Independent Reading Program
by Renee Goularte
In January of 1997 Renee Goularte posted on a multiage
listserve a description of her independent reading program.
It is one way that literature based independent reading can be
successfully structured in a multiage classroom. With her permission
I have reposted it here.
The books on our classroom library shelves are very informally
leveled, using "sticky dots" on the spines: red for
easy picture books, blue for harder picture books, green for
picture books with a lot of text; yellow for easy "chapter
books" (i.e., Frog and Toad), orange for longer chapter
books (i.e., Beezus and Ramona) and purple for even longer or
more sophisticated books (i.e., the Little House books, etc.).
We use white sticky dots for reference and science books (Magic
School Bus, Eyewitness series, etc.) and black for poetry. Not
only does this leveling system help children find appropriate
reading material to read, it also helps them know where to put
things away. Because it is such a "loose" leveling
system, it also allows for a great deal of flexibility in what
children can read. For example, students who can read orange
chapter books can also appropriately read green picture books,
but should not be spending a lot of time on red picture books.
...there are some children who seem to have no sense for choosing
an appropriate book to read. We have found that this system,
while not perfect, is very helpful for those students. Oh, and
by the way... we did not do all this book leveling ourselves.
We grabbed four fifth grade boys one year, two days before school
started (they were former students of mine and I felt confident
about their judgement), explained what we needed, and let them
do it. Our instructions were to look through each book and decide
if it would be better for first, second, or third grade students
(this was with the picture books only... we did the chapter books
ourselves). Believe it or not, those boys did a great job, and
we have only found ourselves switching the color dots on a few
books. And there are some books for which even we couldn't decide,
and we have multiple copies with different color codes (i.e.,
How Many Days to America is green and blue).
The way we find out, on a day-to-day basis, if our students
are reading for understanding, is by having them discuss the
book with another student (they have to answer questions about
the story), then write a synopsis (beginning, problem, solution,
ending) and personal reflection (they have "prompts"
for these on their individual checksheets). They do this for
each book they read, (which one of us has to have approved) and
we discuss this work with each student after everything on the
checksheet is completed (about a dozen different tasks, including
things like reading poetry from the wall with a partner, illustrating
favorite parts of a story, working on penmanship, writing a story,
etc.). All written work must be proofread and discussed with
and by two other students before they are allowed to sign up
for a teacher discussion. In the meantime, while they are working,
we do little guided reading groups (sometimes parents do this),
and have personal interviews / read alouds with students on a
rotating basis (alphabetical), and do language experience activites
or concentrated direct instruction-type things for those students
who need more guided help. This probably sounds complicated,
and I'm sure it looks complicated to people who wander through
(we work in an "open" school... no doors) but it does
require and teach students to become more self-directed.
We like it. :-)
Blossom Valley School
San Jose, CA