Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

88% of My Students Read Below Grade Level. Here’s How I’m Changing That.

September 14, 2017

Eric Crouch class reading levels collage 2

At the beginning of this school year, 2016 Georgia Milken Educator Eric Crouch, who teaches fifth grade at Double Churches Elementary School in Columbus, discovered that 88% of his students are starting out half a year or more behind in reading skills. His year-end goal: 85% on level, 10% requiring intervention, with no more than 5% for potential remediation.

We asked Eric how he plans to turn things around. He shared his to-do list:

  1. Have students set daily and weekly goals on their own. These could be anything from trying a different genre to reading an extra chapter a day. They’ll write them on sticky notes and leave them on their desks as a reminder to follow through.
  2. Set my own quarterly and yearly goals for growth with each student, based on benchmark and interventions. I’ll post these in the classroom.
  3. Teach the fundamental strategies of reading comprehension: schema, making connections, inferencing, questioning, synthesizing, visualization.
  4. Pick and choose passages. It may sound easy to tell students they don’t have to read the whole book, but it’s really hard to stop once you get going. With limited time, I need to be strategic and use only the parts of the book that relate to the strategy we’re working on. I’ll save the rest for a working lunch in the classroom.
  5. Give students time to practice the strategies we work on.
  6. Read nonfiction passages daily. Something simple, but rigorous. Kids need to see nonfiction.
  7. Use a highlighter. Students who go back through the text are much more likely to retain information. I’ll have students highlight on their second time through, after they have read the passage once, when they’ll be reading for understanding and can isolate key points or details.
  8. Ask student to write examples on sticky notes when they’re practicing strategies. The notes will go on an anchor chart.
  9. Have them write about their reading. Taking notes about what they read, what made sense, and what questions they still have will help them organize their thoughts.
  10. Reading at home. That’s the only homework I assign—30 minutes every night.
  11. Encourage reflection. True learning only happens when you think back on what you have done. I’ll ask them to act out what they read, or turn to a friend to talk about it.
  12. Daily conferences, catching each student at least once a week, to discuss goals and strategies. Everyone needs a little push in the right direction and some one-on-one motivation.

What strategies do you use to boost proficiency in reading? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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