Any athlete will tell you that a nutritious diet is a key component to being at the top of their game. However, there's a second kind of food that pushes athletes from good to great. Feedback is an essential part of any athlete's diet. A gymnast cannot improve their routines without timely and authentic feedback. A reader grows and learns with the same type of food--feedback.
In READ 180, students receive feedback simply from using the software. Several other opportunities to provide feedback exist that can offer developing readers strategies and tips in order to make progress towards their personal reading goals and the ultimate goal, agency. I have shared with my teachers that spending time to teach students how to utilize the built-in immediate feedback will reap more rewards down the road. One quick pointer I encourage is to let students know if they are not looking at the screen they may be missing the connection with the audio cues aligned to the visual feedback being provided.
Providing Feedback in Independent Reading
Readers can benefit from feedback on several facets of their work in their independent reading rotation. Opportunities to provide feedback abound so you’ll need to be strategic about what kind of feedback to provide and when to offer it. Readers can benefit from feedback on engagement, on their thinking work during reading, and on their QuickWrites and Graphic Organizers as well as their Reading Counts! activities. We’ll start with engagement issues because these issues are prevalent at the beginning of the year.
Many developing readers struggle with engagement issues; everything from choosing the "just right" book to reading stamina to fluency issues. These issues are many times chicken and egg issues. In other words, is disfluency causing a lack of engagement or is a lack of engagement and focus causing some disfluent reading?
Offering Feedback that Builds Reading Identity
When offering feedback on engagement, you might consider starting by acknowledging a student’s reading identity. Simply starting your comments with, "You're the kind of reader who…" acknowledges that they have preferences. Many READ 180 students do not think about their identity as a reader because they don’t think of themselves as being readers. When you address students as readers, it lays a positive foundation for them to develop and refine their identity over time. I have even found that they are amazed that you have noticed a reading trait, behavior, or choice in these few short weeks of back to school. You see them, which makes feedback easier to manage.
Some samples of reading identity statements that you can use with students are:
-You're the kind of reader who responds to the emotions of the characters.
-You're the kind of reader who craves action.
-You're the kind of reader who likes to read a chunk and think deeply about what is happening.
There is not a right or wrong statement to put after the stem as long as you have evidence from the students reading behaviors to back it up. If you are wrong about your hypothesis, the students will correct you and you can revise your statement.
Tackling Stamina Issues with Feedback
Stamina issues typically manifest themselves as off-task behavior or simply staring into space. Explain to students that they build stamina by being able to do anything for longer and longer stretches. In modern times, even our everyday lives thwart stamina. Sound bites, tweets, videos--none of these require deep concentration for extended periods of time.
Offer students useful tips such as reading Post-it to Post-it. Figure out how long they can typically read. If it’s two pages, have them put Post-Its every two pages for 10 pages. Explain that runners who are working on upping their mileage often focus on just running to the next sign or mailbox instead of working on running to the finish line. Have the students start reading Post-it to Post-it. Celebrate with them as they can read 4 pages at a time, and then 6, and finally 10 or more. Create a Post-it to Post-it Chart and have them mark their change in stamina. Celebrate key milestones being achieved.
Sometimes stamina issues result from book choice. In other words, what looks like a stamina problem is actually an engagement issue. If the student really enjoyed or was interested in what they were reading, they could stick with reading for much longer. This is where building relationships and community really come into play. You need to get one student in your READ 180 class to love a book before you will get all of them to find books they love. It is like a snowball rolling downhill, once you have one student hooked, they'll tell others about the book and soon you’ll have the power of community working for you.
Feedback for Improving Fluency
Disfluent readers deserve feedback to get them on track as well. Reading habits such as tracking with a finger under each line or guessing the endings of longer words are worth tackling with feedback as well. Ask students who track with their fingers why they do it. This could be a red flag for scotopic sensitivity. However, if they reply that it just helps them and don’t report any letter shaking or jumping on the page, then it’s just a habit that is hindering their reading rate. Try weaning them off to a bookmark under the lines and finally to nothing at all.
Many students are intimidated by multi-syllabic words and make guesses about word endings, which impede fluency and comprehension. A simple tip is to ask them if the word they guess sounds right, looks right, and makes sense. If all three questions can’t be answered with a yes, the reader needs to go back and work through the word syllabically clear to the end.
A word of caution on offering feedback on fluency and stamina--reading quickly or fast isn’t the goal. Sometimes students equate going faster or reading more in a shorter time as the end goal of fluency and stamina work. Remind them that just like every runner has their own pace for a race, readers have their own pace, a little quicker through the light parts and much slower through the parts that require heavy word solving and thinking.
Providing readers feedback about their reading habits is one of the many ways to coach a reader. You may need to coach students through how to accept feedback as it may not be a natural habit. Once students know what to do with feedback and put it into practice, readers are sure to grow.
Join me next blog post to read more about opportunities to grow readers by providing feedback on thinking about reading. Please share some of the tips and strategies you offer to readers for developing reading identity, increasing engagement and stamina, and for working on fluency in the comment box. The more strategies that are posted, the more tools our community has in its toolbox.
Charmion Mohning is the Secondary Reading Coordinator and lead reader in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences about growing a love of reading, word study, and implementing READ 180 with fidelity. She is passionate about ensuring that every student can read. Before becoming an administrator, Charmion taught English as a Second Language in Grades 4-6 and was a curriculum coach for the district’s structured English immersion program. She has degrees from Upper Iowa University and Sam Houston State University.