Truly Silent Reading

“I still suffer twinges of guilt when I have to ask students to stop talking during reading workshop. But they’re talking about books!…And they’re not reading. And they’re distracting the readers around them.” – Nancie Atwell, The Reading Zone p. 32
I have experienced this guilt and struggled with silent reading as well.  It is often hard to enforce complete silence during reading time.  I find the following helpful for sharing excitement for books, but maintaining silence.

  1. Designate a time for groups to exchange ideas after silent reading. Consider literary circles.  Always let students control:
    • What they read: students self-select, but may also abandon a book during the daily post-reading group discussion;
    • How long they will discuss;
    • What they will discuss: they should ask all the questions;
    • How they will discuss: they can respond by talking in L1, L2, or sketching, then exchanging sketchbooks.
  2. Have a system for students to write down ideas to share later.  In those moments children have an idea they want to share, get them in the habit of jotting down a quick note on a bookmark or post-it.  Note this should be voluntary. 
  3. Be available.  Instead of talking to a friend and distracting them, they should be able to share with you.  Make sure you whisper with students.
  4. Books on tape and ear buds as listening stations may help students get in a silent reading habit.  It can be hard to pull together throughout the year, but may be worth it for the very first few books.  When I first introduce literary circles, I give students a table full of 20 or so good first titles to choose from, each with sets of 5 books, an audio book and listening station.  Quickly students familiarize themselves with norms and ater a few weeks/a few books, they get free-reign of the library, typically leaving audio books behind.
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Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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