I was thinking about homework choice this morning, wishing there were more times during the school day when kids could set, work towards, and achieve their own goals as learners.
The problem was that I almost always make the choices for kids, whether it’s during math, writing, or just about any other subject.
If only there was a time in the day when kids had a lot of choice… when they’d benefit from setting goals… when they need to be held accountable for putting in effective effort and not pretending to read a book while really staring into space…
That was it! Independent reading! Duh!
Why didn’t I think of it before? I could marry the homework choice system with independent reading time!
Epiphanies don’t come very often, but I swear, this time, I could hear the angels sing.
Here would be the goals of this new and improved independent reading system:
- Empower kids to set and achieve learning goals during their independent reading time.
- Ensure that kids are working on the right goals according to their needs.
- Hold kids accountable for making thoughtful choices and putting in effective effort.
- Help kids understand that effective effort + time = success.
Teachers (me included) are always wondering how to make the most of independent reading. Could this system be a solution?
Here’s a VERY ROUGH draft of what might be included in kids’ reading notebooks:
Students could write two goals for each week to be accomplished during their independent reading time. They’d start every independent reading session by re-reading those goals. Then they would read their just-right book and extend their learning by doing one activity from the Independent Reading Menu. Instead of using a homework log, students would record their choices in their Independent Reading Log.
Every Friday, students would use some of our workshop time to reflect on their week. Just like in the Homework Notebook, they would check off whether they achieved their goals, write a reflection, and set goals for the following week.
I’m also thinking about having Reading Partners who would give each other some support in this process. Partners could discuss their reading goals together and check that the goals — and the daily choices — were recorded correctly. They could also serve as sounding boards when students write their weekly reflections. My student teacher and I could serve as Reading Partners for kids in the beginning, but then we could pass that responsibility onto the kids and just check the notebooks on a weekly basis.
Of course, the notebooks would also be a really handy tool during reading conferences. Looking at a student’s notebook, it would be clear whether they were setting appropriate goals and making good choices.
But I need your help! If you look at the menu, you’ll see that I have just a few rough ideas. What would you recommend kids do? What independent reading activities have been successful in your classroom? I’d love to have a range of independent and partner ideas.
I think most of the ideas I’ve come up with so far are self-explanatory, except maybe for Read Naturally, which is a fluency program in which kids read along with taped books, gradually increasing their reading rate. If any of the choices, aren’t clear, please let me know.
Thank you so much for your help!
— a. fox