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September 19. 2017

6 Steps to Building a Community of Readers Across the Grades

Schools can be places where competition is more common than collaboration, and students are tested as much as they are taught. This is why it's important for students to feel a sense of community in the classroom. Here are a few tips to start building a community of readers across the grades.

1. Meet with a small group of colleagues to self-assess your school and classroom as a community. You might involve the leadership team and/or grade-level colleagues. Or, you might just work with a colleague.
2. Try to see your school from the students' perspective as you walk through the school, your classrooms, and the library. Ask:
  • Is there evidence that students' homes and neighborhoods are valued?
  • Does the school reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity in the school?
  • Is there evidence that student work is valued?
  • Do you see order, cleanliness, bright color, and a welcoming environment?
  • Is there evidence of good management?
  • Are there signals to students that let them know what to do and create predictability (guides, directions)?
3. Chances are you will find many positive aspects; but look hard for areas of improvement. Work as a group to identify some short-term and long-term goals. There may be one or two goals that you can accomplish right away.
4. Now do the same for your own classroom, for example, ask:
  • Are there clearly designated meeting areas?
  • Is the meeting area attractive, comfortable, and functional?
  • Does each student have an organized way of keeping personal items and supplies?
  • Is there evidence that the classroom reflects students' homes, languages, and culture?
  • Is there evidence that student work is valued?
  • Is the room orderly: Are supplies well organized and labeled? Are work areas designated?
  • Is there evidence that students have been engaged in collaboration? In inquiry?
  • Are the students' names posted and used in a variety of p;aces (e.g. cubbies, name charts, and folders)?

5. Again, define some short-term and long-term goals.

  • Create a short-term plan for at least one idea that you can implement right away.
  • Start to think about next term or next year and make a plan for creating a community environment from the beginning.
6. As you work toward developing your classroom environment, it will help to invite a friend into the room to walk about and then just tell you his first impressions.

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
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