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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The Toolkit

Stephen Krashen recently published the Story Listening Toolkit, a summary of supports for language learners.

The purpose of the Toolkit is not:

  • to teach word lists; “Teaching vocabulary lists is not efficient” (Krashen, 2004, p. 19).
  • to make words or targets “100% comprehensible, with students being able to understand, and translate, every word” …but the goal is rather to make “the input appear to be fully comprehensible” (Krashen, 2013, p. 3).
  • “full mastery of the rule or vocabulary in a short time frame” (Krashen, 2016) Note: weekly tests of targets create pressure to master targets.

The purpose of the Toolkit is:

  • “partial acquisition, enough to understand the text. Full acquisition of the targeted item develops gradually.” (Krashen, 2016)
  • to provide rich input : “the best input for acquisition is input that contains maximum richness but remains comprehensible.” (Krashen, 2013, 4).
  • to “Just enjoy the story” (Mason, 2016).  Enjoying shared stories builds interest in reading.

 

 


Cited:

Mason, B. (October 13, 2016).  COFLT conference presentation: Story Listening.

Krashen, S. D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2013). The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction 2013 15(1): 102-110. Retrieved from http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/nontargeted_input.pdf

Krashen, S. (2016, July 26). Targeting 1 and Targeting 2: Working paper [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/07/targeting-1-and-targeting-2-working.html

 

Le chouchou – Avoiding Teachers Pets

“Chouchou,” “consentido,” or “class pet”  is an old and universal problem.   Elisha Babad documented the subtitles of teachers’ behaviors for decades and found children as young as 6 perceive differential treatment.

Some principles and strategies that work to avoid this problem:

  1. Library time. Often teachers are perceived to give more time or more positive feedback to traditionally-successful readers. Plan time to chat one-on-one with lost kids milling around the library without a book, while your successful readers (“teacher’s pet” types) are reading independently.
  2. Change up your seating chart and make sure you give small reading groups equal time.  The students sitting nearest you (feel they) get the most attention and often achieve more.  Constantly move your back row to the front.
  3. Avoid class jobs or consider rotating jobs. All Kindergarteners know, being line-leader matters.  Similarly, with Learning Experience Approach or co-created stories, one student gets to be the “story driver.”  You can certainly seek ways to rotate or share these roles equally, but this often introduces the problem that some students are more vocal leaders, some are quiet.  Also, how many Kindergarteners (or high schoolers) can wait six weeks until it’s their turn?  I recommend avoiding class jobs or special leadership roles during whole-group time.  A more natural, egalitarian leadership tends to evolve in student-led literary circles or small group time without direct teacher intervention.
  4. Periodic Assessments should notice all children, especially struggling learners.  Each time you observe something noteworthy, consider jotting down your observation (successes or struggles) on a Post-it.  Stick Post-its in each child’s records page, alphabetized in an class binder.  Flip through your binder monthly to find students you notice less. Anecdotal records can be helpful with administrators and parent conferences and help you cut down on high-accountability testing.

 

Note: a huge thanks to Dr. Beniko Mason for this and many other practical lessons.

Learning Strategies

Since “No Child Left Behind…Strategies entered everyday practice in classrooms” where students maintain “deliberate control, goal-directedness, and awareness” of what they are reading (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 367).  The message: reading is work and explicitly learned strategies help us read/work more deliberately.

My message to my students is very different: reading is fun.  You should not notice how you are reading except when something’s wrong and you don’t love what you read. When you find books you love, you will naturally predict, draw conclusions, evaluate characters, etc.  No need to put the book down to fill out a diagram when you’re lost in a good book.  No need to chop up text to “turn and talk.”

Krashen’s “Din in the Head” Hypothesis states that students acquire best when so engrossed in a message, they are not aware of the language (Krashen, 1983). Getting lost in a book is not only more pleasant, it allows implicit acquisition of “the strategies …that we do anyway, that we are “wired to do” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

Only occasionally can learning strategies help students who can’t seem to get lost in a reading “flow.”  Even so, strategies are not skills to build but rather ways to deal with obstacles to compelling, comprehensible input: 1. What do I do when I don’t understand? (Brown, 2006) or 2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book?

1. What do I do when I don’t understand?

Stephen Krashen and Clara Lee Brown write that explicitly-taught strategies are effective only if they “make input more comprehensible, e.g. narrow reading, obtaining background knowledge” or “help content learning” (2007, 4).   However, “study skills” or skills that would have developed naturally (ex. predicting or drawing conclusions) “…should not be taught” (Krashen & Brown 2007, 4).

 

2. What do I do when I can’t find a good book? 

A_child_reading_a_book_by_Pratham_Books_-_Flickr_-_Pratham_Books

Janet Allen notes her students did not feel genuine “wonder” using a K-W-L.  They truly engaged with the text only if I did something to build background and create an emotional connection to the topic” (13).  Give students strategies that help them seek out and build interest in books: talking about books with friends, putting down boring books or skipping difficult passages, reading in a series, or asking a librarian for a read-alike.

Once students have found the perfectly compelling, perfectly comprehensible text that activates “Din in the Head” do not pull out a diagram.

 


Afflerbach, P. Pearson, D., & Paris, S. (February 2008). Clarifying Differences Between Reading Skills and Reading Strategies. The Reading Teacher, 61 (5), 364–373. Available at: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/88049/RT.61.5.1.pdf?sequence=1

Allen, J., & Landaker, C. (2005). Reading history: a practical guide to improving literacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allington, R. & Gallagher, K. (2009).  Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.  Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, ME.

Brown, C. (2006). ESL Methods. Lecture, University of Tennessee.

Krashen, S. & Brown, C. L. (2007). What is Academic Language Proficiency? Singapore Tertiary English Teachers Society (STETS) Language & Communication Review: 6(1), 1-4 Available at: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/krashen_brown_alp.pdf

Krashen, S. D. (1983). The Din in the Head, Input, and the Language Acquisition Device. Foreign Language Annals, 16(1), 41-44. doi:10.1111/j.1944-9720.1983.tb01422.x

Gross-Out Books

Why are blood and guts, gross out humor, and enormous spiders so endlessly fascinating?  Because they’re cool, that’s why.  And the idea of pursuing your curiosity despite it being taboo or displeasing to adults is empowering.  

As students gain knowledge about the gross and weird, they proudly think, “‘Listen to me.  I know what adults know too, and I am brave enough to speak of the unspeakable!’ They are pushing the edges of their knowledge as they push the edges of acceptability,” according to Jobe and Dayton-Sakari (73).

Students feel empowered as they build a special knowledge base through narrow Specialized Reading or academic reading. Encourage students to find a single subject to read narrowly (yes, even if that subject is the later stages of digestion).  

Single-Topic Gross-Out Books

  • Gross-Out Animals That Do Disguisting Things by Ginjer Clarke 
  • Bugopedia by Discovery Kids
  • That’s Disgusting series by Connie Colwell Miller
  • Poop: a Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies
  • Sanitation Investigation Series by Capstone
  • Icky, Sticky Gross Stuff series by Pam Rosenberg (warning, the Icky, Sticky, Gross Stuff in Your Food book is in fact quite gross)
  • Real Scary Spiders by Animal Planet

 

*The following books jump from subject to subject.  They don’t have the same effect as true narrow reading in a content area, however, they allow students to browse until they find exactly what they are interested in reading.

  • Grossology by Sylvia Branzei
  • Almanac of the Gross Disgusting and Totally Repulsive by Eric Elfman*
  • National Geographic’s Ultimate Weird but True series*
  • The “Guiness Book of World Records” series*
  • Oh, Yikes! History’s Grosses Moments by Joy Masoff

 

 

Free Voluntary Websurfing:

 


Cited

Jobe, R. & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Info-Kids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners.  Ontario, Canada: Pembroke.

Struggling-With-Life Readers

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Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Llama Llama refuses to read with friends because he misses Mama.

Marco* was a challenging 6th grader with a chip on his shoulder.  He was resentful and rude with most teachers and students.  When I read aloud and shared book suggestions, he tried hard not to care.  When it was Marco’s turn to conference, he felt empowered stating “I hate reading.”  I replied confidently that he just hasn’t found the right book yet. No power struggle or blaming?  Marco was confused.

The nurturing, motherly thing that reading with children can be hurt Marco: his mother was in Honduras.  Marco’s father worked very long hours, always promising to bring his family together with the next paycheck.  Dealing with the setback of having to learn to read all over again on top of everything else he was dealing with– it was easier to just not read.

Eventually, his friend’s enthusiasm chipped away at him.  They roped him into a literary circle where he found his favorite series: Dragon Ball Z.  He toned down his earlier defiance with “I hate reading –except comics, I like comics.”  Soon this act wore thin too. He read enthusiastically and shared books with his friends. The last week of school, Marco embraced his reading identity and admitted what I already knew: “I love reading.”  With this statement, he accepted a lot more than just books.  Grumpy, aloof, or hostile feels easier at first.   Yet, given time, books help us accept what is good and joyful, even as we struggle with what is unfair and painful.

 


*I changed Marco’s name for his privacy.  However, Dragon Ball Z is a real manga series that my kids are really addicted to.

Effortless Reading: Magazines

Dr. Krashen’s Effortless Reading Hypothesis: we acquire literacy best when we read whatever feels easy (84).  Nothing feels easier than flipping through a soft-cover magazine with brilliant, colorful photos to find an article that speaks to you.  The visuals, short blurbs, call-out boxes, and high-interest topics feel exciting.  Inexpensive to replace, magazines are perfect to send home with students, and easy for students to gather around and share with friends.

Some of my favorite magazines:

Scholastic
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