Get Out of our Student’s Way – A Post about Reading

by mrsapia

Something magical happened the other day in my classroom.  No, I’m not talking about some crazy David Blaine card trick or levitation exercise, although that’d be pretty cool.  I got out of my student’s way.  How you might ask?  

Based on an end of marking period survey that I gave to the students, the overwhelming majority of them said they would like more time to read their “just-right” books around the classroom.  In my classroom, students have complete control over which books they would like to read.  They spread out and made themselves comfortable around our classroom in our book nooks such as the couch, under desks, shag rugs, pillows, and carpets.  The choice is always up to them.

Magical moment number 1!

Anyway, it was Friday afternoon and I decided to give students some quiet reading time.  I closed my lesson plans and curriculum binder and let them “get lost” in their books.  Now, I am not sitting here saying that I ignore our curriculum and/or pacing guides.  I believe in the many lessons that are created, but sometimes, we just need to abandon ship, listen to our student’s voices, and let them take control.  This not only builds a trusting relationship, but it lets students know that they are a valued part of the classroom community.  The rapport that is built by a practice like this is invaluable. 

In addition to students getting lost in their books, I curled up with my book as well.  I am currently reading “Teach like a Pirate,” by Dave Burgees.  I think it’s critical component to building a reading community that students see their teachers reading as well.   So, I initially gave students 25-30 minutes to read.  At the end of that time, I called students to the carpet and EVERY student in my classroom said they were so into their books and wanted to continue reading.  Well, go for it!! I glanced around the classroom periodically to ensure all students were reading and I can say with confidence, 100% of my students were engrossed in their books.  

Magical Moment Number 2!

They read for another 20 minutes or so.  When I did call students back to the carpet, many stopped along the way to talk to their friends. My initial reaction in my mind was great, it’s Friday afternoon and they’ll be talking about their new video games and what their doing over the weekend.  As I was about to remind them again to come to the carpet, IT happened.  

I began to hear chatter about what they read.  And not surface level chatter.  Students were so enthusiastic about sharing what they read with their classmates. They were talking about character development, plot line, new information gained from non-fiction texts, and new vocabulary words.  I also had many students getting their readers notebook to write down recommendations they received.  As this was occurring, I was just standing on the side of the room, watching and listening.  This went on for 10 minutes.  And what a blissful 10 minutes it was.  

After students finished up, they asked me what I was doing.  I told them, “I’m getting out of your way,” and explained what that meant.  They said thank you for allowing them to be flexible and talk about what they’re reading.  

I’m not sure this post will do any justice to how amazing this moment was, but I’ll leave you with this thought.  As educators we get caught up in meeting deadlines, pacing guides, curriculum requirements, and the thousand other responsibilities were have.  Sometimes we need to take a deep breath, listen to our students and what they want, and get out of their way.  Reading for the sake of reading is a practice that it so incredibly important, but often overlooked.  Get to know your students as readers, find interesting books for them, and show them you care by listening to their feedback, and magical moments can and will happen.  Try it, you won’t regret it.

If you’ve made it this far and like what you’ve read, follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach