The paradox persists, every year. Here are some basic principles of my sophomore RWW course last year with independent reading:
- Students were allowed complete choice in their independent reading.
- Part of their writer’s notebooks were connected to their independent reading: Writer’s Craft and vocabulary
- Students kept their own track of page progress.
- I conferenced as much as teacherly possible.
Like many teachers I know, I tend to dwell on what didn’t work. So, here it is:
- A few students chose to not read or to fake read, all year.
- As a result, these same students either did not complete or faked their notebooks.
- It’s not hard to keep track of zero.
- Conferences became predictable: repeated proclamations of non-readerhood followed by a polite acceptance of yet another suggestion for a book, which would yet again be not- or fake-read.
Struggling yet again with this issue as we plan for next year, my colleagues and I find ourselves in the waters between the unstable shore of no grades and the concrete ledge of grading, that deep roiling vortex between theory and practice. In this post, Shana cites Pernille Ripp and Janice Pilgreen and translates some of their basic principles into a RWW model. We all believe in these principles and are committed to exercising them every day in our classrooms. Regarding practice, at the end of our most recent meeting we had been focusing on this one: “a lack of graded formative assessment and an emphasis on summative assessments for learning, not of learning.” We even got down to the tools we might use to do so: Padlet, Flipgrid, video book trailers, even good old-fashioned book reviews and “live” book talks. We even discussed scaffolding these summative assessments to support growth toward the formal speech that is a requirement for fourth quarter.
Still, won’t there still be students who remain entrenched in — even empowered by — their non-reader status?
Last year, I had students who were able to earn a B- in the course while never reading a single word. They participated in the writing process. They faked their way through the reading-based components of their writer’s notebook. They even wrote about their non-reading in their “quarterly reading reflection.” This consequence of the grading policies of the course is not enough for me to revert to grading independent reading, but I can’t help but be preoccupied by it.
So, readers, I’ll leave you with these question: Is it realistic to expect 100% participation in independent reading? Must we accept that there will inevitably be non- and fake-readers among us? And if so, is success for the majority — when it includes those students who may not have succeeded with assigned reading — enough?