So, you’ve followed Rob’s advice and you’ve helped a student pick a “just right” book. Success! You begin strutting around the classroom, feeling like the world’s best teacher. You check in with her after she’s read the first five pages and she completely gets it. You’re certain she’ll read the entire Dork Diaries series.
The next day, though, your student comes in and sits listlessly at her desk while everyone else dives into independent reading.
Time to check-in, this is an emergency:
You assume a friendly posture and tone. “Quisha, I noticed you aren’t reading. Is everything ok?”
“I don’t really like this book any more,” Quisha says. This could be true, but it’s unlikely given that Quisha liked the book yesterday and understood it. Here are a couple likely reasons she doesn’t want to read, with some tips on how to help:
Scenario 1: She didn’t read last night and lost momentum. She’s accustomed to never finishing a book, so this is par for the course.
Teacher: “Oh, that’s too bad. I know you were just starting this book yesterday and were enjoying it. Let’s set a reading goal for the next 10 minutes to jump-start your reading. How many pages do you think you can read in the next 10 minutes? 7 pages?
Quisha: Sure, that’s easy.
Teacher: Ok, count off 7 pages and put this post-it on your “goal” page. Call me over after ten minutes and we can check-in on how things went.”
In this scenario, you know that if she just starts reading, the momentum will be regained and everything will be fine. Setting a reading goal is a handy trick to flip the narrative and have kids think about something they can achieve rather than how much they don’t like the book or how guilty they feel for not reading the previous night.
Scenario 2: She became confused by something – a plot twist, etc. She’s got very little reading “grit” so she’s ready to give up, or she lacks the skills necessary to re-read to clarify a confusing moment.
Teacher: Well, what happened in the part you read last night?
Quisha: I don’t know. Something weird happened to Nikki. Something about her cell phone…??
Teacher: It sounds like you were confused by that part. Can you turn to that page and we can look at it together?…Oh, see, she wants a cell phone so she can fit in at her new school. Does that make more sense now?
In this scenario, the student is confused by a critical moment in the book. It’s not surprising that she doesn’t like the book, as everything she read after the critical moment doesn’t make sense. Have the student re-start reading where she was confused and check in five minutes later. If she’s confused by a new moment, this could be your clue that the book is not a good fit.
Scenario 3: She’s in a bad mood about something else and is taking it out on the book. She wants to avoid reading by ignoring directions or spending 20 minutes book shopping.
It’s imperative not to play into the student’s current negativity. Instead, ask a question about the book.
Teacher: What happened to Nikki in the chapters you read last night?
Quisha: I don’t like this stupid book or this stupid school or this stupid world! (I need to spend the next twenty minutes wasting time by searching through the library for the non-existent perfect book.)
Teacher: I can tell you need a mental break. Did something happen earlier that you’re thinking about? I feel like this too, sometimes. What I do is take a break where I relax and think about something else. Put your book down – you can even put your head down – and relax. How long do you think you’ll need? Two minutes? Ok, I’ll set the timer. When it hits two minutes I’ll expect you to start reading.
Here, you’ve acknowledged the student’s feelings and offered a very easy and satisfying solution. Don’t want to read? Ok, don’t read…for two minutes. Setting a timer is a critical part of this teacher move as it keeps down-time to a minimum.
Hopefully the steps listed above can help you turn a Quitting Quisha into a Can’t-Stop-Reading Quisha.