Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Better Book Groups

I've always struggled with book group management--so many books, so many students.  It's been difficult for me to make the time, set the routines and keep the depth and breadth of each book in mind as I quickly rotate from one group to the other.

Now, with the onset of RTI and enhanced PLCs in my school system, I'm finding that book groups are more manageable, steady and rewarding for the students and me. What changed?
  1. We have more staff dedicated to reading instruction.  
  2. There is time set aside for just reading instruction.  
  3. We discuss our strategies in our enhanced PLCs which provides a good place to trouble shoot and share ideas.
  4. I read the daily five which is a teacher-friendly book for setting up readers' workshop.  
  5. I'm using Google docs to chart book discussions which means we don't lose our notes and we have a great document to refer to both at the start of the discussion and throughout the meeting.  Google provides efficient image search and dictionary tools that further understanding too.
  6. Students were assessed in a number of quick ways providing teachers with helpful baselines with which to create groups and plan instruction.
  7. There is not a "one size fits all" instructional approach which is allowing each educator to find their own voice and practice when it comes to reading instruction. (I want to read the highly acclaimed book, The Book Whisperer, to further my growth)
Is it perfect?  No.  There's still a lot of areas that require development including: 
  1. Finding the time to keep up with all the reading on top of the other curriculum work I have to do as I'm a fourth grade teacher that covers all subjects.
  2. Fostering students' motivation and follow-through with book assignments--most are doing it, but I have a few more to inspire.
What I like best about this process is that it grows students' reading fluency, comprehension and skill, and our shared discussions result in new learning for all.  For example, yesterday while discussing The Graveyard Book, a young boy said, "I feel bad for Bod," which led to a great discussion that ended with looking at the symbolic use of imagery to depict Bod's feelings of despair at that point in the book.  A rich discussion for fourth graders.

Great teachers have been using literature for all time to impart the wisdom and questions of the ages as well as to develop students' love of reading.  While we rightly prompt students and families to include reading in their home study, we can't deny that the shared reading experiences at school deepen understanding, motivation and depth related to reading.