We’ve got a whole lot going on in our classrooms during independent reading time, and because we’re busy with small groups and individual conferences, it can be tricky to truly understand what’s working for our readers and what’s not.
So, sometimes the best teaching can no teaching at all. Sometimes we need to taking a breath, step back, and take time to really reflect on what’s happening.
Doing so let’s us see our reading classrooms in action as they are today and to begin to dream a bit about how we might like them look in the future.
It’s about getting a realistic picture about who is reading and who is not so that we can make informed decisions in the days to come. It is also about training ourselves to become keen observers, looking at evidence, asking ourselves questions, and formulating informed opinions about what our students need next.
To get started, pretend you are viewing your classroom through a spyglass or binoculars, taking in everything in your classroom for the first time. Unless there is a true safety emergency, avoid interrupting what’s going on. You’ll have plenty of time to teach or reteach in the future. For today, just stand back and observe.
For some of us this task is anything but simple because we are such incredibly busy, multi-tasking, never-enough-time-in-the-day kind of people. Elementary school teachers are masters of making the absolute most of every single available minute. So, no wonder you might shake your head when I propose you just “stand back and observe”.
But please don’t confuse observing with “doing nothing”. Observing is doing something. Something essential. It is kid-watching. It’s a time to watch your classroom in action and be reflective about what you see. Telling your kids what you are doing may help keep you accountable to focus on only this one task.
If it makes you feel better, grab a notebook and start jotting some notes. But, you don’t even have to do that in the beginning. Just give yourself permission to simply WATCH, OBSERVE, LISTEN, and THINK about what you see going on. Don’t let yourself stress about what you see that you don’t like. Just see it for what it is and form an educated opinion about “why” and “what next”. The goal is learning to REALLY see and understand what is happening. The following questions can help you get started . . .
- Which students are deeply engaged in reading? How many? Who?
- Which readers seem restless or struggling to stay engaged ? How many? Why?
- What is the noise level in the room? Are you comfortable with it?
- Are there some conversations about reading naturally taking place across the room?
- Do your students have enough texts selected to carry them easily through the amount of time they’ll be reading?
- Does the seating arrangement work? Could kids handle more choice about where to read? Or do they need more direction? What makes you say this?
- Do kids appear to have made good-fit book choices? What’s the evidence of this?
- Are kids using what you’ve taught about three ways to read a book? How do you know?
- What, if anything, is a distraction for some students?
- What could you teach tomorrow to increase engagement?
- What is needed by the whole group? A small group? Just a few individuals?
Remember, avoid the urge to jump in and fix right away. Today is about understanding your current reality. Trust this process. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn.