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    Dialogue on Reading! (L-O-N-G)
    By Elaine

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    I am definitely interested in continuing a discussion on any subject that will help me improve instruction for my students. I am a looping teacher -- I got new 4th graders this fall and will keep them through their 5th-grade year.

    I feel 4th and 5th grades are crucial to creating life-long lovers of reading. In the past, I always used literature discussion groups during 4th grade. I'd present 4 different novels, and students would be placed in a novel/group based solely on their choice of book. I always sat in on the discussion group, modeled a specific skill, and, asked students to write response letters to me in their Reading Journals. So students were allowed limited choice, but instruction, while driven by student needs, was teacher led. I think what I did is a sort of a blend of GR and Lit.Study.

    Then by the time my students were 5th graders, I felt they could benefit from what I referred to as Individualized Reading where students read self-selected novels and wrote response letters to me weekly. This is very similar to Independent Reading according to Fountas and Pinnell except that I was deficient in the areas of group discussion which I contiuned to feel was important but could never quite figure out a way to make it work/fit.

    I feel I've found the answer in the F & P method. I thouroughly believe in the importance of choice and time on-task for reading. That's what I love about the Independent Reading component of GR. In addition, I now know I can provide time for small group instruction and discussion through GR and LS flexible groups.

    Now, to tell you about what's going on so far in my classroom. I think you are much farther along implementing the components of GR. So far I've used the First 20 Days of IR plan. I've been working out the kinks in management and teaching students what I expect as far as their behavior goes. I feel these things must be in place before starting to pull small groups together.

    I am just ready to begin to pull together some small groups for instruction. To tell you the truth, I am not quite sure which novel(s) to offer. I am torn between doing some GR instruction using short articles or stories and doing a LS using novels. I will post as soon as I make a decision a novel. I told my students we'd start "Book Club" groups this Monday, but some things have come up (as always) in scheduling that would interrupt no sooner than we start. So I am not starting tomorrow but very soon.

    What are some of the novels you've used with your 4th graders? My students are not very high readers (yet!) so I am trying to keep stay out of the more difficult books. One thing reading F and P made me realize is that the books I typically choose are really too difficult for my beginning 4th graders.

    Okay, Curious, I can only hope that after reading my insane ramblings, you will still want to continue this dialogue with me!!!!!!

    Oh by the way (the ramblings continue!), I read your post on the Teachers as Readers board and above about students reading out loud. Here's my opinion on the subject. I do think F and P focus on silent reading, but I don't think because of that they are saying there is no place in the classroom for the other kinds of reading. Did you say you have Good-bye Round Robin? I have it and have read it. That author (whatever his name is!) gives some really exciting ways to use oral reading without boring kids to death. I think he is saying that whichever way you plan to have kids read aloud, be sure you give them time to read the selection ahead of time -- no more putting the kid on the spot. I am planning to use some Reader's Theater plays. Why can't they be a part of a GR group? You could do some vocabulary, character development, etc. while students get practice reading with expression and fluency. Sounds like a great focus for GR to me!!!!!

    Now I really am going to stop for awhile. Let me know what you are thinking and doing and I'll do the same. Are you going to be here on the 4th Grade board or the TAR board more often? Which board do you want to use for our dialogue?

    Talk to you soon.

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