Reading is More Than Just Reading

Yes, you read the title correctly, but let me explain. Yesterday I had a brief conversation with our Reading Support Teacher (RST) about her observations during a Literature b2ap3_thumbnail_big_book.jpgCircle discussion she had with a group in grade 5. It immediately had me reflecting on my classroom experiences with Literature Circles. For those of you who haven't heard of the concept of Literature Circles check out Harvey Daniels website, or just google it. Basically it's adult book club for kids. Lots of reading, lots of talking. There are many aspects involved in implementing Literature Circles that I won't write about today, but what I loved most were the "roles" students took that allowed everyone an opportunity to shine. The roles I used were:

  • Word Wizard - discovering special words in the text
  • Discussion Director - leading the group during conversation, developing conversation guiding questions
  • Artful Artist - creating a picture to represent what you read
  • Passage Picker - selecting parts of the text to read aloud. Be sure to have a reason!
  • Connector - finding connections to the text (text-to-self, text-to-world, text-to-text)

I remember worrying about classroom management during the discussion times so I would place old fashioned tape recorders at each group thinking this would keep them on task.  What absolutely shocked me was the depth of the discussions I would hear as I listened to those tapes. If I could have one wish, it would be that those boxes of tapes weren't destroyed by a basement flood a few years ago. 

But back to my RST! She was excited listening to the conversations the students were having about their reading. The students were so engaged in their group discussions they were actually leaning towards each other so they could hear what was being said! Her comment to me was "It really shows that reading is more than just reading the words on the page." I don't know about you, but I couldn't agree more. 

When we hear statements in the media that our children can't read, what are they really referring to? Is it decoding? Is it responding to what they read? Don't get me wrong, decoding obviously plays an important role in the process of learning to read. Without decoding skills, you can't read. There are many things we can do as parents and educators to help foster a love of reading. One that is often overlooked is supporting students as they connect to the text on a deeper level. Literature Circles allows those rich, deep conversations to happen. And students love them. What do you think? I'd love to hear your experiences with Literature Circles.

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