Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Over the summer I read Linda Rief's professional book Read Write Teach. It is full of information about the reading-writing workshop, with a lot of information about writing. Written with the middle grade class in mind, I was still able to think of ways it pertained to grades 1-4.
One chapter was devoted to whole class novels. I know there seems to be some controversy about this topic. Coming from a 100% guided reading focus school, last year was our first year using whole class novels. The reason why we even started using whole group novels is because in the PARCC frameworks, it recommends using 3-4 each year, 1 per trimester. We only ended up averaging 2 per grade level. I was surprised at the outcomes. We found:
- classrooms formed amazing reading communities
- students who were often pulled for reading support services such as reading resource, ELL and students with IEP's were able to participate in whole group discussions, and often had some of the most profound thoughts to add
- students talked, discussed, argued and learned from the conversations they had with each other
- this gave a grade level a common language, they were all reading the same book and could all talk about it
- students who were not always excited about the book and/or genre found they often enjoyed the experience, especially when reading and discussing together as a group
I participated in an online reading group this summer where we read Read Write Teach and shared thoughts. Tara Smith pulled these quotes from the author, Linda Rief. I think they sum up our school's experience with whole class novels quite well:
- “It’s because of the struggling readers, who don’t really read on their own when given the choice, that I must find time to read the stories together aloud.” (p.160)
- “For the sake of all our students, I am suggesting we read at least two novels and/or a play a year as a whole class, so we can engage all of our kids in the process of real reading - thinking about the meaning of those words on the page, even as we are teaching some of them how to pronounce the words.”(161)
- “In addition, by reading aloud in class, we can help kids take apart the layers of meaning through class discussion and questions that kids often miss when reading a book on their own.” (p. 162)
There are many ways classrooms can build reading communities, have shared book reading opportunities, and be able to share books with each other. This is just one way, once each trimester, that we will read together. The outcome was surprising and we learned from it. I'm sure we'll continue to tweak things as we go but so far, the learning is good!