To develop students’ reading proficiency and motivation to read, you need to balance instructional and independent reading. Both kinds of reading are the foundation of these ten suggestions.
- Instructional Reading: teach students to comprehend and think deeply about instructional materials to enlarge their vocabulary, enlarge their prior knowledge, and develop understandings of complex concepts such as human rights.
- Independent Reading: in addition to instructional reading, students read thirty to fifty books a year —books they can read with 99% to 100% accuracy. Like sports, to improve their reading students practice skills and build automaticity in applying specific strategies.
- Choice: give students choice in independent reading materials and as much as possible with instructional texts. Choice results in motivation and engagement because students explore their passions and interests.
- Easy Access to Reading Materials: one of my eighth graders pointed out, “we need all kinds of reading [materials] at our fingertips.” My hope is that teachers will build class libraries with 700 to 1000 books and magazines on a wide range of topics and reading levels.
- Teacher Reads Aloud: read aloud to introduce students to different authors and genres and model how you think about texts. Choose materials students will enjoy!
- Discussions: these make learning interactive, help students clarify their hunches, and provide accessible peer models for thinking about texts.
- Book Talks: invite students to present a book talk a month to advertise favorites. Over ten months, students will be introduced to 250 to 300 plus books recommended by peers.
- Silent Reading: set aside twenty to twenty-five minutes of silent reading at school. This can be instructional and independent reading. Have students read at home for thirty minutes each night.
- Readers Notebooks: Invite students to complete informal written responses in their notebooks. Students can draw, draw and write, or write their reactions to read alouds and instructional and independent reading.
- Conferences: hold three to five minute conferences to discover students’ reading strengths, build self-confidence, and determine whether scaffolds are needed. Show students how to confer with one another and document their paired discussions.
These ten ways to improve reading provide research-based practices that can help students develop positive attitudes toward reading and read, read, read to build stamina and proficiency.
Evan Robb, Principal Johnson Williams Middle School and author of: The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook, Scholastic, 2007.
Follow Evan Robb on Twitter: @ERobbPrincipal