Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Art of Slow Reading

During the first week of school I sat down with Libby to check her letter identification.  "Are you going to time me?" she asked.  I love that Libby has a gift for saying what's on her mind.  I wanted to say, "Seriously?  You're only 6.  What message have we taught you in your very short educational career?  There are no stopwatches in the vicinity."  No I didn't say any of that, but it was tempting.

I was reminded of this little moment with Libby when I recently read an issue from  The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy by Brenda Power.  (Click the highlighted words to read the newsletter and possibly subscribe.  It's a treat to read every week.)  In the newsletter she included this quote:

"We need to put away the stopwatches and say in every way possible -- 'This is not a race. Take your time. Pay attention. Touch the words and tell me how they touch you.'" 
Thomas Newkirkin The Art of Slow Reading

In the name of fluency, thanks to high-stakes testing, have schools done a disservice to young readers?  Fluency is not evil, but without balance, what message does it and its ever present stopwatch send?  How about, "I don't see a stopwatch in your hand.  Is this really important?" 

Regie Routman says, "We need to be the gatekeepers for sane and sensible practices." 

She also challenges me with this statement.  "Is this a practice that occurs in the real world?  If it's just a school thing, we need to question the practice."

Libby's not going to see a stopwatch in my hand while I listen to her read.  (There are a few times throughout the year when I'll use one, but I'll keep it hidden as best I can.)  Regardless, how can I do a better job of teaching the art of slow reading?  

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  1. Thank you for this post on timing first graders! As head of our RtI, I have to come up with assessments for our RtI groups. I have been very uncomfortable with the thought of timing first graders as they read. They need the time and space to put into practice all of the strategies they have learned of what to do when they don't know a word.

  2. Thank you Lori for your support! Our state's K-3 reading indicator (all K-3 kids take twice a year) is solely based on speed. Seriously?

  3. Hey Lori, have you read new newsletter I referred to? It's very worthwhile if you haven't.

  4. Hi just found your blog! I love Choice Literacy and their newsletter! I want my kids to be fluent, but have never thought fluency means "fast"
    I've never even considered using a stopwatch while listening to reading...
    Glad I found you!
    Another Tammy!

  5. Yes, Tammy, I get the Choice Literacy newsletter- forgot to mention that in my post. I just read the latest one today. I like Regie R. too. But I haven't heard of the other book you mentioned. Need a look at that one!
    Conversations in Literacy

  6. Tammy, I am so seriously excited that someone found me. It's usually the other way around! I find them. Anyway, I know what you mean. I work on fluency with my kids, but I tell them that fluency means reading like you talk, not reading fast. Unfortunately, they see stopwatches out there. Thanks again for finding me!

  7. Lori, Regie is my hero. I haven't read The Art of Slow Reading yet, but it's on my list.

  8. Adding The Art of Slowing Reading to my list. I working on revamping my comprehension and literacy groups right now. I was wondering as I know you teaching writing workshop what authors and books do you use for authors as mentors unit? I am uninspired by the books suggested in the Calkins books plus we teach the same lessons as kindergarten so my students have already seen the books and studied them last year. I was looking to email you all this but couldn't find yours. But if you want to email me it is
    Thanks! Have a great weekend


    Apples and Papers

  9. Love this post! I have always struggled with the timing factor! I had a student years ago who zoomed through the story. His time made him look brilliant, but he had a hard time comprehending and absolutely no expression. Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to read that newsletter now.

    Peace, Love and First Grade

  10. Laura, thanks for loving this post. (I was a little worried that I was going to offend someone out there.) You will definitely enjoy the newsletter. It's a very good read each week. Enjoy!

  11. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this post! I struggle with the required timings so much! When I have students who can read 250 + words/minute but can't re-tell a story I see an emphasis on speed as a problem! I signed up to receive the newsletters and forwarded the article to my principal! Thanks again!

  12. Thank you Julie for reading. This timing thing has bothered me for a long time. I'm glad I'm in good company. You will love the newsletter, and I hope your principal enjoys that article too.

  13. Thanks for the suggestions Tammy! I know you've already been awarded the Favorite Follower Award, but I just couldn't resist awarding it to you again! You deserve it. Come by and check it out. :) Have a great weekend!

  14. Tammy,
    You have touched my heart with this post. We just received RtI data back for the first time this week. There is no other way to put it than I was shocked by the numbers. Then after asking for further information I realized the question for me was "You want them to do what in one minute?" Yeah. Well that explains it. There is a clear difference between student timed tests and actual growth and achievement. It's nice to know I'm not crazy.
    Thank you. I am also a new follower.

    Randi @ Teach It With Class
    My TPT Store
    My Facebook Page

  15. Randi, you are so not crazy. I feel very blessed that my little post touched you today. Thank you for dropping by.

  16. I thought Id check out your blog.. I saw you were a new blogger( I am too) from your post over at Teaching First! I'm now following you! We newbies have to stick together!
    Good Luck!
    Miss S
    Just Teaching...Kindergarten

  17. Thanks Miss S for dropping by. I'm all for stickin' together!

  18. Amen!! Fantastic post and well-said! I need to read the newsletter and take a look at that book! We are missing the boat and losing the love for learning with our students. I just "tagged" you on my blog! Come over and take a look and join the fun!

    Teaching First

  19. I love this post, Tammy! You are so right with the whole timer/speed thing. I love to hear my kids reading no matter how fast- as long as they can read it fluently (not fast but steady) and have great comprehension- who cares if they can read a passage in under 2 minutes???

    These kids are under enough pressure- we don't need to add a timer!!


  20. Thank you Rebecca and Staci. It's very reassuring to hear from so many people on this issue. I'm glad you dropped by and left a note!

  21. Hey Tammy too! Sorry but I had to TAG you come by and see the rules!

  22. I tagged you too! Come on over to see what it's all about :)

    Let's Teach Something

  23. Tammy,
    I couldn't agree more. Last year I was working in a Lit Lab for a couple months, and I remember testing time to be....absurd.

    Student after student coming in, they know the drill and they're trying to read as fast as they can! Some of them read so fast and it was still not enough.

    I was thinking that if this was the style of testing when I was a kid, I probably would not have passed (and I'm a good reader!)

    Very strange with the heavy focus on timing.


  24. Kelli, it's a very crazy swing of the pendulum we've been experiencing for some time now. Hopefully this too will pass. :)