Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell

When I purchased Smart Answers to Tough Questions by Elaine Garan, I also purchased The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell.
Again, my thoughts on teaching reading were confirmed ten-fold. It is really hard to explain Atwell's ideas without sounding to simplistic, but her "manifesto" shouts out--- JUST READ! No more of this craziness, trying to get kids to predict, connect, visualize, question, summarize, re-tell right in the middle of their reading time. Give them the time to read, give them the tools to picking the right books, give them the passion to chose, and everything will fall into place.
I must admit, it was a little hard to read that student's did not need to use sticky notes while reading, basically because it stops the act of actually reading. But, on the other hand, it makes sense. Since Atwell teaches students a little older than mine, she talks about only responding to their books every 3 weeks and only when they finish a book. But she does mention that the fifth grade students at her school, CTL (Center for Teaching and Learning), still respond every other week. We have been responding every week and I have been trying to come up with a better system for 3 years, tweaking it a little each year, but I don't think I could tweak to every 3 weeks. So I am going to go for every other week. I also know my fifth graders need to respond in smaller chunks because if they waited until the end of the book, most would end up writing a book report.
I have to say, I have been doing Reading Workshop for the last 4 years or so, and it really works. Mostly it works because the students have CHOICE! I know it is scary to just let kids sit around reading for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, but trust me, if done right, it works. I have had winning Achievement test scores for 2 years running. (There have only been 2 years worth of 5th Grade Ohio Achievement test scores in reading)
Let's all get together and go for an internship at the CTL school! (Unfortunately the deadline for application for the 2007-2008 internships was July 15th!) :(


AMY said...

Ok, then, let's do CTL scholarships next year! Or at minimum, let's keep this conversation going. I liked how she really named the root of the sticky note craze: the teacher's desire to see visible proof of "on task" and "making progress". I'm feelin' that. But I can let it go. I'm thinking my 5th and 6th graders will still respond to their reading in journals every week, but I'm going to try out alternating letters to me and letters to peers. I loved this book, too.

Georgia Teacher said...

Boy did The Reading Zone hit a chord with me too. I found it this summer and have my entire fifth grade team reading it. My students write weekly to me about what they are reading and I in turn write back to them. I won't give this up as I see such growth in it and I'm really able to connect with my students as readers.

What I'm having a hard time doing is easing up on conducting small guided reading groups with my students. I'm trying to do one on one conferences with my above average students at least every other day, but I feel they aren't as "meaty" as they could be.

Anyone have suggestions or in similar situation?

Megan Germano said...

I don't know that I do have any suggestions on that problem. I still feel I have that problem as well. I do still meet with one group of students everyday. I just try to make it less like a guided reading group and more like a conference. The part that I have trouble with is the "meaty" part. I would love it to be more so, but it still turns out kind of lame. I will blog about it if I get a more "meaty" idea! Thanks for the insightful comment!