My son diagnosed himself with dyslexia this past week. It came out at bedtime when we were reading to him and he confided in us that he doesn’t always get the words right. In fact, he was reading in front of the class for a Reader’s Theater project and he thought his peers might have laughed at his reading. We hugged him and promised that he didn’t have dyslexia but that we would help him more at home.
As a teacher of early readers, my heart sank. This is what we work so hard to keep kids from feeling and it is why I’ve tried a radically different approach to my guided reading lessons. I’ve been opposed to Round Robin reading where each kid takes turns reading for a long time but often struggled to find other methodologies to hear early readers in their decoding. I tried to have individual conferences and couldn’t find the time. Choral reading is good for early readers until someone starts decoding faster than everyone else and gets bored. Shared reading and reciprocal reading is still good for comprehension strategies but how do I help early readers practice decoding skills on their own and give them feedback to learn from their mistakes? I decided to try something stupid.
Have them all read out loud at the same time but not together, each at their own pace. So now I pull a group over and we talk about the book and set the stage for the phonics or comprehension strategy we will work on. We usually take a picture walk together and make predictions and then they open their books and all read to themselves out loud. The weird thing is … this works beautifully. They all go at their own pace and it is oddly easy to listen to 6 different readings at the same time because it is easy to cue into fluency mistakes or the sound of a kid’s voice when they are confused. So each kid ends up getting individual reading and conferencing for every book but in a fraction of the time.
I sometimes have kids reading the same book to themselves and at other times each will be reading a different book. The kids love it and our running records data shows that the kids have jumped in their reading levels- even though everything else we do is the same as other years. Other teachers have tried it too and we all love it. To paraphrase Sam I am from Green Eggs and Ham, “Try it! Try it! And you may like it.”