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Create a Reading Folder For Each Student

Keeping a reading folder for each student means that I have, in one place, key work samples that enable me to identify conferences topics and determine whether students need scaffolds or re-teaching. Equally important, what I learn informs and guides my instruction.
I refer to the data in the folders during parent-teachers conferences, when meeting with an administrator, and during IEP (Individual Educational Plan) meetings. Here's what goes into a folder during the first semester:
  • What's Easy About Reading? What's Hard About Reading? questionnaire
  • Interest Inventory
  • Reading Survey or Ten Questions About Reading questionnaire
  • Photocopies of two journal entries that reveal progress and/or specific needs.
  • Observational notes of varied learning situations.
  • Copies of tests or quizzes.
  • Notes from the first reading conference
  • Any other papers or projects that you feel should be in the folder.
You can review the folder's contents with students and ask for their feedback. Often, because time has passed since completing the initial survey and questionnaires, students have insights that can support them and guide you. How do you feel about keeping and using a reading folder for each student?
Laura Robb

Getting to Know Your Students as Readers

During the first two weeks of school, your students are getting to know you, and you need to get to know them as readers and learners. You can facilitate this process by inviting them to complete some of the inventories listed below, which appear in my book Assessments for Differentiating Reading Instruction.
  • What's Easy About Reading? What's Hard About Reading? It's helpful if you model how you would respond to these questions, then invite students to respond on notebook paper.
  • Interest Inventory
  • Reading Survey
  • Ten Questions About Reading
I have students complete two each week, which gives me time to read and absorb the information and decide on the focus of my first conference. Students’ responses can also help you suggest reading materials that tap into individual interests and strengths. You'll discover students' attitudes toward reading and what they know about reading strategies such as inferring, posing questions, visualizing, or synthesizing information. I find it helpful to start a reading folder for each student during these first weeks of school. The folders, just tabbed file folders, contain data on each student that inform my instruction and the scaffolds I develop.
Please write to let everyone know how you get to know your students.
Laura Robb

Writer's Notebooks

Recently, I led several workshops for teachers on writer's notebooks. What I found is that using notebooks to explore possible ideas for writing is, at best, sporadic. You can invite students to respond in notebooks to song lyrics, poems, titles of books, poems, stories, newspaper headlines, quotes from famous, infamous, and everyday people, paintings, and photographs to stimulate writing ideas. Notebooks remain at school, and I recommend that students write in their notebooks three times a week. Lessons are short—about 5 minutes—and you can model how you respond so students develop a mental model.
Rereading sections of notebooks can help student writers find topics they care about—topics they want to invest in. Take a few minutes to share how you incorporate writer's notebooks into your curriculum.
Laura Robb

Book Talks: Getting the Word Out to Students

One of my favorite ways to enlarge students' knowledge of what's out there to read is through book talking. Short and focused, book talks are a way students can explain why they liked or disliked a book. Just think, if you have 25 students and set aside two class periods a month to have students present book talks, by the end of eight months students will have been exposed to 200 different books. It's a great way to advertise reading. You can find lots of information about modeling book talking and sample book talk formats in my Scholastic professional book Differentiating Reading Instruction. Let me and others who read this blog know how book talking works for you.
Laura Robb

Buddy-Up Struggling Readers

I find that middle school readers who struggle benefit greatly from reading to children in the primary grades. For one marking period, arrange to buddy-up a middle school student with a child in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade. I have the older student practice reading a short book out loud, then share it with the younger child. The children talk about the story, savor the illustrations, and reread the book. Relationships develop that benefit both students. Equally important, the middle school reader develops self-confidence and a lasting bond with his or her buddy.
Laura Robb

Teach a Concept and Build Vocabulary

For me, focusing my lessons around important concepts—such as natural disasters, immigration, human rights, or ecology—is a great way to enlarge students' vocabulary before, during, and after reading. At the beginning of a unit, I invite students to preview texts related to the topic to find and list new words. Students can then add words to their list during and after the study. My students often work with a partner or in a small group of four since this taps into their love of collaboration and talk. For example, a unit on natural disasters can introduce students to words and phrases such as earthquakes, twisters, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, first responders, makeshift hospitals, tent cities, storm chasers, Richter Scale, weather conditions, lava, destruction, and so on.
Share a vocabulary-building activity that you and your students enjoy. Remember, the more words students have that relate to a new topic they're studying, the better able they’ll be to make connections and create new understandings so they comprehend more deeply.
Laura Robb

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Laura Robb Blog are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.