Teaching Reading in Small Groups - ch. 3 Engagement

Getting students engaged in books is the best way to create life-long readers. In chapter 3 of Teaching Reading in Small Groups, Jennifer Serravallo talks about different types of engagement conferences that work for students.
As teachers, we are very vocal about our love for reading. We are constantly sharing new books with our students, reading aloud, and loving the excitement that reading brings. Outside of school, we read for enjoyment and to grow professionally. We talk with others about what we are reading.

Think back, though... were you always in love with reading? For some of us, that answer is a resounding yes! Books and reading were (and still are) our way to learn more about the world, escape to a different place and become "lost" in the moment. For others, the enjoyment of reading may have not come so easily. Many readers remember struggling to enjoy reading at school or at home. Finding that perfect book was difficult, and often frustrating.

Now think about your students. For some of them, reading is the highlight of their day. They would read all day, all the time, if we let them! These students are truly engaged in reading. Others, however, see reading as a chore or something they "have" to do at school or for homework. How do we get these students more engaged in reading and help them find their "reading identity?"

In chapter 3 of Jennifer Serravallo's Teaching Reading in Small Groups, the focus is on engaging these reluctant readers. How do we get them to enjoy reading? How do we help them choose books that will interest them? How do we keep them reading once they start? Small group conferences are the perfect way to help these students. Using data from interest inventories and engagement surveys (see Chapter 2), Serravallo goes through four common engagement difficulties students have:
4 types of engagement conferences
As we go through each type of engagement conference, think about the students who you have had as readers. How would these conferences have changed their thinking about reading?
Conferences that develop reading identity
These students aren't really "into" reading. They abandon books frequently, often "fake read" and see reading as something they have to do. The goal here is to help students develop their identities as readers - to help them see themselves as a reader who enjoys certain books, can make decisions on what is a good book for them, and most of all, get them hooked on reading. Serravallo suggests sharing with students your own reading thinking. Show students books you have chosen that you like, ones you ended up not linking, ones you read for specific purposes.... talk about why you chose these books, what you like to read and how you know yourself as a reader. Next, have the students write or talk about books they have read. Why did they choose it? Did they like it? Why or why not? This discussion will help students develop a better sense of who they are as readers. Finally, send students off to use what they discovered about themselves as readers as they choose new books.

Think About It: How did you discover yourself as a reader? When did you find your "home run book" (Trelease, 2001) that turned you into a reader?
Conferences that help broaden book selections
Without a doubt, this is my FAVORITE of the four engagement conferences! What teacher doesn't get excited about sharing new books?! Use this conference to get students hooked on new genres, different series, old favorites or to suggest new authors in a genre they are already reading. Think about how excited we all get when that Scholastic book box comes in! Once you've done some conferences with teacher recommendations, shift the focus to student favorites and let THEM recommend books to each other.
Conferences that help students stay focused
"For some children, what looks like disengagement in reading is really distractibility." These words from Serravallo really made me think. Some students really do enjoy reading, they just can't sustain their focus long enough to really get into a book. The goal of this small group conference is to help students recognize when they become distracted and to give them strategies they can use to refocus themselves. Serravallo shares some simple but effective ways to do this:
-place a bookmark a few pages ahead and stop when you get there, then take a few seconds and resume reading
- put a sticky note in the book to stop and jot your thoughts when you get there. Put the stickies farther and farther apart.
- use a timer
- have other "break" reads available (quick magazine article, easy to read book, etc.)
One of the important things Serravallo points out is that in this group, you want to have role models, as well. These students can share how they stay focused and what their strategies are.
Conferences that help students set reading behavior goals
This is the perfect group for students who have difficulty applying what is taught in mini-lessons, or who see their reading identity as WHAT they are reading, not HOW they are reading and thinking. Goals could be short or long term, but should always focus on reading behavior, not content. Think about all the things you've modeled for students during workshop time. Look around the room at the anchor charts you have created. This will help you find ideas for goals.

I absolutely LOVE Serravallo's idea of "Sign-Up Seminars!" These are conferences or discussion groups that students themselves choose to be part of. Seminar topics might be about book choice, a particular reading skill, or discussion topic. Some examples include:
- "I want to learn how to write better sticky notes."
- "I want to learn to be able to read aloud in a smoother voice."
- "I want help choosing better books."
The possibilities are endless!!! And the best part is that students will be more engaged and accountable for their learning because THEY selected the goal.

As Serravallo says, "Without engagement, we've got nothing." This is so very true. As teachers, one of our most important jobs is to instill in students a love of reading and to help them see themselves as readers. We need to do everything we can to help students engage with books and develop their reading identity, both in the classroom and outside the school doors.

Think about this - How could you use engagement conferences to support the readers in your classroom?

Links to Each Chapter:

Lisa, from Elementary Stories

1 comment

  1. Engagement is such an important part of students not only learning to read, but loving to read! This was a great chapter. I never thought to teach engagement in small groups! Great chapter summary! I can't wait to read more!