by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak
Forward by Nancie Atwell
Review copy compliments of the authors.
This is the right book at the right time for teachers of middle grade readers. The authors have set out to do nothing less than start a revolution in this crazy world of politics-driven standards, accountability, and testing, testing, testing.
Instead of looking at what our students can do and scaffolding them as they move forward, standards, tests, and measures are forcing us to use a deficit model of assessment -- and we wind up focusing on what kids can't do.Sibberson and Szymusiak begin by reminding us of the particular instructional needs of readers in grades 3-6, as they did in their 2003 Stenhouse book, Still Learning to Read. The shift from reading predictable primary texts to reading complex intermediate texts requires readers to acquire more sophisticated reading strategies.
We've written this text to turn the tide. (p. 7-8)
We cannot prepare students in grades 3-6 for every challenge they will encounter in the books they read. Our goal shifts from preparing them for a text to preparing them for any text. (p.11)As the authors lead us through in-depth discussions of the various routines and structures of the middle-grade reading workshop, the emphasis is continually on the kind of data and information we can gather about our students at that particular time. They never depart from their message that our stance when assessing readers should be what students can do, whether we are listening to conversations, observing, having an individual conference, looking over the students' reading interviews or logs, taking a status of the class before independent reading time, or any of the countless other times that we assess our students as a natural part of living in the same classroom with them throughout the day. And they never stray from the stance that the purpose of any and all of this assessment should be to inform our instruction of individual children, small groups of children with the same needs in a particular area, or our whole class.
This is a very user-friendly book. There are lots of samples of student work (not all pretty, and at a variety of levels -- just like you would find in your classroom), an abundance of text boxes with bulleted points for easy reference, and short lists of books throughout that support the facet of reading workshop being discussed in the text.
With the myriad of opportunities for day-to-day assessment in the reading workshop comes the challenge of record-keeping -- finding or creating the right forms, and remembering that
For our record-keeping system to inform our instruction, it should be ever changing...I have to remind myself often that there is a difference between record keeping and assessment. Just because I haven't written it down doesn't mean I haven't assessed a child. (p.51)A generous 18-page appendix gives reproducible examples of the forms Franki has developed over time for her classroom. (But don't forget that notes-to-self jotted on stickie notes are sometimes the only form you need!)
New middle grade teachers, this is a book that will help you to implement your reading workshop. Not only will you understand each of the components of the workshop format, you will know why they are important to student learning, and how you can use assessment within each component to plan for your instruction in a meaningful way. Experienced middle grade teachers, this book is a breath of fresh air -- a reminder of the value in all we do, and chock full of new ideas for tweaking and polishing our workshops to make them more effective than ever before.