I started the school year approaching reading in this way: We had shared reading with big books, songs, poems, etc. Then we had a Guided Reading/Literacy center block of time. I ran this pretty much the way it was outlined in Fountas and Pinnell's Guided Reading. It was also the way that my mentoring teacher had set up her classroom. From day one I was not happy with how this worked (that is not to say that there is anything wrong with the system, but for me it wasn't working). I tried various changes within the context of using literacy centers, more structure, less structure, different centers, etc. I did not feel like I had a grasp of what my children were doing during centers, and if what they were doing was helping them be better readers. My Guided Reading lessons were stale because I did not have the materials, and was trying to use decodable text supplied through the reading series, it just wasn't working. This is where I decided it was time to rethink the way I was approaching reading. Carol Avery says, "effective teaching is based on continuous decision making by a professional in response to the current context of the classroom" (Avery, 15). I knew that things were not where they needed to be so I began the task of reevaluating my beliefs about reading.
1. The first step in this process was for me to reflect my beliefs about reading. I knew that I believed that reading was a transactive process between the reader and the text (Rosenblatt, ?). I believed that reading was a balance between the three cues (graphophonemic, syntactic, and semantic). I believed that children should have choice in what they read, how they read, and what they did with the books that they read, and I believed in the words of Ken Goodman and Frank Smith that children learned to read, "by reading." Through this lens of my beliefs I looked at my current approach to teaching reading, I identified the following problems:
· Children were often engaged
in non-reading tasks (games, making words, arranging at the pocket
chart). I knew that all of these activities were helping with
word and sound study, but I wanted them to be reading.
Well identifying the problems was a good start but now I had to figure out how I was going to fix what was wrong.
2. The second step was for me to
now explore the literature (both theory and practice) that was
available about reading.
3. The third step was to implement my ideas. Here is where I probably made the most mistakes! Enthusiasm can be a good and a bad thing. There were times that I went to fast, I slowed down. There were times that I went to slow, I sped up. And there were times that I totally lost the kids, I went back and got them and we kept at it. I continued to refine our structures in this reader's workshop. After Christmas many of the behavior problems were resolved, but we were still having writer's and reader's workshop in our seats. During a reader's workshop I observed several children moving in their seats in a way to suggest that they wanted no that they needed to stretch out, after that we opened the workshop and children could read where they chose. Looking back in my reflection journal I wrote, "I could no longer resist the kids need to choose where they read." I wonder now why I was ever resisting them at all, but through constant reflection I could see and consider these changes.