by Lauren Heimlich Foley
My favorite period each day is my small-group Reading class. Despite the fact that they are labeled at risk, my students like to read. Together we enter the joys of fantastical adventures, real-life struggles, mysterious plot twists, and beautiful language. Together we make connections to ourselves, other texts, and the real world.
My reading workshop is grounded in the research of Nancie Atwell, Penny Kittle, and Kylene Beers. Reading conferences are foundational to our class. On a daily basis, I read with students: I read to them, and they are invited to read to me. We think aloud and engage in conversation surrounding mini-lesson skills. These conferences remind me of when I was little, sitting on the couch next to my mom. I have very distinct memories of her reading The Chronicles of Narnia to me, and reading Nancy Drew books to her. Those afternoons and evenings fostered my love of reading. They also strengthened my comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, etc.
During distance learning, my Reading class was rocked. Choice, individualized instruction, reading conferences, and think alouds disappeared. I had to find a way to re-claim my reading workshop for the 2020-2021 school year.
Since June, I have been searching for a way to overcome the virtual divide. My big question: How can I read with and to my students if I don’t have their books in front of me.
Then, one sunny, August afternoon, I drove past my local library, and I had a breakthrough: get students’ independent reading books from the library so we both have a copy!
Although separated by computer screens and Covid protocols, neither have posed a threat this year to reading together and engaging in think alouds and conferences. By the end of the second week of school, my Reading students had their books, and I had my copy.
We have been reading together ever since!