Using Personal Choice Reading

In Social Studies and World Language

Unpacking the Importance of PCR

  • What major ideas are inherent in the passage?
  • To what major ideas does the passage speak?
  • What implications does this have for me as a Social Studies/World Language teacher?

      Voluntary reading involves personal choice, reading widely from a variety of sources, and choosing what one reads. Aliterates, people who have the ability to read but choose not to, miss just as much as those who cannot read at all. Individuals read to live life to its fullest, to earn a living, to understand what is going on in the world, and to benefit from the accumulated knowledge of civilization. Even the benefits of democracy and the capacity to govern ourselves successfully depend on reading. Thomas Jefferson believed that informed citizens are the best safeguard against tyranny. He believed that every citizen must know how to read, that it is the public’s responsibility to support the teaching of reading, and that children should be taught to read during the earliest years of schooling. In a letter to Colonel Edward Carrington, Jefferson (1787) wrote: “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

       Research indicates, however, that many students do not choose to read often or in great quantities. In recent years scholars from a variety of disciplines have studied the amount of time students choose to read and the effect of literacy on cognitive functions. In a series of studies involving hundreds of students, Morrow and Weinstein (1986) found that very few preschool and primary grade children chose to look at books during free-choice time at school. Greaney (1980) found that fifth-grade students spent only 5.4 percent of their out-of-school free time engaged in reading, and 23 percent of them chose not to read at all. Anderson, Fielding, and Wilson (1988) found that students spend less than 2 percent of their free time reading. Furthermore, as students get older, the amount of reading they do decreases.  

What sources of informational text do we have available to us?

Okay:  I have my text, now what?

  • Go back!  You don't have enough text.
  • Find more.  Then find more.  Then find more.
  • List with a partner ways in which you could group your texts.
  • List with a partner how personal choice reading may lead to differentiation

Let's talk about the classroom management piece to this?

Materials:  What start up materials do we need to have in class to get this "off and running?"

Policies and Procedures:  What policies and procedures should be in place?  What are some cardinal rules during personal choice reading time?

Time:  How much time is devoted to this per week, per month, per marking period?

Instruction:  What are you doing when students are reading?

The options are endless.  Some instructional designs might be:

1.)  While students are reading either in rank and file or in small groups, you are working with a small group on something unrelated (make up work, small group work, remediation of skill deficiency, provide enrichment opportunities).

2.)  For you to read alongside students.

3.)  Visit each group.  Sit in on coversations, facilitate dialgoue.  Spend equal time with each group.

What are students actually doing when they are reading?

  • They shouldn't be formally assessed on the material?  Why not?
  • They shouldn't be sitting there doing nothing?
  • They shouldn't be completing study guides or crossword puzzles? (Crossword puzzles are the anti-christ of the common core).
  • They should be reading (they or you might decide how.  Independently, buddy reads, small group).
  • They should be held accountable for the reading, though. 
  • Accountability might come through authentic learning tasks, such as:  small group conferences, small group reporting out via book talks or article pitches, using post-its, highlighters, etc.  (You have to teach students how to use post-its and highlighters, even in the 12th grade).
  • They can be looking at the text through certain lenses to reinforce recent objectives or mini-lessons. 

Now what? Where do we go from here?

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