Slice of Reading Life: Did I Pass?

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hEvery Tuesday, Two Writing Teachers blog hosts a place for writers to share a slice of life.  Join in as a contributor or just read slices. You can find more  here. Thank you  TaraAnnaDanaStacey,  Betsy  and Beth for providing this space for our writing.

“Did I pass?” he asks.

Hate this question because that’s not the point..

Then he asks, “What’s my level?”

This question sets my teeth on edge.

I tell him that these assessments don’t really give him an exact  level. And I proceed to “tell” him what they say. And then I stop myself and ask him to tell me what he thought about the assessments.

First I ask about SRI, or Scholastic Reading Inventory that produces a lexile score.

He says, “Well it has short text to read but lots of questions. So I answer more questions wit SRI.”

I ask, “How does that compare to Running Records?”

He says, “Running Records is only one passage and fewer questions.”

“Say more about that.”

He says, “Well SRI has lots of questions, but each question gives you possible answers. So you know one is right. It’s kind of like a hint. Running Records you have to answer fewer questions, but there isn’t any hint.”

“How does Running Records compare to the IRA?” (Independent Reading Assessment from Jennifer Serravallo). “When you read The Great Gilly Hopkins, with the post its in it?”

“In someways that one is easier than Running Records because you have  a whole book to get it. With Running Records you just have a short amount of text so your really have to get everything you can out of it.”

“Umm,” I say. (and I think, very true).  “So why do you suppose the score on your Running Records is higher than the one on the IRA?”

After thinking a bit he says, “Some of the questions in the book I didn’t understand.  So that’s probably why. The Running Record didn’t ask me those kinds of questions. So I guess the type of question matters.”

“What does this tell you about you as a reader?”

He says, “I guess there are some parts of books I don’t get.  I need to work on that.”

We go on to talk about the book he is reading with his group.

He responds, “I don’t really get it.”

He opens to page one and reads the first sentence from Ungifted by Gordon Korman:

I want a refund from

I ask him, “What do you know and what do you wonder about?”  (Thank you to What Readers Really Do)

He says, “I don’t get it.”

This is said in a monotone, why-don’t-YOU-get-what-I-just-said manner. He clearly wants to abandon this book. While I’m fine with abandoning books that don’t fit readers, I wonder if with a little work in the beginning, the door to understanding might be opened up.

I say, “What  parts  of this sentence do you know and what parts do you wonder about?”

He says, “I know refund but I wonder about I don’t get that part, it doesn’t make sense.”

I say, “So what if you read on with that wonder in mind  and look for answers to that.”

With a sigh, he goes on and eventually “got it.”

I ask, “So what did you learn about yourself as a reader?”

He says, “When I don’t get something I have to kind of break it apart, stop and figure out what I don’t get. Then look for the answer.”

Reading is complicated and assessment tells us many things. It points us towards what might be the problem, the weakness, and what might be needed. But every book, every text, every assessment requires something slightly different from the reader. Bottom line readers need to be flexible in their thinking and strategies they use to understand.

This ten minute conference started with did I pass? In the end I don’t think he found out the answer to that question. Hopefully he walked away with more than what he was asking for.

11 thoughts on “Slice of Reading Life: Did I Pass?

  1. I love how you gently question the student. I think you’re teaching him to question…to ask why and how. THAT makes a good reader. You know that and hopefully he knows that now. I love how you wrote about this conference. What a wonderful gift you gave him…to listen, to really listen!

  2. “But every book, every text, every assessment requires something slightly different from the reader. Bottom line readers need to be flexible in their thinking and strategies they use to understand.”
    Yes, and as their teachers we need to do what you did – use a variety of tools and help students parse the big picture meaning:what does this tell me about myself as a reader? Great post, Julieanne!

  3. Thank you for this wonderful example of helping one student know that their reading is more than a test score. I know exactly what you mean about setting your teeth on edge!

  4. Love hearing this, a good model for other teachers, too, Julieanne. There are so many ways and questions to dig at how the student is reading/thinking. Like Tara, I love that ending: “readers need to be flexible in their thinking and strategies they use to understand”. Thanks a bunch for taking the time to share ‘all’ of the conversation.

  5. Julieanne,
    You were definitely listening “to understand” and not to reply! Yay! You just validated my post from last week!

    I also love that you did not “rescue” him. It’s hard to see our students struggle but they will never make it to INDEPENDENCE if we keep swooping in and rescuing!!!

    Great conference! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Teachable moments! Finding them is a sign of a smart teacher. Using them like you did is a sign of a great teacher! I think you are both!

  7. Oh my goodness! This is a terrific post! Loved reading this conversation! Loved where you took him with your questions!

  8. Wow. Great post. I think it’s great that you stopped and questioned this student, with both of you probably knowing more about the student as a reader than what the assessments can tell you. I think it goes back to how the reader is thinking as they read and that’s hard to get to sometimes. Kudos. Glad this post got retweeted!

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