The mere brute pleasure of reading - the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.
Last month I visited reading workshop in Katrina Edwards’
first-grade classroom in West Linn, Oregon. It was early in the year,
and students were honing their partner-reading skills. After 20 minutes
of independent reading, the children paired up with their designated
partners. Melinda and Jared sat 10 feet from me, side by side. Melinda
opened her book and the conversation went something like this:
Melinda jumped out of her seat, threw Jared a “oh you are so in
trouble buddy” glare, and marched over to Katrina on the other side of
the room. I couldn’t hear what she said to her teacher, but I could
Is it terrible that I live for these moments when I am
observing in classrooms? I love seeing the amazing things kids can do.
And I love even more seeing the amazing things teachers do when kids
behave in unexpected ways.
Katrina walked over to Jared and said, “Come with me. I want to
look at some of our friends’ reading partnerships that are strong and
take some pictures, and I want you to come with me.” Katrina walked
across the room, and as she moved between clusters of students, she
gathered up a couple more kids who weren’t focused in their
partnerships, becoming a sort of Pied Piper of Problem Children. As she
made her way to the center of the classroom, she stopped with the
group at different reading pairs, asking the young readers at work what
they were talking about and how they decided who went first in the
conversation, all the while snapping pictures with her iPad as the group
watched the partners in action. After a few minutes of quietly
observing and talking to different pairs of students, she turned to each
child in her walking group, looked them in the eye, and asked them
“What did you notice?”
“What were your friends doing in their reading partnerships? How did they help each other?”
“What problem were you having in your partnership? How might you solve it?”
The entire stroll through the classroom collecting students,
observing three different successful student partnerships, and
debriefing with each struggling child took only six minutes to complete.
I thought of what Katrina didn’t do. She didn’t sit down with
Jared and ask him why he was mooing instead of talking with Melinda.
(Who knows? Maybe he was reading about cows? Maybe he thought he was a
cow? Maybe he’d put too much milk on his cereal? Does it really matter?)
She didn’t tell Jared how he was supposed to behave. She didn’t
threaten him that he had better straighten up and fly right OR ELSE.
Instead, she let his classmates show him and
others with similar needs what a successful reading partnership looks
We talk about “showing, not telling” all the time in writing
instruction. But the principle is just as useful in helping children
monitor their reading and writing in classroom communities. And the
showing not telling does double duty - many successful children may not
be fully conscious of their skills, but their metacognitive awareness is
built as those skills are noted, recorded, and reflected upon by peers.
It’s hard for any teacher to see a child who is mooing instead
of reading and conversing as a gift, especially when you’ve got a
visitor in your classroom eagerly scribbling away in her notebook,
writing down your every move. But watching Katrina improvise her way
through the Case of the Mooing Reading Partner was the best present I’ve
received in weeks.
This week we consider student engagement and stamina. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
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is a term we use often in literacy instruction, but it can be tricky
for students and teachers to define in classroom contexts. Heather Rader looks at the specific attributes of writing stamina, as well as how to model it for students: