So how does she do this? Students are given time to read in class every day. You may think, well I do that. But what occurs in Donalyn’s classroom is different because students are given time to read from a book of their choice without any expectations that they will have to do a book report, write an essay or do a project at the end of the book. Don’t get me wrong; there is work to be done along with the reading. Students may be asked to participate in a conference about the book they are reading which may lead to a few sessions of small group instruction with other students who are tweaking a specific strategy. Students may be jotting down some thoughts or notes they want to share with classmates about the book or they may want to do a book talk. Students soon learn what their classmates like and are often recommending books to each other, which create small group discussions around a favourite book. The teacher still teaches some whole group lessons where the needs arise such as looking at the elements of specific genre. There is teacher expectation for each student to read a certain amount of books during the year and some of these books have to include different genre so students will experience different forms of literacy throughout the year. It also includes an expectation that students will have to do some reading at home. Donalyn’s classroom incorporates read-aloud as a way to introduce new genre and different authors to the class as well as teach some strategies if necessary.
Stephen Krashen (The Power of Reading) states, “…no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading.”
So, this just makes sense. We want our students to be readers. Let’s let them read. Let’s create an environment in which our students want to come everyday and sit down with a good book and simply read!