10 Ways to Build Up Reading Communities

Samantha Reichard/ October 12, 2020/ Classroom Tips, ELA, Literacy Coach/ 0 comments

Why Reading Communities Work

Social distancing requirements have become a mandate that has caused poignant reflection for educators by giving the chance to make new learning of old teaching practices.  One of those practices that will take on a new spin this year is reading communities.  As student reading groups begin to evolve around our changing times, Glose for Education is ready to support you and your classroom, wherever students are learning.

Reading Communities: Structure For The Work

The purpose of reading communities is to provide an environment for students to individually and cooperatively read and listen to a variety of texts while engaging in discussions and analysis of those texts through best learning practices, together.

In 1989, Jerome C. Harste wrote of how school-based reading communities best reach burgeoning readers.  In New Policy Guidelines for Reading: Connecting Research and Practice, Harste writes, “Schools which successfully build communities of readers do so by emphasizing the interactive, social, constructive, and dynamic nature of the reading process” (Harste, 1989).  Teachers that utilize pedagogical strategies to hold high expectations for literature-based student collaboration and personal development provide culturally safe environments that allow learners to reap life-changing benefits through their engagement with reading communities.

Authors Paul J. Baker and R. Kay Moss agree with Harste in their article “Creating a Community of Readers.”  Baker and Moss share ways in which schools can foster community building and collaboration between school and family homes.  Students, families, teachers, and administrators should see and be seen reading to others and listening to others read, for the purpose of enjoying literature and also to have “pointed conversations about the reading,” with peers and themselves through journing and personal reflections (Baker & Moss 1993).  The most important facet of reading communities is to set norms and expectations around how they will be utilized in the individual classroom, and knowing that each classroom or school may have different norms and expectations.

Reading Communities in Your Classroom

When establishing and fostering reading communities, take into consideration your classroom culture and individual student needs.  What works for your students may not work for other classrooms or schools, so it is important that you create a system that is the best fit for your class.  Read on to find out 10 steps you can take in building up Reading Communities in your in-person, hybrid, or fully remote classroom!

  1. Determine where your students are at and where you want them to be by the middle of the school year

Use available data to determine where your students are and where you can grow them to by the end of the year.  If no data is available, you can provide a reading questionnaire that assesses students reading history and confidence or an assessment that measures reading lexiles or levels.  As you crunch the reading data you have, begin to build out a list of the strengths within your readers and also the highest leverage needs of your students.

  1. Develop a set of norms and expectations 

Once you have prioritized the highest leverage needs of your students, you can craft reading community norms and expectations.  Create a set of 5-6 norms that set the tone for your high care and high expectations of how students can engage in their reading community.  These norms can change throughout the year as your class rises and meets expectations consistently. 

  1. Decide grouping

It is important to plan out how students should be grouped.  Consider the following questions to help come up with your grouping plan:

  • Will they form groups for the entire year?  
  • Will you want students to change groups after each shared reading?  
  • Should students be grouped homogeneously based on reading level or reading confidence?

This decision will help you form your reading community structure for the year.  It is definitely okay if you change the structure as the year goes along, as long as you have data to support the change.

  1. Assign students ‘jobs’ to share the structure of collaborative leadership 

Ensure each group functions at a high level, especially when you aren’t present for every conversation/interaction, by giving each member a job.  These jobs will vary depending on your structure, but possible options include:

  •  Recorder: scripts notes of conversations and group work
  • Time Keeper: establishes and enforces time frames for activities 
  • Focusing Manager: keeps group on-task to complete all portions of the assignment
  • Critical Thinker: prompts thinking to stretch group in completing tasks at highest level

Whatever roles you develop, keep student natural abilities in mind so that each person has a duty that builds upon their strengths.

  1. Provide exciting launch lesson 

Build excitement within your class through a mini-lesson that shares the purpose behind reading communities, the norms, expectations, and group responsibilities.  Throughout your delivery, be as exciting and animated as possible so that students will have buy-in power to make sure reading communities will become a positive experience for your student stakeholders.

  1. Include in daily lesson plans

This may seem silly, but don’t forget to include daily opportunities for students to interact with texts in their reading communities.  This can be as simple as having the first 30 minutes of class as a structured time for students to work through their literature together in their groups.  

  1. Determine ways in which students should access and interact with their texts 

On Glose for Education, every student has access to high-quality literature spanning all genres and subjects.  Teachers can assign groups of students to the same book so when students read the text, they will be able to see others’ annotations and reactions, to which they are able to respond to continue the conversation.  Students will also see each others’ work in their personal feed, as well as teacher directives that have been assigned to them.  This makes interactions with each other very easy in any setting.  You can have students work through choice boards of activities, structured collaborative conversation time, independent or joint writing prompts, personal reading logs, and even grouped individualized vocabulary lists as they socially distance while working together.

  1. Celebrate reading goals and expectations

Create goals for the class based on the amount of texts read collaboratively, number of pages read during structured group work time, or even how many assignments or highlights and annotations are created within their Glose feed.  Give students the chance to share how they wish to be celebrated when meeting a class-wide goal, and celebrate your students when they meet their goals.

  1. Reassess effectiveness of the groups 

As your groups work through literature together, you should keep tabs on the effectiveness of the structure you created.  This can be done weekly through informal and formal check-ins, student feedback surveys, and anecdotal data gathered while assessing completed reading community assignments.  Look at the data and revisit your initial needs list, classwide norms, expectations, and goals to determine if your students need a shift or are right on target.

Reading communities provide a structure for student-driven collaborative interactions with high quality literature, and Glose for Education is the highly engaging platform on which students can access and work through texts together.  Groups of readers can enjoy literature together as they share text-based insights, questions, and thinking, as they transition to or from the classroom.  Glose for Education was built around the concept that learning and reading is enjoyed most as a social activity, which keeps the fundamental aspects of your reading community alive as students learn together while apart.

About the Author
Samantha Reichard serves as Lead Real Time Teacher Coach for Center City 1 Learning Community in Charlotte, NC, serving as a mission-critical resource for 29 inner-city and Title I schools in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District. After graduating from the State University of New York at Fredonia, Samantha began her teaching career at East Union Middle School in Union County, NC as an eighth-grade English language arts teacher. After two years, she moved to Charlotte, NC and served as a sixth- and seventh-grade language arts teacher for five years before becoming a multi-classroom leader and real-time teacher coach. Following that, she worked on expanding the model of Multi-Classroom Leader and Real-Time Teacher Coaching (RTTC) for four years at Ranson IB Middle School.

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