I structured my class novel study so that students were not required to read independently. Instead, they followed along silently as I read aloud (or one of their peers read aloud). When I started the book, I stopped periodically and modelled what types of questions I was asking, how I was organizing the information I was reading (using this Graphic Organizer), and what inferences I was drawing. (I Do, You Watch)
As the book progressed, I gradually released this responsibility to the class - pausing to prompt: "What questions does this passage make you ask?" and "What do you think this means? Why?" In this way, students took ownership over what they were reading. (I Do, You Help)
Proficient readers model good-reading to struggling readers. While leveled reading has its place, there is something empowering about proficient readers modeling to their classmates what good reading looks like. In my class, this manifested itself in how the good readers made connections and predictions based on clues in the text. They asked good questions and modeled a tolerance for uncertainty in not knowing the answer. Struggling readers often think that there is a “correct” answer that they’re missing when reading. By watching their peers ask questions and make educated guesses, they gained confidence to do the same, knowing that it was not embarrassing to “be wrong” or not know the “right” answer. Struggling readers benefit from hearing proficient readers read aloud regularly. My class novel study provided opportunity for students to hear the teacher read as well as their peers. (You Do, I Help/Peer-modeling)
Towards the end of the book, I had students up at the front of the class, reading and guiding the discussion. This was a way I differentiated for those students who read ahead and didn’t want to be restricted by the pace the class was reading the novel at. They were responsible for asking prompting questions, stopping at appropriate places, and allowing their peers to discuss their reading. For the most part, I could have left the classroom during these times and the students wouldn’t have noticed! They had become so accustomed to communicating their thinking, making inferences, and making connections that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t there to ask it of them. (You Do, I Watch)
Using Gradual Release of Responsibility in the Novel Study:
- I Do, You Watch: Show your students what you brain is doing as you read. Model good reading with expression and tone. Ask questions, give visuals for how your brain is categorizing information, and make inferences with explicit reference to the text. The amount of time you spend in this stage is dependent on your learners and the level/length of the text.
- I Do, You Help: After you have modeled what your reading looks like, get students to help you. Instead of answering your own questions, get the students to participate in this. Give them opportunities to think about their thinking and try to apply the strategies that have been modeled to them. I used this stage (combined with I Do, You Watch) for about the first half of the book.
- You Do, I help: By this point in the book, some of your students will begin to take considerable ownership over their reading. If you have set up your reading culture to embrace questions and thinking, you will likely get students shooting up their hands at every opportunity to communicate their thinking and pose their own questions to the class. Use their model to bring other students into the conversation. Set these more reluctant students up for success – perhaps by drawing an inference for them and asking if they agree/disagree and why.
- You Do, I Watch: Because I had students who read ahead, this stage was a lot more natural to accomplish. I asked these students if they would feel comfortable taking a chapter or two and leading the discussion. I clarified my expectations around this (incorporating the whole class, promoting learning opportunities, etc). Some students even felt more comfortable sharing their thoughts to the class with their peer at the front of the room (instead of the teacher). By this point, my students were so accustomed to the reading process that they were able to participate in an entire class discussion around the text with minimal prompting from myself. I used this model for the last 8 chapters of the book.
This unit empowered my students to take ownership over their reading and I am excited to see how they translate the skills they learned over the course of this novel in their upcoming Literature Circles!