Charming Readers
Helping Readers Develop an "A" Game

If you watch golf on any given Sunday, you’ll hear the announcers talking about the leaders really bringing their "A" game. Our reading students deserve a chance to understand what an A game in reading is and how much fun it is to develop one. To set the tone to achieve a better reading game we need to offer them hints and tips in a kind and respectful way to inspire an inquisitive nature.

If we require students to do the work, then we are obliged to coach them to approach the various tasks in a way that they can be proud of. Teachers have to be creative and intentional to make developing better work habits fun and inspiring, not grueling. As you read the tips below for holding students accountable for quality work, remember to bring your own A game of tools and tricks to spark, encourage, and monitor growth.

Giving Feedback During Comprehension Checks

Independent Reading

You'll want to regularly check in with students on their writing in response to their reading in independent reading. Plan an on-going checkpoint conference schedule. The students have an opportunity to show what they know and deepen their thinking about their books on the QuickWrites and Graphic Organizers that accompany each READ 180 Independent Reading title. After you plan your schedule, facilitate a lesson on how the students will be held accountable for the quality of their responses. Setting and modeling the expectations will allow feedback to focus on skill versus quality.

Coach your students on meeting the target. If the QuickWrite asks for two examples, check their work and make sure the response contains two examples. Feedback as simple as, "You're first example of a time the character changed is right on the money. You don't have a second example and the question/prompt asks for two examples. Let me see more of your thinking by going back to your book and finding a second example."  You can decide if you need to ratchet up the intensity of the scaffold by pointing out what pages the student should refer back for evidence. Almost always the page numbers are referred to in the question/prompt, but some of our kids miss this guided detail since they are focused on understanding the bigger details within the prompt. You can lessen the intensity by simply asking the student to reread the question/prompt, underline the keys to answering it completely, and ask them if their response is complete.

Let students work with the actual reading response and getting their ideas on paper before working through the writing issues. Fixating on "red pen issues" is demotivating. We want kids to do the thinking work first. We also don't want to miss seeing students strut their comprehension stuff because they know that you will be hypercritical about the editing. Students can always edit or revise only if there is a response, but they'll have nothing to edit or revise if they shut down because someone is going to nag them about mechanics.

Remember, you've asked them to do this work, so you’re honor bound to not only look at it, but also help students fill it out in a way that will help them grow.  For instance, a question in the Stage B QuickWrite about the book Money Hungry by Sharon Flake asks students to agree or disagree with a quote from the text and write two sentences. A common student response might be, "I agree. Money can do you wrong."

If I were conferring with this reader, my feedback would go like this. "You did meet the expectation for the question because you had two sentences. When you respond to questions like this, you want to prove that you read and understood the book. A next level response would include your thinking. Could you talk to me about that now?" I would let the student talk about their thinking first and then let them know that in future, I want to see all that thinking in their written responses.

The computer will generate some feedback for the students in the form of their comprehension score on the Reading Counts! Quiz. Many students don't really know what these scores mean or represent. Do your students know that the goal is to pass 75% of the quizzes with a score of a 75% or higher? Have you modeled how to take a quiz? Read a short READ 180 title and actually model taking the quiz for your students who are struggling to pass the quizzes. If overall scores are low, you may want to immediately complete this lesson during Whole- or Small-Group Instruction. If only a few students have lower scores, then confer with them during Small-Group or during the next conference date. There is a chance that they are not going back to the text to find the evidence to support their answers. They'll just try to do it all from recall. A secondary goal of our READ 180 implementation is to help students pass their state assessments. The odds are slim that they will ever pass unless they develop strategies for taking tests that successful test takers utilize–returning to the text and using evidence.

With a struggling student, ask them to let you watch them take the quiz. The investment of time in a one-to-one feedback session has many advantages for future feedback ideas. You'll see what habits are helping and hindering the student. They'll know you care because you are willing to take 10 minutes to help. Opportunities to provide quality feedback that is truly personalized are sometimes rare. Cherish the occasions when you can really tune in to how students process information. Formal and informal data fuel your feedback data bank.

Using the Built-In Feedback Features

You can give feedback to students on their fluency recording from the Reading Zone and their writing from the Writing Zone after class anywhere you have internet access.  The Assignment Board on the Teacher Tool tab in Teacher Central allows you to quickly and easily access the rubric for fluency and writing as well as an opportunity to give written feedback.

Providing feedback on student work in the software is key. When you offer feedback, students can start to calibrate whether their self-ratings are accurate and realistic. When you take the time to respond to their work, students know that you are looking at it. It’s important to hold students accountable for doing quality work in the Instructional Software Rotation. All the feedback is recorded in the student’s portfolio, so they have a record of the feedback to refer to in the future. Responding to student work in the software is another place to grow students' skill sets.

Responding to the fluency recording is a golden opportunity to virtually pull up beside a reader and hear them read orally. When you complete the rubric and add written feedback that propels student learning forward, and consequently, students know you value their efforts. You can correct minor issues privately, offer advice for better work next time, or give the kind of praise that introverts crave.

Responding to student writing from the Writing Zone and the workshop assessments will strengthen students' writing abilities. Growing as reading response writers is just as important as growing the ability to write essays. Many state assessments measure writing about reading as well as having students write essays. In addition, strengthening reading response helps students develop an authentic reading and story consuming life. Real readers and moviegoers often discuss how the book made them feel or why they thought something. Responding to stories is an important thread in our social fabric.

If it's worth having students do, then they deserve to have feedback. This doesn't mean that every assignment has to have a grade. In fact, small doses of regular feedback about performance will propel learning forward far faster than any grade.

Remember to feed your students constructive feedback. Feed them strategies, scaffolds, and information about their work regularly. Keep your comments on the positive, yet direct side. Challenge yourself to give feedback that identifies student strengths and builds upon them. Try to offer comments and tips without using a negative word. When your feeding your students information about progress and performance regularly, proactively, and positively, you'll see unprecedented growth both in Lexile and personal development and they will truly feel like champions! Feeling like a champion is what having an A game is all about!


Share ways that you provide positive and proactive feedback below. Our teaching games improve when we are inspired by others.

Houston, TX

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.

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