“Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance” Those words are spoken every day over the school loudspeaker. We listen to the lunch menu, daily announcements, and then we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This is our morning school routine. Until one day the student reading the announcements forgot the Pledge of Allegiance. My READ 180 class sat in silence staring at me. Their morning school routine had been suddenly broken.
Many middle school aged students do not realize how important a routine is until it is taken away. Routines make life predictable. With that predictability is safety and order. Routines establish habits. Establishing habits produces organized and self-motivated individuals. Teachers would probably agree that classroom routines help to organize students and materials. Routines help the classroom operate smoothly. With routines in place learning happens effortlessly.
In my READ 180 classroom, we have routines for the beginning and end of class, switching rotations, and independent reading. At the beginning of the school year, I focus on routines in the independent reading rotation. When students are successful at independent reading their confidence increases, their Lexile improves, they feel powerful in book selection and choice, and they are motivated to succeed.
We have two routines related to independent reading; Choosing a Book and Steps for Independent Reading. During the first three weeks of school I introduced and modeled these routines. When we began rotations, I focused on independent readers so I was able to coach and help as needed. Laying this foundation at the beginning of the year lent itself to a successful start with developing independent readers.
Choosing a Book
This routine is difficult for some students. When following the routine students choose a book in their Lexile range. We use the Lexile score from the Reading Inventory. Students record their Lexile range on a graph in their folder. The first three months of school I ask students to double check their graph with their selected book. Therefore, continuing to confirm the book is in their Lexile range. Next, I encourage students to read the back of the book and flip through the pages. This strategy introduces students to the content of the book. Lastly, students try reading the book. If the book is not interesting, it goes back on the shelf and the routine starts over. Choosing the right book is essential.
Steps for Independent Reading
The Steps for Independent Reading routine guides students through the independent reading rotation. Simply, the routine is students actively reading their selected book. To lessen how many times I’m questioning if students are actively reading, this routine is a guide to using the accountability resources provided. Often the resources such as, QuickWrites, ask students to write after reading a certain page or chapter. As an aid, I’ve helped students to know when to stop reading by placing stickers in the books. If a QuickWrite is directing a student to write after reading pages 12, 22, and 30, then I have placed a sticker on those pages alerting students to stop. When students finish a book and the accountability resources are completed properly, they may take a Reading Counts quiz. Lastly, if students pass the quiz, they may select to complete a final project. If students do not pass, I encourage them to conference with me, check their wrong answers on the quiz, review their reading log, and QuickWrites. They may retake a quiz the next day. The goal is success.
Several years ago, a new student entered READ 180 in November. My class was well versed in the Choosing a Book and Steps for Independent Reading routines. I spent many days working individually with the new student to help her get into the routines. I watched one day as a veteran READ 180 student explained to her how to choose a book. She showed her her own Lexile graph and talked to her about the books she was reading inside and outside of READ 180. During this explanation the veteran student had a realization, or as I call it a READ 180 moment. The veteran student realized that when she was choosing a book in her Lexile range and completing the QuickWrites while she read, her success was greater. The veteran student had been following the routines, but hadn’t fully understood why, and now she did. There was a marked improvement in her confidence, motivation, and Lexile score after this moment.
Mrs. Melanie Eskildsen works as a reading intervention teacher with grades k-8 for a small school district in rural Wisconsin. Mrs. Eskildsen also teaches 8th grade English. She earned a degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Wisconsin- Stout in 1998. Later on she returned to UW-Stout to earn a reading teacher license. Teaching READ 180 is the most rewarding part of her school day. She has taught READ 180 Next Generation to grades 6-8 for the past eight years. There are many opportunities for outdoor adventures in Wisconsin. With her family Mrs. Eskildsen enjoys hiking, camping, biking, and snowmobiling.