At the end of the HTH Teacher Center’s California Teacher Induction Program, participants identify a particularly effective practice (or group of practices) and write it up in such a way that other teachers can benefit from what they’ve learned. This piece is called a “Change Package.”
This is the Change Package that Julie Ruble wrote at the end of her work in her Induction Program.
Independent reading is the reading students do that has potential to be most engaging and naturally includes the most student choice. For this reason, embedding explicit reading skills instruction into independent reading structures is potentially a high leverage change idea. My change idea was largely supported by the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, where they place significant emphasis on learning reading skills via independent reading with regular mini-lessons, conferences, and means of recording students’ thinking in reading notebooks. I wanted to work on how kids pause while they’re reading to ask, “Did I get that?” and record their thinking. At TCRWP, they do this with quick jots in their reading notebook as they read, so my change package centers on creating effective structures for these jots.
Relying solely on whole-class novels to teach reading skills holds some kids (who read at a higher level) back while losing some kids (who read at a lower level and can’t access the text even with whole class support). Supporting kids to find a choice novel at their level, however, and then facilitating reading skills through independent reading can ensure they practice these skills in a way most effective for them personally. In order to ensure they stop and ask, “Did I get that?” when reading and employ reading skills, and in order to capture their thinking, students jot as they read. My change idea centered on implementing these quick jots and then using them to teach several specific reading skills.
Most of my research was compiled from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project resource bank. This includes the research that shows the value of focusing reading instruction on independent reading. For instance, “Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) researched the relationship between the amount of reading done and reading achievement. They found that the amount of time reading was the best predictor of reading achievement, including a child’s growth as a reader from the second to the fifth grade” (Teachers College).
The research also indicates how important it is to be able to track students’ reading skills and growth in order to specifically address their needs. The following sources underscore the necessity of tracking reading progress carefully and being able to give them targeted feedback: Denton, Vaughn and Fletcher’s (2003), “Bringing Research Based Practice in Reading Intervention to Scale,” concludes that “effective teachers are able to identify struggling readers and modify the nature and intensity of instruction to address their needs, basing instructional decisions on information gathered from frequent assessments and monitoring of student progress” (Teachers College).
Finally, in “What I’ve Learned about Effective Reading Instruction From a Decade of Studying Exemplary Elementary Classroom Teachers,” Allington (2002) highlights the benefit of teaching reading skills in context where they can be modeled and then actively employed: “there is specific research that supports the fact that reading is an active meaning-making process, and that exemplary teachers engage in ‘active instruction—the modeling and demonstration of the useful strategies that good readers employ’” (Teachers College).
This change idea has made it possible to create accountability for students’ independent reading without overburdening their reading time with something that feels like an assignment and taking the joy out of reading. They can show their thinking and practice new ways to approach a text (for instance, summarizing, looking for character transformation, noticing a motif, etc.) in a book at their reading level that they are interested in and chose for themselves. It gives them more autonomy over their learning without reducing accountability. Because I’ve experienced so much success with this system and because I noticed how students were getting held back or left behind when trying to teach reading skills in a class with very diverse reading levels via whole class novels, I’ve transitioned completely away from whole class novels in favor of shorter whole class anchor texts and students reading independent novels at their own pace with this accountability.
The California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP) my work relates to are:
# 1: Engaging and Supporting All Students in Learning
# 3: Understanding and Organizing Subject Matter for Student Learning
# 4: Planning Instruction and Designing Learning Experiences for All Students
# 5: Assessing Students for Learning
I completed the following PDSA cycles:
Cycle 1: Implement quick jots (see Figure 1) for two reading skills (summarizing, noticing character transformation)
Cycle 2: Implement a post-it flagging system for students to turn in their best jots to be checked.
Cycle 3: Implement a worksheet-based accommodation for kids who have not gotten the hang of jotting (just three kids), requiring them to show me their jots during exit procedure or have to jot during break the following day.
Cycle 4: Do a quick walk around the room three times per week in addition to one time I actually check quick jots for slight additional accountability getting notebooks open quickly.
In the first PDSA cycle, I was able to identify from students’ summary jots that a few students were fake reading because their jots were nonsensical and I knew the students could communicate thoughts via writing in other contexts. I was also able to gauge which students were grasping the events in their book. I realized, though, that it was difficult to look through all jots or to decide which jots to focus on.
In my next PDSA cycle I implemented a post-it flagging system where students chose their most impressive jot to represent each skill. I learned here that the flagging might be a good idea but didn’t help my main issue with assessing students’ reading struggles: time.
Figure 1: Example of a Page of “Quick Jots”
In my third PDSA cycle, I tried to help kids who weren’t jotting consistently or clearly by providing them with a jot worksheet that they would use as an exit card each day (see Figure 2). This solved the problem for all but one student, who continues to struggle with jots.
FIGURE 2: Jot Worksheet
In my fourth and final PDSA cycle, I implemented an assessment system where once a week, I walk around the room and assess their jots during reading time. This made sense because their notebooks are already open to their jots and it’s also a perfect time for a quick conference to tweak anything not working. It has helped close the gap between the work students are doing and the work I’m able to assess.
Ultimately, these jots have helped me to eliminate fake reading in my classroom, and given me an opportunity to discuss reading skills and books with students as they read. It has also allowed me to model reading skills and allow students to practice them authentically in texts they have chosen and are interested in, and have a record of their thinking while reading.
My change idea is to teach reading skills with mini-lessons embedded in independent reading and monitor the apprehension of these reading skills via a section in students’ reading notebooks called “quick jots,” which they add to as they read each day.
We have a prepared section in our reading notebooks for quick jots. Students jot two times as they read. We begin the year with a mini-lesson using a short shared text (e.g. a fairy tale or myth) teaching and modeling how to do a one-sentence summary quick jot. Throughout the rest of the year we pause regularly to teach and model new types of jots (e.g. character transformation jots/model) to add to their jotting repertoire and their toolbox about the thinking readers do as they read. When I teach these new skills, I pause early during our silent reading period to teach them (in a five to 10-minute mini-lesson) so students can immediately apply them after we practice them together.
To set up the quick jot section, students complete the following in 10 minutes:
What I’ve learned about implementing quick jots well every day is:
After starting quick jotting on our reading, the quick jots showed that all but a small handful of students are understanding their free reading books. I spotted fake reading in a few nonsensical quick jots and this allowed me to confer with those kids to offer preview stacks of more appropriate books.
Students put post-it flags on the jots they thought best exemplified their thinking in order to streamline my assessment, but I never looked back at the notebooks. It felt like there was no time. I think I learned that this system right now isn’t systematic enough. I also noticed some kids were not jotting, which throws off the system. This tweak was something that ultimately wasn’t successful.
To intervene with a few kids who weren’t reliably jotting, I gave them worksheets divided into quadrants to jot on and this became an exit card for them each day. Two students were able to jot more effectively with a worksheet accommodation. The other student is still not jotting effectively. The two students will continue to use the worksheet and show it to me as an exit card, and the other student will participate in a separate book club during independent reading time with an academic coach in order to stop and think-aloud about the book.
The practice of walking around the room once at the beginning of silent reading time almost eliminated the need for verbal reminders, and I found tapping the notebook quickly took care of the few kids who still didn’t notice my physical proximity and needed a quick extra reminder to start their jots. In addition, I can now assess the jots one day each week by walking around to read each students’ jots instead of having to take up notebooks. At this point, almost all of the kinks are worked out of the jotting system.
Anderson, R. C., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L. G. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 285–303.
Allington, R. L. (2002). What I’ve learned about effective reading instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 740–747.
Denton, C. A., Vaughn, S. and Fletcher, J. M. (2003). Bringing research-based practice in reading intervention to scale. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 201–211.
Teachers College Reading And Writing Project. Research base underlying the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop’s approach to literacy instruction. https://readingandwritingproject.org/about/research-base