After taking some time to work in upper elementary classrooms, I have returned to volunteering in a first grade classroom. Since I did Reading Recovery for 7 years, this is where my heart often returns to. I am absolutely loving my work with these little guys! But because I only see them once a week I want to be sure I’m using my time as expertly as I can. Therefore, I looked back in Clay’s texts to make sure my teaching is as effective as it can be. I find I can open to just about any page of a Clay book, read a few paragraphs, and I am filled with food for thought. I’m going to copy a list of Clay’s (see bottom) that got me thinking in hopes that you too will spend some time reflecting on it. Perhaps you’d even like to take the list to a team meeting and get some discussion going.
Clay believes (as do I) that every reader must build their own self-extending reading process system. (You can read more about this system in Chapter 2 of Catching Readers Before They Fall.) Some children do this very naturally no matter how they are being taught to read. But with children who struggle (beginning readers or those in upper elementary grades), they need to be scaffolded as they build that system.
The aim of all teachers of reading is to produce independent readers – readers who work at problem solving, fluently and flexibly; readers who self-monitor themselves; readers who self-initiate their own strategies and behaviors and don’t wait for the teacher to prompt, etc.
Here is Clay’s list. She writes that children become more independent:
“ – if early behaviors are appropriate, secure, fast and habituated.
- if children learn to monitor their own reading and writing.
- If they search for several kinds of information in word sequences, in longer stretches of meaning, and in letter sequences.
- If they discover new things for themselves.
- If they check that one kind of information fits with other available information.
- If they repeat themselves as if to confirm what they have read or written.
- If they correct themselves, taking the initiative for making all the information they find fit the word they decide upon.
- If they solve new words through their own strategic activity.”
Marie Clay, Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals, Part Two, Page 114.
When I reflect on these, I ask myself:
- Am I making sure the students are monitoring for meaning and not just to see if they ‘got the words right’?
- Am I giving them time to search and time to problem solve? Or am I jumping in too quickly?
- Am I modeling the many ways they can search and gather information from the picture, the sentence, the meaning of the story, how the letters look, etc?
- Am I encouraging rereading which will help them confirm, or check, or redo a word choice, or discover something new?
- Am I sending the message (in all that I do and say) that it is their job to do the reading work? Do I encourage them to check and confirm for themselves instead of looking to me for confirmation?
There are just a few of the questions I want on the tip of my tongue as I work with first graders. I hope they inspire some reflection in you also.