Teachers spend their summers resting, relaxing, playing, traveling. They also spend the summer weeks learning, reading, planning and reflecting.
I read. I listened. I read some more. But I got schooled, too.
A family with three children asked if I would tutor their two oldest kids this summer in reading. I knew a little bit about the family and I knew the kids didn’t need remediation in reading. The mom asked if I’d work with her children over the summer to mentor them in how readers can learn to choose from a variety of genres for pleasure reading and teach some strategies for deeper meaning making.
I met with the eight year old and ten year old just to get acquainted and to give them the Reading Interest-A-Lyzer based on the Interest-A-Lyzer by Joseph S. Renzulli from The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. The information from the surveys gave me ideas for picking texts to book talk at our first session together.
Amir and Ana wrote down book titles from the book talks that interested them, we read a few wordless picture books and chatted about what they were thinking. I got a chance to observe some of the practices/processes they used for understanding texts and got an idea about their basic understanding of genre, various forms, and text structures.
Each weekly session, as we read text sets I’d collected, I saw Amir and Ana become increasingly more independent in their use of strategies, skills and reader dispositions. I saw it, but I wondered if they understood yet how, or to what degree they’d internalized what I was modeling and teaching each week.
I wanted to be really strategic in the tools I shared with Amir and Ana because we had so few weeks over the summer. I asked Whitney, my office-mate and reading/math specialist on our campus, what she would suggest. She shared with me a bookmark with thinking moves that she created and has used with students in the past. The bookmark has sentence stems kids can use to react, ask questions, predict, connect, infer and synthesize.
At our last session of the summer, we started our time together with a reflection. I asked Amir and Ana to think about how they were different as readers. I shared with them some things I’d learned about myself as a reader during the weeks of summer break and read to them from my journal notes about my own growth. They spent a few minutes writing. (Amir asked me if he could create a bulleted list). He shared first and we talked about his thoughts of how he’d changed as a reader.
I asked him to tell me more about his comment, “I can read better.” He said, “Well, I used to just read the words so I could hurry up and get to the end of the page I was reading or hurry and finish the book. I didn’t really know what I was reading, though. Now I pay attention while I read and I know to stop if I’m not getting it. I’m understanding what I read and I like it more.” #score #readingteacherhappydance
So, how did I spend my summer break? I spent my summer break getting schooled by a brother and sister duo. They taught me what even good readers need to be better readers.
They need a coach. A mentor.
They need someone a tiny bit ahead of them in the reading game who can talk about great books and share (*model*) processes for making meaning. Rookie readers need choice and time to read. And they need someone to listen to them talk about what they’re reading, commiserate with them, laugh and cry and discover deep, meaningful life truths.