Archives for March 2012

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell

What a thought provoking book! Nancie teaches at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). CTL teachers are committed to fostering students who are skilled, passionate, habitual , critical readers. This is accomplished in a reading workshop setting. There are no tests, worksheets, projects, book reports, journal entries or discussion questions. There are book talks, read-alouds, conversations and a voluminous classroom library. (page 17)

What makes reading work at CLT is the teacher’s expertise to connect each student with a book that engages each student with book characters and ideas. Student choice is a top priority. The September Reading Survey on pages 29 & 30 help the teacher gather the appropriate books for her students. The survey’s insightful questions include: How many books do you own? What are the best books you ever read or had read to you? Who are your favorite authors? Have you ever liked a book so much that you re-read it?

Page 103 reminds teachers that the major predictor of academic success is the amount of time that a student spends reading. The top 5% read 144 times more than the bottom 5%. The Teachers at CTL are determined to create a classroom that allows students to become lifetime passionate readers. Their students read at least 30 books a year.

This happens because a good block of time is given to independent reading each day and ½ hour of reading is allotted for homework. Reading is not interrupted by questions, projects, or activities. During independent reading teachers observe and encourage students. The purpose is to read in the zone. The zone is the place where readers go when they leave the classroom behind and live vicariously in their books. You care about the characters and think about what you would do at every point where they make a decision. You block out the sounds of the outside word. You forget you are reading. You are so involved in the story, you don’t want to stop reading. (page 21)

Page 119 gives an idea of a possible schedule.

  • Daily poem: 5-10 minutes
  • Writing or reading min-lesson 5-15 minutes
  • Independent writing and individual conferring 30 minutes
  • Book talks/a read-aloud from the genre we are studying in writing
  • Independent reading and individual conferring 20 minutes

Read page 33 to find how Beloved Books are recommended. Read pages 41-43 to find out how to present min-lessons at the primary level, middle school level, for struggling readers and expert readers. Read page 73 to find ways of using book talks to help students select books that help them build a literary lifetime. Read page 83 to see how student letter essays help students focus on author’s craft and motivate fellow students to choose a book.

This book is filled with ideas that help me rethink my teaching of reading. I ask myself are my students engaged readers? Are my mini-lessons and book talks enabling my students to become passionate readers? Do I know my students well enough to show them ways to find the just right book? The Reading Zone has many keys to helping teachers help students create a course for a literary lifetime.