Third grade is an important year for reading development. Many researchers note that it is the year that students move from learning to read to reading to learn. They also emphasize the correlation between third grade reading ability and future academic success. (I've included the Center for Public Education's 2015 report on this topic below.)
The act of reading is much more than the ability to read words. It is a very involved process that includes phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. There are also sub-skills and strategies embedded within each of these larger skills. And what makes reading even more difficult to decipher is that by third grade it all takes place inside the student's head. All this to say, students begin third grade with many different instructional needs in the area of reading.
So where do I start? During the first three weeks of Reading Workshop I spend a lot of time kid-watching. I observe their behaviors during independent reading and take notes. How do they interact with books (engagement)? How long can they read before losing interest (stamina)? What book choices do they make and how many of these books do they finish (volume)? At the same time I do lots of mini-lessons on building reading stamina, increasing reading volume, and choosing good fit books. I watch to see how the students responds to these lessons. My goal is that by the end of the first six weeks of school, most students can read fully engaged for 20 uninterrupted minutes, choose books that are a good fit, and can begin to monitor their own comprehension and recognize when their comprehension breaks down. During weeks five and six we begin reading partnerships. Each student is paired with a reading partner to encourage accountability and conversations about books and reading.
Last week the students graphed their reading from the month of August and made observations about their reading habits. Then they set a reading goal for the month of September. Please take some time this week to give your child an opportunity to share the observations s/he made and the goal s/he set for September. Most students set a goal related to the number of books or the type of books they want to read. As the year goes on the students will also make goals related to the reading comprehension strategies they are working to strengthen. Please check in with your child throughout the month to see how s/he is doing and celebrate with them as they achieve their reading goals.
Below are some links to articles, reports, and websites that have given me much to think about as I hone my own craft of teaching reading. There is a large amount or research dedicated to this topic and there are varying opinions on what is most important and what works when teaching young readers. I share these with you not to advocate for one side, but to shed light on the research that is available so that you, as parents, can build a toolbox of strategies that you can use to help your child at home.