Unpacking Our Reading Journey
Over the past two years I have been able to track a target group of students in my literacy group. The students are all girls except for F and G but these boys left in 2018. I wanted to track this group closely this year as they came to me with reading ages between 8 and 9, where our learners seem to get stuck. In the first year, some were able to achieve accelerated shift, while others only made 6 months.
I focussed on those that had made the best shift and surveyed them to see what they thought caused it. F said that he enjoyed the topics that we were reading and that he was reading more. B and C had similar answers, with my hunch being that B made so much shift due to reading more at home. In fact, I gave B an extra text every week.
In 2019 I attempted to give the students texts that they would find more interesting, and for the end of term 1, all of term 2 and half of term 3, I increased their mileage. Instead of giving them one main text and two smaller ones a week, I gave them two focus texts and often a video, image/s, or smaller text to accompany each. I also gave them short excerpts of challenging texts, such as scientific explanations and read closely with them to unpack and group new vocabulary. This became my focus in term three when my lowest reader was reading at 10.
I surveyed this group and the rest of the class (I am tracking a similar group for the 2019/20) to see what they attributed to their reading success.
Here are some examples of the points the students made below.
"I like reading poems"
"Reading interesting words that I didn't understand and reading new things that I didn't understand before."
Many noted a few texts in particular that they enjoy reading. These included their SSR/ books they read at home and ones that we have read in class.
Mileage (at home and school)
"My teacher and my parents encouraged me to read more and more"
"By doing SSR and reading the books for our slides, it helped me past my reading test."
"My teacher encouraged me to read everyday and thats what my parents tell me"
"Skimming and scanning the texts. Reading and finding main points to the story."
"Listening to what I'm saying while reading."
"Learning to make inferences"
"Getting ideas for my writing. I want to become an author and it helps me to critique the books"
Another common trend was that in general, the students expressed positive attitudes towards reading. A lot of the students noted that I had given them harder books, but that they still liked reading them. When asked what they like to read, every single student could name a book/s or a genre or topic they enjoy reading about. Nearly half of them also expressed reading for fun at specific times, such as before school or at the weekend, and all of them expressed they were happy to read in SSR as long as they found the book interesting and the whole class were doing SSR (In the past I had SSR as a group rotation, but this was distracting as I often played videos and facilitated debates with my reading group).
Overall, I do believe reading mileage is extremely important for these 8/9 year old readers. However, you've got to select texts that they enjoy in order for this strategy to be effective. In the beginning, I did a lot of work on getting the students to simply summarise what they had just read - to follow the story. Once they accomplished this reading became far more interesting and we moved on to other strategies such as inferencing.
It was interesting how much the students referenced learning new things in the texts. They said they liked reading about history, war, different cultures, geography, about peoples experiences... I really feel that reading across the curriculum will be a great way to get buy in, particularly for boys (noting the survey data) and it will also support my students as they go off to college.