In a recent blog post I wrote about trusting readers. There are so many interesting ways we can check for reading comprehension. I found that some of my most effective tools were methods that allowed me to have a one-on-one dialogue with each student about what they were reading. You can find printable PDFs of some of the materials by clicking on the links above.
Since the traditional reading log model wasn’t giving me much useful data about my students’ comprehension, I instead used weekly reading notes that invited students to jot down one thought they had during each night of their independent reading. At the bottom is space for teachers to comment or reply.
Along with the reading notes, I always printed a strategy guide on cardstock for students to keep in their binders. It reminded them of the metacognitive strategies that good readers use, and it gave them plenty of examples of the type of thinking I was looking for when they were reading independently. I used a really simply model lesson to teach the strategies listed here. I introduced each strategy, defined it, and gave an example. Then I passed out prewritten post-its with examples of comments that students might write in their reading notes. Each student was then invited to identify the strategy used in each example. Finally, they were given an opportunity to write some of their own post-it note thoughts that we could categorize as a class.
Once their reading logs showed that students were able to independently model good reading strategies, I introduced reading letters. These are biweekly letters that students wrote in lieu of completing reading notes for that week. To make it manageable I split the class into two groups. For one week, Group A would turn in reading letters while Group B turned in regular reading notes. The next week, Group B turned in reading letters and Group A completed notes. Every letter received a reply from me. The letters gave me deeper insight into student thinking, and it also gave students more writing practice. When students were able to write freely about a book without having to follow a specific prompt, they would often surprise me with their insights; I still have some of my favorite reading letters!
What are some of your favorite ways to build communities of readers in the classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!