Reading Program Update and Browsing Bonanza

A few months ago, I wrote this post about what changes I’ve made in my reading program execution this year. It’s now the beginning of May, and it’s worthwhile to check back in to see the long-term impact of my changes.

Reading Workshop Model

Most CI folks who do reading programs recommend that the teacher read alongside the students, which is what I did the first 2 years. This year with my level 1s, I switched to coaching the students instead of reading, and I love it, even months later when most students are succeeding. I don’t do it with my level 5s. They don’t need it. But I’d probably do it with level 2 and 3 as well.

First of all, because of the coaching, my students are reading better, more quickly, and with more enjoyment than in previous years. I’ve printed out each class roster in a blank spreadsheet grid. I write down the date in the columns, and take notes about what book students are reading, whether they are succeeding, and I note any distractions. I use this information to grade students via my version of Tina Hargaden’s Habits of Strong Readers Rubric. It’s really useful to have the roster printed, because I can visually see who I haven’t checked in with in awhile.

I just love having these conversations one-on-one about reading. Lots of times, it’s just coaching kids on using context clues, or reading until the end of the sentence before using the glossary to look a word up. But many times, I’m blown away by how smooth a reader is reading, sometimes with students who don’t participate during normal class time. It’s great to see them succeeding.

I’m also so much more aware of who needs to get an easier book. It only takes 15 seconds or so of a student floundering to stop them and have a productive conversation about choosing a more appropriate book. I’ve told the entire class a million times that they need to choose books that are easy to understand, but it’s just not enough. A 1-on-1 conversation is the only thing that works well sometimes.

It also increases my opportunities to recommend new/next books for students based on these short conversations about which books they’ve liked and why.

It’s just wonderful! I highly recommend teachers at least experiment with the reading workshop model during SSR for a month or so, even if you end up going back to model reading or a mixture of model reading and coaching.

Browsing Bonanza



I had wonderful classes today. I wanted to take some time to expose new books to students (And I also wanted an easy Friday after being at the school late last night for language honor society inductions). We’ve been reading for a few months now, and most students have read 3-5 books. I also regularly ask students to share about what they are reading so others learn about what books are available.

But there’s nothing quite the same as just getting 4 or 5 new books in their hands to flip through. So that’s just what we did. In stead of reading today, we had a browsing bonanza. They grabbed 3 new books they thought looked interesting, and spent the 10 minutes checking them out.

I also looked at what titles were best and handed out a bunch of titles. I gave Felipe Alou to all the baseball and softball players. I gave Frida Kahlo to all the art students. I gave my anthology of Invisibles stories to the students who show the most excitement in inventing characters and stories. I gave Conexiones to the students who excelled in the geography unit. I gave La Llorona to my soccer players. I gave Carl No Quiere Ir A México to my dog lovers. I gave Santana to all my band students. I had such a blast running around the room channeling my best Oprah impression: You get a book! You get a book! EVERYBODY GETS A BOOK!

Afterwards, we got in groups by friends to debrief.


And the result: I had 4 students request unprompted to check books out to take home. When asked if they had found a more interesting book to switch to, 2/3 of the class raised their hands. And that’s all in addition to the wonderful, positive connections students were making about reading as they chatted with their friends about new and interesting books.

The more experience I get as a CI teacher, the more convinced I am that SSR is the most efficient, most valuable portion of class. It’s when our students learn the most and the best. And there is little more that warms my heart than chatting excitedly about a book with one of my students!



  1. Excellent!
    How many books do you have so far? I just started one month ago with FVR. I have 42 books/14 titles. I like the twist you shared. Thanks!


  2. I love this – thanks for sharing. I started FVR this year and have been reading alongside my students. But I think a few of my kiddos would benefit from some coaching. I’m going to check out the Reading Workshop model.


  3. Brett, when you grade them using this rubric, are you only doing that while sitting in a workshop with them, or are you grading each student every day? Do you pass these rubrics out or hang onto them to make notes about each student?


    • Hello Gillian. Thank you for your interest! I think it’s best to keep the rubrics instead of trusting the kids to maintain them. I’ve just had too many kids lose them over the years to continue that style. Nowadays, I’ve switched to composition notebooks that remain in bins by class in the classroom, and all rubrics get taped or glued into the composition notebooks. I like this the best. But you could also grade them, hand them to the students so they get feedback and immediately recollect them, so that you maintain them instead of the kids.

      So, I grade the students every day on their reading habit/effort. For most of the class, that simply means scanning the room for their focus once every minute or so and marking on my chart if there’s any wandering eyes. Obviously if there’s a disruption, it calls my attention, and I mark it on my roster chart. I actually read and work 1-on-1 with 1-3 students each class in the 10 to 15 minutes we spend reading, depending on how much or how little coaching the individuals need. For those individuals I work with, I also take a quick note as to whether they could translate successful. Literally, I mark success with a check mark and a one-word-abbreviation of the book title on the chart so I have a quick record of their reading level of success or unsuccess. If they weren’t successful, I just write “struggled” and the one-word-abbreviation of the book title. I either coach them on strategies that will allow them to succeed with the current book, or if the book is too challenging, I request that they abandon the book for now, and work with them to choose a few easier options. In this case, I make sure to check back on the student in two or three classes to see if they’ve improved by choosing a better-fit book, or by improving their reading habits with the needed strategy. If they’ve implemented one of the needed changes, I annotate this and still award them a 100% for the reading grade because they accepted my coaching and successfully implemented it. In almost all instances, students have done so!!!

      Once every two weeks or so, I enter a reading grade as a formative assignment in the gradebook where I scan my chart for disruptions or unsuccessful coaching results. Most students don’t have any notations, which means they were practicing good reading habits, and they get 100%. If there were disruptions or a lack of focus or unsuccessful reading, I subtract from 100% according to the rubric.

      Really, the process of marking distractions and successful/unsuccessful reading is quick and easy, as is the gradebook entry. It is a minimal effort procedure that has a HUGE impact on my students’ effort and success in reading during SSR.


      • Awesome. Thanks for explaining. I work with composition notebooks too. So would you just have them paste the rubric (excluding the date / grade / teacher comments) into their comp books and then they would view their grade in an online platform? Or do you collect them and fill in grades in their comp books every once and a while?

        I know these are nitpicky / specific questions, thanks for your advice! I love your blog posts about FVR and am looking forward to practicing some of your techniques.

        Thanks, Gillian


      • Howdy! The more specific the question the better! I do not mind at all.

        My specific practice is to paste the entire handout in the composition notebook with the date lines as well. I actually write feedback on the paper so I know the student is informed as to how they can improve. When I roll the expectations out, I make sure to take up the rubric a few times in quick succession, and then I taper off. In most classes, after the initial roll-out, I can get away with only taking them up every two or three weeks. Sometimes even less.

        One note: I have the students self-assess. They are supposed to look at the rubric and then judge their performance. This is a time and effort saver. Most of the time, I agree with the student because the rubric is pretty specific. So all I have to do is give a little check. And it’s better for when I disagree, because it informs me that I need to have a conversation with the student to clear up the disconnect between their self-assessment and their actual performance as I see it.

        I mandate that their self-assessment be on a 5-point interval (80, 85, 90, 95—whatever). I got tired of seeing a 81% and 79% and 93% It was just way easier to simplify that a bit.


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