Relationships Can Happen Quickly

     There are so many tasks, emotions, and learning moments that connect us as READ 180teachers. I have no doubt that data talks during PLC time or faculty meetings take place during these moments. At my school, data is always a big part of our conversation at faculty and department meetings. We often have conversations on how we can get our kids to accelerate growth or maintain the current trajectory. The administrative team asks teachers what interventions can be put in place to ensure academic growth. Every year before state testing, we ramp up instruction to make sure students are ready for testing.  Because of this question and time of year, I began to think more of how I have the opportunity to begin this growth on the first day of school.  What can I do to ensure they are making progress from day one?

     Many of our kids come to our READ 180classes with very low Lexiles. Many of them have not had a lot of academic success in their past. Many students come to READ 180with years of failing grades. READ 180students walk into the classroom with predetermined attitudes toward school and teachers. Several come to READ 180never having read a book on their own. Many will sigh or rolls their eyes when you introduce the concept of READ 180 and what it involves.

     I have realized over the years of READ 180, that the number one way to help students improve their reading ability is to build relationships with each student.  

A Memory That Drives My Work

     Ray was a tenth-grade student who entered my READ 180class at the beginning of February one year. He had moved from another state and he neither knew anyone in our class nor the school. His initial Lexile score was BR(36). He should have been placed into a System 44class, but for various reasons, it was decided he would stay in my READ 180class. His first day in rotations, I put him in the small group with me. Students were reading a passage using the choral reading method. I explained to Ray what choral reading was and he told me that he doesn’t read out loud. I smiled kindly at him and said, “Okay.” The students and I began to read the passage together. They were still building proficiency. Though I had modeled and was reading with them, they couldn’t pronounce every word, they skipped lines, and some lost their place. But they were in the act of reading and out loud. I listened as they read, I smiled, and at needed times, I encouraged them. I told each student they had done a great job.  We finished one paragraph and discussed it. Then we moved on to reading another passage. I looked over at Ray, and he was reading along with us. In just a few minutes, I was able to provide a safe environment for Ray. He felt no threats. He knew no one was going to make fun of him because he couldn’t read as well as his peers. Not only did he read out loud, he did a great job, and I congratulated him on a job well done.

     Over the course of the next few months, I continued to build a safe environment for Ray. I continued to build a relationship with him. That environment and that relationship, I believe, helped Ray grow from a BR(36) to a 443 in three short months.

   Is this the norm on our first days of READ 180? Probably not, but when it has happened, it’s always amazing. Yet, the expectation of amazing growth is not out of the READ 180norm.  Creating a safe environment and building relationships help begin the space where student achievement happens.  

My Recommended Building a READ 180 Relationship Steps

·     Talk to your students starting on Day 1.

·      Have a conversation with them; get to know them.  

·      Ask about their interests, ask about their families and friends, ask about their extra-curricular activities. 

·      Go to one of their games.  

·      Ask how their weekend was.  

·      Tell them stories about yourself; even the embarrassing ones! 

·      Talk about the books you love.

·      Smile.

·      Encourage them.


     When students since and know that you care about them, they will work for you. You are about to meet or have just met your own Ray. Despite any sighs or other noticeable frustrations, welcome each with open arms and the path to achievement is visible. 

     Let me know how you build relationships in the first two weeks of school in the comments below.


Tammy is the READ 180 teacher and yearbook sponsor at Camelback High School in Arizona.