By Michael Scott, Director of Teaching and Learning
One of the first course books that I purchased for my undergraduate teaching degree was How to Be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong. Since the first days of school are approaching in a week, I thought I would pull this book off the shelf to see what we discussed 20 years ago in one of my first undergraduate courses. At the time, reading this book was of high interest because it was relevant to my career choice. Therefore, I was motivated to read it, engaged in the content, and possessed endurance to read the entire text.
As I continued to reminisce, I also saw on the shelf one of the first books that I taught when I was an English teacher at Hutchinson High School, To Kill a Mockingbird. Both of these books require the reader to take a different approach in order to read, comprehend, and apply the text to his or her life (the former book is organized as information text and the latter is fiction). However, both books take motivation and endurance on the part of the reader in order to get to the most interesting and beneficial parts of the text. Is this endurance to read a text gained through explicit instruction on how to read a text or continued practice in reading or both? The answer is both.
Endurance as we read is a skill in which many students can struggle as they transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. As we read to learn, text become longer with more complex content. How many of your children have started a book and not finished it or indicated the book was not interesting and stopped reading after only reading a few pages? Did your child then gravitate to book that was much easier to read instead of engaging in a book at or above his or her reading level?
Reading a book is somewhat like watching a movie—the plot typically gets better as the story unfolds after the characters, setting, and background information is established in the beginning. However, when reading a book, if a student has not yet acquired the proper reading strategies, endurance, or knowledge of how a plot of a book will be revealed, he or she could become frustrated in the reading process and stop reading before getting to the more interesting and exciting parts of the book.
This can be a vicious cycle leading a student to possibly not liking to read, not reading challenging texts, and not acquiring reading skills learned through simply engaging in more text. Providing students skills to engage in text and endure through the reading process was a key aspect for Park Elementary teachers in grades 3, 4, and 5 in choosing a new literacy resource for the coming year.
“Read Side by Side” is the literacy company from which grades 3, 4, and 5 teachers have adopted curricular resources for the upcoming school year. A cornerstone of the Read Side by Side company’s approach is for the teacher to model explicitly with a quality grade-level text what strategies, thinking, and processes readers do when engaging in text, especially a challenging one. This will take place in a whole-group instruction.
Students will be taught to divide the text into four quadrants and look for information that the author typically reveals in these sections of the book. In addition, the CIA approach (Collect, Interpret, Apply) is taught for students to scaffold and apply higher-order thinking skills while they are reading.
Students will also read a text at their reading level in book clubs to apply the skills and strategies the teacher taught during the whole-group instruction.
An overarching goal of this approach is for students to gain further confidence and skills to endure reading a text to completion and feel confident in reading a text, especially those texts that are more challenging and at or above a student’s reading level.
At home, encouraging your child to read texts at or above his or her grade level can be challenging. However, reading isn’t an easy task even for those who profess to being a “good reader.” Good readers at times have to re-read a passage several times to fully comprehend the message. Good readers make notes while they read, talk to others about what they read, write about what they have read, and make connections from the text to their lives. When reading with your children at home, practice these skills. This is what the “Read Side by Side” approach has asked teachers to do as well.