Picture this: Slice of Life 12/31 #SOL20

I’m working my way around the room doing reading conferences. Several students have chosen more challenging novels in the last week or so, and I’m curious to see how things are going. As I sit down next to O, I see that he is on page 177 of Harry Potter. He’s been reading it for less than a week.

“Wow!” I say, genuinely impressed. “You’re making really good progress!”

He glances up, murmurs “Mmhmm” and keeps reading. I hate to interrupt, but I also want to check in on him. This is the first book without pictures that he has ever read (which I talked about a few days ago). I want to make sure he’s getting it.

“What do you like about the story?”

He places his finger on the line he was reading and looks at me, eyes wide with wonder. “It’s like I can see the pictures in my mind while I’m reading the words. That never happened before.”

My heart nearly bursts. Elementary teachers often get see students learn how to read; in high school these moments are few and far between. Often if students arrive in high school reading poorly, they leave the same way. For so long, I have worked to help kids learn, I have tried to believe they are “at promise” as much as “at risk,” but it is only now, more than twenty years into my career, that I think I might have hit upon a method that works. I am almost embarrassed to say what it is: meet them where they’re at; let them choose their book; give them lots of time and encouragement; believe in them; wait.

But, oh! He can picture what he’s reading. I could write about this every day forever and ever.

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15 thoughts on “Picture this: Slice of Life 12/31 #SOL20

  1. This is a beautiful slice with a reflection deserving of reiteration: “ But, oh! He can picture what he’s reading. I could write about this every day forever and ever.”
    I wonder if we should ask what they “picture” more often in group discussions? You’ve given me an idea!

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    1. I started doing this intentionally about two years ago. I have LOTS of “picture this” strategies. Maybe I should add those to my magic formula… at any rate, I can share some with you. They are kind of fun & definitely effective.

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  2. My heart is full after reading this. I hope you know how much I share your joy. And this comment is everything: “It’s like I can see the pictures in my mind while I’m reading the words. That never happened before.”

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  3. Hooray for him! The magic moment has happened. Now the trick will be for him to figure out what to read after Harry Potter so he can keep going on his reading journey. I love that it’s never too late for someone to embark on that journey. I happy for you that you got to enjoy this moment!

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  4. “At promise” and “At risk” says it all. Students deserve this reframing, this hopeful outlook, this “meeting them where they are” attitude. Thank you for your vulnerability here: “I am almost embarrassed to say what it is: meet them where they’re at; let them choose their book; give them lots of time and encouragement; believe in them; wait.” If it’s a recipe that’s working, it was worth the wait (and I imagine you’ve had the “believe in them” part all along).

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  5. This is the absolute best. The first movie in his mind from his own reading. Even in fifth grade I don’t get this very often. I’m lucky. Most of mine arrive having had that…but some, I fear, only think they have. They don’t really know what they’re missing. I try to have them relate it to read aloud for comparison.
    It is humbling to know that sometimes pedagogy boils down to setting the table, but what you’ve done took time and energy and guts…because you were sacrificing some other forms of “instruction.” You’ll live off this for a long time. Think of where it might lead him!

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