not define a reader in my classroom, the choice of books does. CELEBRATE!