I work with amazing teachers who not only do incredible things with their students, but also reflect upon what is not working in their classrooms. Recently teachers have been asking a lot of questions about reading partnerships and their questions have brought about even more learning for their kids.
Here are a few of their questions/answers/solutions. Although I hope this is helpful for all teachers, these questions specifically came from first, second and third grade teachers.
Question 1: What is the purpose of reading partnerships? The primary purpose of reading partnerships is for kids to talk about books in a way that deepens their comprehension. In order for this to work, kids have to be reading and talking about the same book. If they are not reading the same text, they can’t have a meaningful conversation because they won’t be able to react to what their partner said.
Many teachers, before our conversations, believed the purpose of reading partnerships was to ensure that kids were accountable to what they had read during the independent portion of Reading Workshop. One teacher recently said to me: Accountability is a bonus that comes out of reading partnerships but comprehension/talk is what it is all about.
Question 2: How do I get my kids to read and talk about the same books if I don’t have double copies of these texts? Many of the teachers I work with loved the idea of kids talking about the same books, but they only had single copies of books in their classrooms so were unsure about how to proceed. Of course, the best scenario is to look at your school budget and see if you can buy double copies of these books, but I want to share a reading schedule that some of the teachers I work with came up with when they didn’t have double copies of books:
Monday: Partners go shopping for books together. They choose at least two books that they both agree they’ll read over the next few days during Reading Workshop. Each partner takes at least one of the books they chose together and reads it.
Tuesday: They continue reading the same books during Reading Workshop that they chose with their reading partner.
Wednesday: Partners switch books. Now Partner A is reading the book Partner B had previously been reading and Partner B is reading the book Partner A had previously been reading.
Thursday: They continue reading the same books. As you can see, even though there were no double copies partners have read at least two texts together.
Friday: During Reading Workshop, partners talk about the two books they both read.
Question 3: How do I get my kids to have better conversations about their books? I have two thoughts about this question. Some teachers have found it helpful for kids to read shorter texts and then talk about those shorter texts with a reading partner. They have used texts such as picture books, poems and newspaper articles. Because the kids could finish the text in one sitting, they found that the kids were more focused and the conversations went better. I also think that especially with the younger kids we have to recognize the small successes that kids have and build upon those successes. Recently, I watched two second grade girls talking about books. One of the little girls said, “Should we start with your book?” They took that book and talked a bit about it. Then, the other girl said, “Should we talk about your book now?” They then took that book and talked about it. Although there is a lot for those two girls to learn about what/how to talk, they understood the books more because of their brief conversation. Also, what they were learning about taking turns and listening to each other was vital. After watching this, the teachers and I realized that we had to be okay with the partnership work being a bit messy in the beginning and that we had to trust that good things were happening.
If kids talk about books on a regular basis and we regularly teach into them they will get better!
What are some of your successes and challenges with reading partnerships?