This is my first year of teaching small group reading interventions. For 17 years before this one, I was the full-time library media specialist in a flexibly-scheduled middle school library. I have not changed schools or positions, rather, the duties and responsibilities of that position were changed by my district. It has been a difficult transition, and one I have written about before.
The training I received was excellent, but my district set aside only a few days for it. So when I first started teaching my small groups, I was unsure of myself and apprehensive about making changes to the intervention model I was taught. As the year has progressed, I have received advice and encouragement from our literacy coaches as I adapt my lessons to meet the needs of my students and build on my strengths.
Our middle school follows the Reading Workshop model, and so it only make sense to me that an intervention should support and build upon the independent reading component of that model. In addition, my groups meet in the school library, so there are wild reading materials surrounding us at all times.
For that reason, I have incorporated “Wild Reading” days into my lesson plans. We start out by sitting in a circle and telling each other what we’re currently reading. Then students spread out, get comfortable, and read until the last few minutes in the hour when students write a short reflection in their journals. I do interrupt each student for a few minutes, as this is when I do progress monitoring with them. This plan is not anything new or innovative. But it is so important that it doesn’t have to be either of those things. It’s time for students to read something they love. So maybe it’s the most important thing.
During our ISAT week (standardized testing 😦 ), we have a strange, mixed-up drop-in schedule, where students only have non-CORE classes like PE, Practical Arts, and Music, twice during the week. Since most of our interventionists are special education teachers who must offer accommodations and extended time during testing, I volunteered to teach all students who come out of Practical Arts for interventions for their two days this week, instead of just my classes. What a great time to put on my librarian hat for a two-day Wild Reading mini-unit!
On Day 1, I introduced students to Novelist K-8 Plus, EBSCO’s readers’ advisory tool. Students can look at genre lists and browse featured titles, but the beauty of this tool is the search capabilities, the added descriptors, and the read-alikes. I show students how to search for a book they love and then see the read-alikes suggested by Novelist. Not only can students read the suggested book’s description, but they are provided with a reason that the two books are alike–and it’s not always subject matter, sometimes it is tone, theme, pace, setting, etc. In each book’s records, those elements are click-able and lead to other books. The user can also type in words or a phrase to describe his/her ideal book: “animal fantasy” or “friends adventure” or “funny mystery.” And they can create a login within Novelist to create their own list of books to read someday. Even though I gave the groups some “free time” at the end of the hour, they spent it continuing to look at Novelist 🙂 The subscription is only $250 per year for my building and well worth it.
On Day 2, I taught a mini-lesson about how to preview books before a book shopping session. I had a pile of books in the middle of the table and each student took one to examine the title and cover art. Then they traded books and examined the cover flap and back cover. We repeated that for each of the elements I included on a bookmark for them. I also do this with larger groups, and it is particularly fun to challenge students to find in their book a better first paragraph than my choice. (I often use Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Dovey Coe).
After the mini-lesson, students used those previewing skills to book shop from some tables I had set up in advance. Each table holds books of a different genre, with an identifying sign. Students visit all tables over a 10-minute period, previewing books and writing down any that pique their interest. I usually play instrumental music during the 10 minutes, when talking is prohibited. After 10 minutes, students may talk and share their lists with each other and check out books–book shopping books and any other books in the library. I got this idea when I read Steven Layne’s Igniting a Passion for Reading, and my students have book shopped ever since. To close out Day 2, we settled down and read wildly for the last 15 minutes of class. It was heavenly 🙂
I am so glad that I was able to offer students these experiences during a week when so much of their school day was filled with testing. Celebrating wild reading was certainly a welcome break for all of us!