Spying on Yourself As a Reader


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Have you ever tried spying on yourself as a reader? So many of us spend time and energy teaching kids what to do to improve their reading, but do we know what we do? Even proficient readers use the CAFE skills!

When I am conferring with my kids they seem to know instantly if I am asking them to do something that I REALLY do as a reader. My most successful conferences or small groups are always the ones where I am able to honestly model a skill that I do myself. No matter how well I sell the idea of hopping off the couch and running to the bookshelf for a dictionary the moment I encounter a new word, kids seem to sense that I am not telling the truth. After teaching that lesson-none of my students were using dictionaries. So I taught them what I do when I come across a word that I am not familiar with. I continue reading to see if I can figure out what the word means and if that fails well. I call my mom, an avid reader, who seems to know everything.

Challenging vocabulary was a common dilemma in my classroom when we were doing a unit on biographies because my students were reading a lot of content specific words and phrases. Noelle had really fallen in love with these books about Tiki and Rhonde Barber, 2 pro football players. When I asked her how it was going she told me she loved the book but the page she was currently on was describing a play and she didn't know what it meant to "run the ball".  She then looked at me and said "You know how you told us you call your mom if you don't understand something? Well Josh plays football and talks about it all the time can I go ask him what it means to 'run the ball'?" I told her that was a great idea and Josh was thrilled to be able to explain.

So, whether I am reading a professional book or a great suspense, I am really trying to spy on myself as a reader. I am paying attention to the things that I REALLY do when I encounter a tricky word or when something doesn't make sense. I keep a little journal with me so that I can quickly jot down what I notice. I then take my notebook with me and it serves as a great reference when I am planning mini lessons, small groups, or conferences. I am finding that my teaching is more authentic because I am able to honestly model how I stop and check for understanding or how I back up and reread.

Have you tried spying on yourself? What great things are you doing as a reader that you can authentically model for your kids?

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