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Illustrations Spotlight Comprehension

Try integrating drawing into projects on instructional or independent reading. Students can illustrate a poem, a chapter from a book, or a short text. Illustrations can highlight a character's problem, personality, a conflict, a theme, or a big idea. Another way to integrate art into reading is to have students create an illustrated time line of five or six key events in a novel. For students who are visual and artistic, drawing is a terrific way to illustrate their understanding of and insights into a text. Try to reserve time for students to present these projects to the class.
Please share successful reading projects you've done that integrate drawing, music, or dance.
Laura Robb

Encourage Diversity and Variety in Independent Reading

According to a recent study, adolescents who score high on international reading tests read a variety of long texts. The length of the text had a great deal to do with success, which is logical because it indicates students can concentrate for long periods of time. Successful students also read a variety of texts, both in print and on the Internet, including fiction, biography, informational texts, drama, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, video narratives, manga, and comics.
This finding means that in our classrooms, students must have access to a variety of genres. It also means that reading only excerpts of long texts in basal anthologies is not enough for students’ literacy development.
What are your experiences with students' independent reading? How do you stock your classroom libraries? Help other teachers by responding to these questions.
Laura Robb

Everybody in the Same Book?

Schools all over the United States are still doing round robin reading in the middle grades and in middle school. I also see classes in which students are placed in one novel or one basal anthology, even if it's too difficult or too easy for many. We need to educate administrators and school districts that legislate these policies by sharing the research on differentiation, which demonstrates that students need to be given materials at their reading level, and by sharing the research that shows students lose ground when they don't read. Daily, students march from subject to subject confronted with textbooks and anthologies that they can't and don't read. Students who can't read and write well will have difficulty meeting the demands of higher education and the job market. Changing this landscape is challenging because money for multiple texts is tighter than ever, and because teachers need professional development and support to bring best practice teaching to their students. Yet, we have to be change makers to support the children we teach.
I'd like to hear teachers' experiences with these issues. Have you created change at your schools? If so, how?
Laura Robb

Assessment Drives Instruction

Without a doubt, the assessments we gather on each student can support the instructional decisions we make. Assessments include all the written work students complete, notes from conferences we have with them, as well as from our observations of students reading, discussing books with peers or in a teacher-led reading group, and their behavior in different situations. Let's take Robbie, a sixth grader. The Independent Reading Inventory Robbie's fifth grade teacher administered at the end of the year showed that he had gained a full year and was now instructionally at a mid-fourth grade level. This data made me realize I needed to observe Robbie in different situations. During the first class trip to the library, Robbie checked out one ultra thick Stephen King book and the first Harry Potter book—classic choices for a reader like Robbie. Instead of taking the books away from him, I honored his choices. Here's what I said: "Those are terrific books--but really long books. Here are three others I think you might like. Browse through all of them, then choose the one you'll enjoy."
Observations and data collection provide us teachers with tangible information that we can use to support our students. Please share an assessment story so we can all benefit from our teaching and learning experiences.
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.