How can I best use my after school
time with my struggling readers and how will these
skills show up in the classroom?
the emphasis on teaching kids to talk about their
reading within the reading workshop curriculum,
it is essential that we think about how we are helping
our struggling kids achieve. In my classroom, the
struggling readers were not a part of our classroom
conversations in a meaningful way. The conversations
about the whole class read aloud book were not helping
these kids because they were not engaged, and they
did not often understand how to be a part of the
conversation. They needed help learning how to join
the discussion, and also the confidence in their
ideas about reading to be willing to participate.
the idea that my kids needed time to work on their
reading out loud as well, I planned my after school
time. We spend 2 hours a week after or before school
with students who do not have IEPs, but need extra
help based on test scores and teacher observation.
I carefully chose my 7 students who were struggling
to keep up in reading, and verbally in class discussions.
These 5 girls and 2 boys started staying with me
until 4:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I teach fourth grade at a Pre-K through 5 school
in Brooklyn, New York. The school is very diverse,
though very fortunate. Only 37 percent of our children
qualify for free lunch, and our PTA is very active.
Our school is also not new to the workshop method,
which is now being implemented around the city.
My students have had reading and writing workshop
since Kindergarten. They are used to having book
talks and the value of talk in the classroom.
- Transcripts of small and large group conversations,
about reading as well as other topics.
charts to keep track of the kinds of conversation
moves that children made during conversations.
records to assess fluency and reading level.
- Questionnaires to assess the kids’ feelings about
the after school group.
- ELA test scores from 3rd grade and 4th grade.
entries to document my thoughts about the planning.
The kids make stronger conversation moves during
read aloud book talks such as; asking questions
of the other readers, wondering about things, making
inferences, comparing to another text, and giving
evidence from the text to support their ideas. Previously
it was mostly retelling and agreeing and disagreeing.
kids are more confident that they have good ideas,
and therefore participate more in whole class conversations.
kids use talk effectively in other areas, such as
math, to explain ideas and build deeper understanding.
kids are more fluent readers, paying better attention
to punctuation, and using expression.
the group as a structure, these struggling kids
formed a support group that they held onto even
in the regular classroom. They call on each other
in whole class conversations, as well as at other
times throughout the day. They stick up for each
other, and they work together persistently. For
struggling students, the encouragement they give
each other is invaluable.
students’ test scores on the grade 4 ELA test show
that the talking about reading after-school was
helpful, and a good use of time. The kids were successful
test takers while becoming better readers and talkers
instead of receiving extra written, individual test
prep (as strugglers often do).
students loved after school time, and looked forward
to it every Tuesday and Thursday.
After-school time with struggling readers is normally
reserved for test prep. However, using this time
to teach kids how to have stronger conversation
skills about books has benefits beyond their reading
skills or their test scores. The kids will do well
on the tests and improve their reading skills because
they are learning how to have ideas about texts,
and how to support these ideas. That is what makes
good talk, and also good readers and thinkers. All
areas of the curriculum can be covered through conversation,
even math, and this talk builds understanding, and
helps to grow ideas where individual work alone