As teachers, we often struggle when our students struggle. We became teachers so we could guide, help, and teach, so when we see our students struggle with an answer or as they try to read something, we want to help—we are eager!
A few years ago one of my students was in tears because she didn’t finish the assigned chapter in the novel study—she explained that it was “too hard”.
Honestly, I gave in. I told her to listen to the audio version and follow along. Looking back, I realize now that I did her a disservice.
What I know now, after years teaching reading, being an instructional coach, and working with some great master teachers, is this: reading is not a spectator sport.
We’re doing our students more harm than good when we read something to them, or don’t provide the wait time while they struggle to sound out a word. We undermine their growth when we teachers don’t let them struggle to read the text, or, like me, tell them to listen to the audio version.
Reading (and learning to read) requires a complex set of processes in our brains. Neurons connect to form complex networks during the reading process, so we need to allow our students to struggle—even when it’s too hard—even for us. When you consider all the layers and layers of extraordinary connections, it’s a wonder there are so many readers at all!
At some point in our own lives, we had a teacher or a parent who let us struggle. Taking away our students’ challenges is taking away their opportunity to grow and learn.
How do we make sure we allow them opportunities to struggle with reading complex texts? Simple. Use reading as a bell ringer to jump start your reading block! Check out your bell ringer checklist below.
#1. Begin your whole group—or small group—reading block with students reading a chapter or page or story with partners.
#2: Begin with students reading a text independently.
#3: Have students re-read a text they saw a previous day, “chunking” the paragraphs (writing a one sentence summary in the margins.
#4: Have students read a section or page of text. Then they turn and talk with their partner to summarize the text.
Any of these can be used for small group or whole group instruction. The common key? Having them read!
By starting the day with a little reading time, you ensure your students get that opportunity to form new neural connections—enabling them to teach themselves for years to come through tackling complex texts. Those lifelong learners will look back and thank you, the teacher who gave them time to struggle and grow into capable, confident readers. All that growth? Now, that’s why we got into teaching!