Monday, August 6, 2018

Read To Self From the First Day of School

Building stamina and reading to self can start on the very first day of school, but where do you begin?  Follow these steps to build accountability and have your students reading in no time!

#1  Determine Each Child's Reading Level

The first thing you will need to do is review each students reading file from the prior year. Hopefully, you have a fantastic team of teachers in the grade before you (like I do at my school 😊)  and they gave your students a good foundation from the start. Grab this free editable chart to track students beginning of the year reading level.

#2 Book Boxes (or Bags)

Next, you'll need individual book boxes or bags for each of your students.  I personally like to use plastic boxes because they are sturdy and last forever.  But if that isn't in your budget or you don't have space, a large gallon size ziplock bag works fine too.

Label the boxes or bags with your students name or number (read more about why I give my students a number here) and now you are ready to fill them up!

#3 Choose "Just Right" Books For Your Students

Now it's time to fill those book boxes.  To save time, sort your students boxes by level.  We use Fontas and Pinnell leveling system at our school, so for the sake of this article I will be using those levels, but you can do this with any system that you use.

Sort all the Level A students book boxes on one table, Level B on another and so on.  Put 4-6 "just right" books in each students book box.  Even though you don't really know your students yet, you can find books that they will enjoy simply by filling their box with books that are the right level for them. Put about 4 books that are on their independent reading level and about 2 challenge books - 1 level higher.

At the very beginning of the year,  you might consider bumping your students back one level to account for the dreaded "summer slide".  You can adjust this as needed but for the first week or so it's better to give students books that they can read than have them frustrated from the start.

#4 Start Reading On The First Day Of School

Now you're ready to start reading! At some point in your day - I usually do this right after recess as a way to calm down - introduce your students to Quiet Reading Time.  You can call this whatever you want.  Some people call it Silent Reading or Read To Self. Choose a name that you will use throughout the year so that students know when it is time to read.

Gather your students together at your carpet and talk about what Quiet Reading Time looks like.  Make a T Chart together and write their ideas on the chart.

Pass out students book boxes (pre-filled by you with just right books) and let them choose a place to sit in your classroom.  I like to let my students sit anywhere they want.....under tables, on the floor, bean bag chairs, classroom library.  You name it, they sit all over the place.  But there are 2 rules they must follow during Quiet Reading Time:

1. Sit by yourself.  Do not sit by a friend that will distract you.
2. Read the whole time.  This is not a time to look out the window, play or whisper to your friends.

#5 Start Out Slow

Tell the students that in order to do this right, they need to begin building their stamina. Don't expect students to sit down and read quietly for 30 minutes on the first day of school.  You will be setting both you and your students up for failure.

Begin with quiet reading for 2-3 minutes.  Yep, you read that right. Only 2-3 minutes.  You want the students to be reading the WHOLE time.  They need to understand what is expected during quiet reading.  When the time is up, call all the students back to the carpet to discuss how they did.

#6 Rate Their Reading

Talk with the students about what quiet reading should look like. Refer back to the chart that you made together prior to starting.  Did they read the whole time? Were they distracted? Did they have books that were just right for them?

I like to use this little freebie that I found on Mrs. Ricca's Kindergarten to rate our reading.  Ask each student how they did....Okay? Strong? or Superhero? We use hand signals for each of these: Okay is shaking our hand back and forth like you would to say "so, so".  Strong is a thumbs up.  Super Hero is two arms up like you are showing your muscles.

Each student will rate their quiet reading out loud.  If they answer with an okay, ask them what was the problem? Were they distracted? Do they need to choose a different spot to read next time? Were their books too hard? Too easy? Do they need different books in their box? Help them figure out a way to make their reading time Super Hero.

#7 Practice Every Day

Now that your students understand how to do this, you will need to practice every day.  Find a specific time in your day for Quiet Reading Time.  For the first two weeks, meet at the carpet to review your chart and discuss what quiet reading time looks like, before you begin.   Each day, add 1-2 minutes to your time.  At the end of quiet reading, always come back together to rate their reading.

If you find that students are not able to sit and read for that long, back it up.  You never want students to be off task or fooling around during this time.  Train them to understand that during this time they are quiet and READING THE WHOLE TIME.

#8 Keep It Fresh

Students will need to change out the books in their book boxes regularly.  We change out books every Friday afternoon.  In the beginning, you will need to help students choose books.  Guide them to the books that are just right for them.

Usually for the first few weeks of school, I will change the book boxes myself because the students aren't ready to choose for themselves.  After that, they can begin to fill the boxes themselves.

Students should always have 6-8 books in their box at all times.  They need enough books to keep them reading and on task for 15-20 minutes. If you find that they are finishing their books early, they might need a different level.  I usually suggest to them that they put 6 "just right" books in their box and 2 challenge books (one level higher).

It's fine for the students to read the same books over and over for a week.  Practice makes perfect.

If you follow this plan, you will see students begin to be excited about Quiet Reading Time.  They will look forward to a certain book that they want to read.  They will be excited and proud as they move into new levels of books.  They will suggest books to their friends and ask to borrow a book that someone else is reading.  Within a couple of months, your students will be sitting for 20-30 minutes reading quietly and you will watch with wonder in your eyes! It's a beautiful sight to see!