Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Last weekend, I read two posts that really resonated for me.

The first was Katie's post, describing a conference with a young writer who has grown so much this year, but who was not able to put into words what she does well as a writer.

The second was Carol's post, in which she shared some of her thinking about reading engagement. (She has since expanded her thinking to include what we do as teachers to promote reading engagement. Check it out -- it's great!)

My 4th graders always have a hard time putting into words what they do well as readers. It's something I work on with them every year. At the beginning of 4th grade, my students typically think reading is simply about knowing the words. I was positive that this group has come long way from that, but when I gave Carol's Reading Engagement Survey, I learned that they haven't come nearly as far as I would have thought.

The first thing I noticed was in the free response questions. 8 of 19 students who took the survey were proud of or needed to work on fluency or word recognition. Nearly half of my students are still focused on reading at the word level!

Overall, read aloud was the highest area of engagement for my students, with a total score of 67. No surprise there -- I clearly value read aloud. Two other items -- reading longer independently and not wanting to quit reading at the end of reading time were also high with 62 and 63. We have often talked about their growth from the beginning of the year when they could only sit still for 15-20 minutes.

What did surprise me is that two of the items that probe the social aspects of reading -- talking easily about favorite books, authors and genres, and sharing books with "reading friends" were two of the lowest with 47 and 42. In my mind, the class has come a long way in developing as a community of readers who know each other's tastes and share and talk about books regularly. What have I not done to express this as a valued behavior?

This survey has taught me that I need to be far more explicit about the behaviors of an engaged reader. I need to build in even more time for talk in our reading workshop, and I need to teach my students how to talk about books.

I can't wait to have conversations with each of my students to learn more about their answers.

The behaviors on this survey are not what is "valued" about reading according to the achievement tests our students are required to take. But they are certainly more important in "growing a child's reading heart" and in nurturing life-long readers.


  1. Where can I get a copy of Carol's survey? I would love to use it with my kids and other teachers.

  2. Go over to Carol's blog and ask her -- she offered to share! Or she Twitters at carwilc -- you could direct message her there.

  3. Mary Lee,
    THANK YOU for connecting us to Carol's engagement survey! I'm looking forward to my class's discussion about such wonderful reader traits. I know it will help them appreciate the strengths they have developed over our year together as well as set their personal goals. Empowerment is such a WONDERFUL process to watch!!!


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