Don’t Meet With Small Groups…Yet!
Teachers know we want to meet with small groups of readers. We love it! We can’t wait to conduct group conferences about students’ independent reading books, introduce new books in book clubs, and try to nudge students up into the next reading level with guided reading groups. I even bought and read Jennifer Serravallo’s Teaching Reading in Small Groups this summer so I could continue to develop my small-group skills.
Unfortunately, we rush. Because we get so excited to meet with groups of kids, we often don’t establish the rest of our reading workshop. Then, our group meetings become harried; we’re rushing to get to too many groups, dealing with problems outside of the group, or being interrupted once or twice a minute.
My solution has been to build the stamina of my readers (fourth grade) before attempting any group meetings. We’ve had school now for two and a half weeks, and I’ve met with a total of zero groups. Instead, we have worked to improve our focusing ability so we can easily read for 30 minutes, with an extra ten minutes after that available for students to read e-books. We tracked this every day at the beginning of the year using this chart:
Now, as I begin to meet with groups during the next two weeks, students will be able to read independently. I don’t have to put together meaningless games, stations, and worksheets which have almost no reading, activities whose sole purpose is to occupy students’ time while I meet with groups. Instead, they will be reading books they love, and nothing helps create readers like time and choice.
Is it flawless? Of course not. I still have a few students struggling to build their reading stamina, and yes, we’ll have some other problems throughout the year. However, by waiting to start meeting with groups, we have been able to successfully establish a system that will work. When you look in my classroom, you will see readers reading.