A few weeks ago, an Internet colleagued posed this question on Twitter: Do you, as a teacher, read with your students?
What he meant wasn’t if we read to our students, nor was it whether they read to us. Instead, he was asking, “When your students are reading, are you reading also, or are you using the time to do “other” things?”
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. I admit that, most of the time, I am doing “other” things while my students are reading: working with a student one-on-one, grading papers, meeting with a reading group, organising materials, or answering student questions. All of these are important tasks that are hard to find time to do well, but they are, except for working one-on-one or with a group, probably things that can be done during my plan time or before/after school. What I would like to while my students are reading is to also read. I want to be able to model independent reading and to be a part of a classroom of readers. My goal is to have a time each day during which every person in the room, teachers and students, are engaged in reading. Then we will talk together about what we have read, sharing our favourite parts, encouraging others to read what we are reading, and talk about our future reading plans.
That’s the goal, at least.
Today we took a small step in that direction. After P.E. on Thursdays, we have about 25 minutes before it is time for the students to go to their fine arts class. I have chosen to use this time as an independent reading time. All of the students SOAR (Spread Out And Read) in the classroom while I have light instrumental music (usually the soundtrack of Doctor Who, in case you were wondering) playing. Usually I am doing “other” things during this reading, but today I actually took out my book and read with my students.
It was wonderful. As I surveyed the room, I saw all of my students reading books that they have selected. The levels, genres, and themes were as diverse as my group of twenty-six students. In fact, I don’t think anyone was reading the same book! But all were reading. And the best part? All were reading. I didn’t have to get up and redirect students, I didn’t have to call out any students for distracting others or getting off task. And I got to read my book (Uglies by Scott Westerfield, which I am alternating with Greg Michie’s Holler If You Hear Me). I hope to read with my students more as the year approaches its end. And maybe next year I will be able to set this as something we do early on.