4 Questions New Teachers Always Ask

Updated: Oct 24, 2019


The year is over (...or almost over)!

You are getting ready to decompress, relax and rejuvenate!

BUT, I've been there...

I know you are already reflecting and thinking forward about your next group of students.

So, I thought I would share a few questions and answers with you that I have received over the years about reading instruction in my classroom.

Just some "food for thought" while you sip that drink at the beach, by the pool or on the lake.

A little background first...

I’ve had many student teachers and pre-service teachers spend observation time or teach in my classroom over my 25 years as an educator.

I’ve had many teachers from other school districts and my own district observe in my classroom.

I've served as a consultant or instructional coach in several districts across the southern United States.

They all have the same questions! Here are just a few to get you thinking and reflecting about the level of book talk occurring in your classrooms.

Although some of the info may not seem new, look at it through a fresh lens to seek inspiration for elevating the kinds of book talk you have in your classroom.

Now...the questions...

Question 1 Answer:

In a classroom where book talk and authentic reactions and responses are validated and honored, there will be noise. More like a buzz. It’s not quiet all the time. It’s not sitting in nice little rows or at tables all day every day. Students are up, about and talking!

It doesn't just happen on the first day. It's the structures that are built. Those structures must be put in place and there has to be some student choice.

The expectations were set for authentic work in the classroom and anything less was unacceptable. It’s classroom management, effectively and intentionally launching your workshop and thoughtful plans about relevant texts the students could be interested in.

No worksheets allowed!! Students were expected to participate in minilessons about books.

Students were expected to turn and talk to partners about the books we were reading together in read aloud, shared reading and reading workshop.

Over the school year, those conversations became deeper and more meaningful based on the modeled conversations within the classroom.

Question 2 Answer:

From their work! Every student has a reading response journal and is expected to use the strategies from Readers Workshop and record their thinking about their independent reading and all other reading we do in the classroom.

Every student was expected to respond to text in a variety of ways. Rubrics were created and expectations were set! Students responded!

The grading seems to be more complex and complicated but it’s really not.

When a worksheet is graded, it really doesn’t give a vivid picture of that student’s ability. It’s just letters and numbers in a sequence.

When authentic student responses are graded from a response journal using a rubric, it’s just as easy as grading multiple choice. AND….bonus….you are able to add to your student’s reading profile with the information and data collected about reading comprehension and their understanding of texts. (Check out my posts about Student Literacy Portfolios...I've dropped the links below)

Question 3 Answer

I’ll admit in the beginning of my balanced literacy classroom, I needed to explain much. When I would sit with a parent and show them the work that was being done within their reader's notebook and the thinking the student was doing about text, they began to understand.

I explained that worksheets could not get their student to think and talk about books that way. Many understood and some did not. They were “old school” as I like to say. But, I held my ground because it was in the best interest of the child.

However, I had administration that stood behind my teaching style and would support me when needed because they saw the students work in my classroom and increased student achievement was put above all else. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

Those doubting parents would come around eventually over time when they noticed their students thinking and how the quality of work improved.

Question 4 Answer:

There is no quick answer or quick fix. I can’t point any educator in the direction of an easy printable that will help students deepen their thinking about text.

It’s just plain, good ole’ book talk!

Noticing, wondering and reading to build on each others ideas.

I believe all students are having thoughtful conversations in their heads while reading, they just aren’t noticing that conversation.

We—the teachers—the proficient readers in the room—must model that!

We must help students notice when they are confused.

We must help students notice when they are reacting in some way to the text.

Read Aloud is the PERFECT opportunity to model use of those proficient readers skills and strategies.

Check out my quick planner for creating intentional yet authentic read aloud experiences.

Grab your Read Aloud Planner here.

When we model and teach students to stop and think and respond to text, we are teaching them to have a conversation with the text.

When we model and teach students to stop and think and respond to text, we are teaching them to listen to their inner conversations and notice the types of thinking they are doing and react!

We model that in Read Aloud and we guide that kind of noticing within Shared Reading and Guided Reading. We help students move to independence within Independent Reading where we are observing their thinking so we can nudge them forward with strategies to deepen their understanding.

Doesn’t the gradual release of responsibility model come to mind? We must gradually release responsibility when we are asking students to try out a new strategy.

Students need to see the proficient reader in the room using the strategy. That’s you!

Students need to share use of the strategy with the proficient reader in the room. So, share your use of the strategy to bring meaning to texts.

Students need to see it in use and practice it with you before ever being expected to use it effectively on their own.

The Reading process is complex.

When students have a proficient model, their thinking about texts will deepen. Guaranteed!

Until next time...

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