For some time, I've had a nagging thought lurking in the back of my mind. I have lots of nonfiction books in my classroom library, and I keep trying to get the nerve to open up that section for students' self-selected reading. I've always thought independent reading books should be novels, chapter books. But lately, I've been feeling guilty because students rarely have time to enjoy them. I think I'm afraid students will simply browse through books, looking at pictures, but not actually reading. I want my students to write response letters to me, telling me what they were thinking as they were reading, and I'm not sure how that will work when they are reading nonfiction.
So today, I decided to have Free Read Friday. I liked what I saw. Some students were in pairs reading a book together while others were snuggled on pillows, into corners alone, reading silently. As I looked around the room, I saw students reading novels, animal books, historical books, almanacs, Guiness books, and magazines. One student came to ask how long 30 feet would be, and I sent him out to the hall to count off 30 tiles to see. When he came back, I asked him why he wanted to know that measurement. He told me he'd just read about an animal that was actually 30 feet long!!!! Toward the end of reading time, I asked everyone to bring a book they'd been reading and come join me in a circle for a sharing time. Each student got a chance to share something interesting they'd read. I was very well pleased with the outcome of our first Free Read Friday. Next week, I'll start the Free Read session by reading aloud a nonfiction picture book. Even though I'm still a little reluctant about opening the nonfiction section of our library during our regular Reader's Workshop, I feel it was time well spent and am excited about trying it again another day.
I just purchased a Debbie Diller's book Practice with Purpose, Literacy Work Stations for Grades 3-6. I am thinking of using literacy work stations a couple of times a week. I still feel the best way to improve in reading is to read, read, read, read, read, etc. So, I'm struggling with just the right mix for my students. I want to provide time on-task for reading, and I want to make sure they are getting the instruction and practice they need. I'm certainly not looking for assignments that just keep students "busy" during Reader's Workshop because my students are capable of reading for 30-40 minutes, so if they aren't meeting in a discussion group, they are engaged in reading self-selected independent books.
Ah, decisions! So much to think about--so much to do--so little time!!!!
Do you use non-fiction in your guided reading groups? We are pushed to do that cause about 60% of the state test is non fiction and the kids have to know how to use the main parts.
So we push non-fiction a lot -- and we use it on top of our text (blech) for social studies and science (no text at all here!) so my kids really focus on learning from it. What do I knwo that I didn't know? Their response are a little different -- but similar. Questions still jump. I wonder if they did that because... I wonder why he has those kind of scales...instead of .... really good thinking goes on. And the connections are there -- Ms. S, did you know that a ______ is a 4 footed bird!?? weird, just like the _______ that we read about in _______..
My kids love free read -- we ran out of time today for silent reading (had two extra specials added in, yuck) and they were so upset and bummed, that we cut Science and SS short and read instead!
Like you, in the past much of the reading my children did centered around the genre of fiction text. In the last few years there has been a significant push to allow children opportunities to develop strategies in reading and using non fiction text in their writing. I think that Marcia Freeman has done much in that regard. Also if we use non fiction text in our classroom we are helping to cover bases with using literature in Social Studies and Science.
Wow J. Elaine I am in the same situation with my reading group. I am always looking for ways to allow them to read, read, read but also teach them how to read. This is the great thing about looping, I feel like I have tons of time to work with these kids without going through the start of year stuff again. We flex our kids and before I got here they were actually switching the flex group teachers! I think we will see much more improvement if we keep our same reading kids for the loop!!?? I am going to look into that Debbie Diller book, sounds like it might help me plan my reading centers!
J.Elaine and I are reading the Diller book and talking about discussion of it... would you be interested as well? I'm also in a loop -- I'm in the second year now and my kiddos are in 5th grade. It's interesting to me how everyone does this so differently and how we can improve it. The more heads to this discussion the better I think!
J.Elaine -- sorry I hijacked your blog to send this out!
In the past I used very little nonfiction text with my students. We really didn't even read from the textbook that much, but then I began to worry about what would happen in middle school. I knew there would be lots of textbook chapters to read and questions at the end of the chapters to answer. I also knew, since I have them in both 4th and 5th grade, that I was their one shot at getting ready for middle school. So, a friend and I decided we'd focus on nonfiction reading strategies and read more nonfiction with our students. We bought Laura Robb's Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math. We read it during the summer when we knew we'd have some time to study and discuss it. Now, if we are reading any nonfiction text, I figure out a way to use some of the strategies we studied in Robb's book.
To answer the question about using nonfiction in guided reading groups, I'll have to say I haven't, but I plan to in the very near future. A teacher, who left our school, gave me some short nonfiction, high-interest books in sets of 12!!!!! After seeing my students' reaction to the nonfiction on Free Read Friday, I'm a believer!
I was reading the Debbie Diller book today, and when she described nonfiction work stations, I got all excited. I haven't gotten too far into the book but far enough to know I'm more than a just little interested.
Judy, I don't know for sure, but I think someone mentioned there was a Diller book written for primary grades.
Jody, I feel the same about looping. It may sound silly, but when I read and plan for this year, I get all revved up thinking about how awesome it will be next year because of the changes I'm making this year!!!
Margaret, I am about ready to start discussing the book. How about you?
I am going to look into reading the Diller book as well. Is the book you are reading more geered toward upper elementary? I am going to see what she has on my level and I am sure we can still discuss. At the conference last week Jon Scieszka stated that he is doing research on the Early literacy aspects of a new book he is working on and he did a little talking to some K kids in NYC. He laughingly told us that the average K kid must be"strung up on acid with alziemers". I thought that was so cute.
Hey, Margaret916! Hijacking is no problem. I totally agree with you about more heads being better. I sent a private message to a teacher I used to talk to all the time. There were three of us who started the original Teachers as Readers board. We read and discussed Fountas and Pinnel's book on that board. Anyway, I emailed her to see if she was familiar with the Diller book, and she said she was not only familiar but using work stations right now!!!! She said she'd see us on the Centers board!!!! More and more heads just make it better and better!!!!!
I don't know for sure, but I've heard something about Diller having written another book geared toward primary students -- Literacy Work Stations, Making Centers Work. I do know that my book states she travels around the country helping PreK-6th grade teachers. Sounds interesting enough to check on, don't you think?