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Meaningful Reading Homework

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How to make silent reading more meaningful

how to make silent reading more meaningful

Silent reading can–and should–be a meaningful, rich, awesome experience for kids.

And parents can–and should–be able to support their young readers at home, just by keeping a few important things in mind.

Research shows that the more kids read, the better readers they become. It makes sense. So let’s give kids time. And let’s support them while they’re there.

Let’s give them time to practice the skills they’re learning in the classroom.

Let’s give them time to really dive into texts, walk beside the characters, really get to know an author’s style, or follow a series from start to finish.

Let’s give them time to try out different genres, subjects, and authors. Let’s provide our kids with time to relax, enjoy some ‘me-time’ and cozy up with a book.

Silent reading may have once been thrown to the wayside by the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), but, with a little guidance, teachers and parents can make silent–or independent–reading an integral part of the reading experience.

Here’s the skinny.

  • How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful: I recall vividly, a day about six years ago, while doing some consulting work for a local charter school in our area, sharing the latest research on silent reading: there was no conclusive data proving the value of silent reading in the classroom (NRP, 2000).

We can–and will–make silent reading totally rock the house.

And the teachers to whom I was speaking were in disbelief. Really? No SSR? You mean that giving kids quiet time to read in the classroom doesn’t help kids become better readers?

There is no current research to prove that. I said. Though we all know that people learn by doing, At this point, using precious class time in other ways will better support their literacy learning.

Though I shared what I had learned, I was always curious about it–I loved SSR as a kid. Didn’t we all? Didn’t all kids deserve time carved out especially for silent reading? I wondered: How could that time be used more effectively? How could we, as educators, prove the worth of independent reading? Could someone actually put real, true value on silent reading?

Check it out: How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful . Recent research, however, does prove that “more reading leads to better reading” (Sanden 2012), but more specifically, more and more studies are placing real value on independent reading when implemented consciously.

Sherry Sanden is an educator and author who writes about highly effective teachers who have implemented silent reading programs in their classrooms–and these programs yield real student growth, learning, and tons of potential. Each program contains several of the same components, and Sanden shares her findings in an article in the November issue of The Reading Teacher.

I was particularly moved by her article because–woo-hoo! yaaa -hooo! yip, yip, yippppeeee! woot! –it provided that value to silent reading that I wish I would have had when speaking with those teachers. Yes, silent reading counts. Yes, it sure does.

And the cool thing? A lot of what Sanden shares is what many of us do naturally to support our young readers. All the time? Nah. Every single time we see our kiddo grab a book and sit back to read? No way, Jose. Every so often? Yes, you better believe it.

What do you think? How do you make silent reading more meaningful at your house? Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

many thanks to the following references:

  • “The Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read ,” National Reading Panel. April 2000.
  • Sanden, S. (2012). Independent Reading: Perspectives and Practices of Highly Effective Teachers. The Reading Teacher. 66 (3), 222–231. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01120
  • numerous other articles on the IRA site
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I loved the video, “How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful”. It is exactly what I do in the classroom. For my parents at home, I add one more bit of advice: read the same book as your child. This is great when the student is older, but is showing that he/she is not interested in reading. Then the “sneakiness” of asking questions is easy because now the parent and the child can have a “discussion” about the book. We all talk about a movie we’ve just seen. If we enjoy a book together, then there is an opportunity for discussion before, during, and after reading the book. We don’t even have to read the story to each other. I did this with my own granddaughter. I stayed just ahead of her. Then I wanted to share with her but couldn’t. This spurred her on to continue reading and to begin the discussion when she caught up.

Terry! Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to write–means so much! I LOVE your ideas and cannot stress enough the importance of parents reading the same book as your child–and your idea of staying just ahead of him/ her and teasing him/her with exciting details to come is a great idea!!

Great video Amy! Your right about being there when your child is silent reading. I think that it makes them feel more secure when they have a person to ask in the event they come to a word or a concept that they don’t understand. Also, using text to self, and text to world are excellent for a much deeper understanding of the story. I use them all the time when I teach comprehension. I also use text to text, and movement of time within a story. That is a hard concept for children especially if the time is subtle.
Tonya Simmons
smartandsnazzykids.com

Thank you thank you thank you, Tonya! You are so correct–these connections are so important for emerging readers, especially if we want them to develop habits of strong readers at an early age! thanks so much for reading, and HUGE thanks for taking the time to share this great point!

I am glad to have run onto your article today. We are working with the daily 5 in our classrooms where children are given the opportunity for silent reading, partner reading, or working on their writing as we teach small reading groups. I am finding his to be wonderful in my classroom. Recently administration has wanted for us to increase the accountability of the children as we trust them to independently accomplish this important work. This is where things become tricky. My plan is to have a quick conversation whole group discussing reading techniques employed during this time. Then we can develop an anchor chart as a class with these techniques listed to refer to as the year continues. What I want to avoid is more paper and pencil accountability for the students as we have plenty of that already built into our day and more paper pencil tasks would take away from the daily practice that the students are all loving. My favorite part is where students with drastically different reading levels pour over a book together and have meaningful conversations about text together.

thank you so much,Chrissy! I totally agree with you–avoiding more paper and pencil work when it comes to reading accountability is so hard! I think your anchor chart is a great idea, and perhaps your own personal notes taken during small groups or one-on-one conversations can help with that? Thanks so much for reading, my friend, and let’s definitely stay in touch!

Other articles

Tonya s Treats for Teachers: Reading is SWEET and I have a winner!

I love teaching reading, it is one of my favorite subject! But for some reason, coming up with reading homework that kids will actually do has always been a challenge! I have tried weekly packets, reading questions, task cards, reading logs, and all sorts of activities. And let me be honest for a minute. how often do I look at their reading homework? And how many nights a week do kids have something going on. From football, to dance, to swimming. anything! So it is my plan that this year I make LESS work on me, and more meaningful reading homework for the kids:) Sounds good huh?

I stumbled upon Lindsey over at The Teacher Wife 's reading is sweet board. I really like her idea! This is her board!

For every 100 minutes the kids read, they earn a pony bead that goes on their dog chain necklace! Sometimes she puts a piece of candy on the dog tag so when they get their 100 minutes they can take the candy and get a pony bead! If you want to know more about how Lindsey does this, she has a ton of information on her blog!

I will have my kids will do the same thing, but each week I want them to pick ONE story they read, or a part of a chapter book and write a well-written summary. This way, it's not writing every night but they are actually reading every night. This is my reading log I created. There are two logs on one page. I plan on making double sided copies so I can have one sheet for the whole month.

If you are interested in this log with the Reading is sweet poster click HERE.

I have a winner. well 3! 3 lucky people have won my Level Up positive behavior management unit for free! These people are.

I picked 3 instead of 2:) I will be sending you an email here shortly:)


If you are still interested in this unit, I have cut the price back on this unit! You can get it today at my TPT or TN stores!

Enjoy your Saturday!

MBUSD Elementary Homework – Reading, Reading, and More Reading - Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

MBUSD Elementary Homework – Reading, Reading, and More Reading

Posted September 25, 2015 by Yusun Lee & filed under eNews .

By Dr. Brett Geithman, Executive Director, MBUSD Educational Services

I’m a parent of a Kindergartener and 2nd Grader. On those nights when we have dance, followed by soccer practice, while also trying to fit in homework, dinner and a bath before the 7:45 bedtime (if I’m being honest) the first homework assignment we cut out is reading. Many of you can probably relate, as you don’t have to turn in anything for reading and you can “make it up” on the weekend, right? Even though I understand the research behind the importance of reading, and should probably skip spelling that evening instead of reading, I have this guilt of sending my kid to school the next day without that spelling sheet completed.

Last year MBUSD formed a committee to examine our current state of elementary homework, examine what the research recommends, and create guidelines for all schools to use. What we uncovered was that MBUSD has set homework expectations that align to the PTA recommendations; however, it has been a while since we’ve revisited these expectations or guidelines with teachers. We also found that there was a variance amongst teachers as to whether or not they included homework in a student’s grade, how they responded to missing assignments, and the type of homework given. Finally, upon examination of a meta-analysis (consisting of over 800 studies on homework) we found that some state homework should be assigned to establish good learning habits and keep families informed about their child’s learning (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Gorges & Elliot, 1999). Others argue (Kohn, A. 2012) that homework shows only an association, not causational relationship, with academic achievement. Still, there are some who see that homework can be useful and worthwhile, but that it has not been useful in many cases (Vatterott, C. 2009). Allington (2012) indicates that volume of reading is linked to attaining higher-order literacy proficiencies, and that being able to read at grade level by the 3rd grade is a significant predictor of future student achievement.

So now what? After much reading, surveying teachers, and meeting as a committee, we decided to revive the MBUSD/National PTA recommendations for homework, with an increased emphasis on reading. Below are the MBUSD Homework Guidelines:

Grades K-2: 20 minutes (15 minutes daily reading; 5 minutes at teacher discretion) Example: Read 15 minutes daily; one night count a collection at home and record what you counted (accumulation of 20 minutes from the week).

Grades 3-5: 30, 40, and 50 minutes per night, respectively with 20 minutes reserved for reading and the remaining minutes at teacher discretion.

Homework should be meaningful, not count towards student grades. Missing homework should initiate communication with the student/parent rather than consequences, and it should be a means to develop work and study habits. We understand that you’re raising a “whole child” and that includes academics, sports, the arts, play dates, family excursions, and simply time to be a kid and play. Raising a whole child isn’t only for elementary students, in fact, MBUSD Board Goal #3 addresses homework in stating, “Examine the amount and types of homework assigned and develop a plan to ensure that homework is effective, meaningful, manageable, and relevant.” Our goal is to align our homework practices to research, focus on what is essential for your elementary child’s academic future (literacy), and also create time for those meaningful experiences you provide for your children outside of school.

Enrich and Empower. Give today
About Manhattan Beach Education Foundation

Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit established by parents and community leaders to support quality public education in Manhattan Beach. Since 1983, MBEF has granted much needed funds to supplement state funding and has helped MBUSD continually rank in the top three school districts in California. With more than 3,000 donors and annual grants exceeding $5 million, MBEF is one of the oldest and most successful foundations in the state.

A special thanks to…

Making Homework Meaningful & Manageable Using Menus - I Want to be a Super Teacher

Making Homework Meaningful & Manageable Using Menus

Monday, September 26, 2016

Teacher Confession/Spoiler Alert. I’ve never been a fan of homework – not as a child and definitely not as a teacher

There's been a whole lot of homework broo-ha-ha in the news lately (if it makes the NPR Facebook page I officially consider it a broo-ha-ha) apparently sparked by a 2nd grade teacher's "No Homework" policy. Homework has been my pet project for awhile, as it's always driven me crazy that parents, districts, and most administrators required I create and assign something that any research I've encountered deemed at worst detrimental or at best only mildly useful. Since I've rarely taught in an environment where not giving homework was an option, I've attempted to finagle a way to make homework as meaningful as possible for ALLof my students. No easy task, especially when there are so many other things I felt more worthy of my time and attention (literacy, math, arts instruction anyone?!)

I’ve tried:
*Daily homework – everyone does the same thing, bring it back the next morning
*Weekly homework folders – students complete a set schedule of assignments per week (Monday – spelling, Tuesday – math, Wednesday – reading response, etc.)
*Homework packets – go home Monday, students finish in whatever order they choose, bring back Friday

*Homework point sheets – students earn a specified amount of points for each homework assignment and earn a set amount of points each week

After reading a variety of research about homework at the elementary level. I strongly believe that the most important part of homework for kids K-5 is reading a just right book. After that, the rest is – just that – the rest.


Here were my takeaways from the articles (from a grade 2-3 perspective)

Homework should:
•Give students a chance to review skills they are comfortable with and can practice independently
•Give them an opportunity to do what they enjoy
•Give students a chance to be successful at home with academics
•Help children see connections between what they do in school and the real world

Homework should not:
•Require parents to teach their child something new – let parents do the wrangling, not the teaching
•Frustrate kids because of the difficulty of the assignment
•Be one size fits all – we don’t teach this way, so why would we assign homework this way?

After 14 years of facing this homework conundrum I’ve found that homework menus are the easiest way to differentiate homework in a way that’s easy for me to assign and grade. plus they give you tons of wiggle room so you can include exercise, listeni ng to music, hanging out with family, practic ing math facts or mindfulness as menu options. You are still assigning homework, but getting to choose menu option s that you know are really importa nt for kids.

Homework menus give students choice within a structure and can be easily adapted to what you have already taught in class. You only have to create one menu a month and collect homework assignments once per week (or even per month – although I wouldn’t recommend this – too much room for procrastination). There are a few different ways to handle turn in of assignments for students who can’t handle the Friday only turn in option. I use homework bookmark s for 9 9 % of my kids and a daily homew ork tracker for the kiddos who need a bit more daily accountability.

Want to try it out? Her e's a few things to know about getting organized.
At the beginning of every month you will need a new homework menu. Your menu (if you choose to d o a mont hly one like me) should include around 25 choices. Then you just need the printables and you're ready to go. It's work up front but it saves you time later.

T o D o Monthly:

*Get copies of the homework menu ready for every student
* Make 15-20 copies of the printable homework options you want to use
* Make one set of answer keys for your homework grader (if you are lucky enough to have one)
* Find a place to keep homework menu options (you can see some of mine in the pics) – I put them outside my room on plastic shelves so they’re easy to find before and after school

T o D o Weekly:
* Make copies of homework bookmarks or trackers to send home
* Enter homework in grade book and grade as you would like (If you don’t have a parent volunteer to help you, I say put a sticker on the homework bookmark and send that puppy home!)

T o D o As Needed:
As you teach something in class, add it to your homework options folders, crate or shelves. If I have extra copies of a math or reading response assignment I always put them in the homework shelves for students to do as extra practice at home. These have been introduced to them in class and they should be able to complete them at home with minimal support. They can easily fit with the “Complete a math assignment you haven’t already done.” or “Complete a reading response/log” menu options. Even if I have something that doesn’t necessarily fit with a given option, I’ll let students know they can use it as a homework option (and let the parents know too) and write in the assignment they did instead of a number. Easy-peasy!

Q: If homework doesn't really matter anyway, then why even use a menu? Isn't it just extra work that could be better spen t els ewhere ?
A: I have always worked in schools wh ere there was pressure either by the district, our school administration, or students' parents to provide some sort of homework . ( 9 5 % of the pressure came from parents in my exper ience ). Providing homework menus with age -appropriate options is my atte mpt to work within these expectations. while differentiating for every student and honoring their time. This is why exercise, listing to mu sic. practicing mindfulness, and spending time interacting with family members hav e always been mainstays on my homework menus. I also like that the menu structure gives me opportunities to include math and reading review assignments that are beneficial for students. since they're reviews of what we've already done in class.

Q: How do parents respond to this type of homework?
A: Just like anything else you do in your classroom, some parents are 100% on board and think homework menus are the best thing ever. and others are not so easily persuaded. For the naysay ers I use their questions as a jumping off point to explain what research says about homework in elementary grades and that truly my #1 concern was that their child is reading at home. For the most part parents have be en very supportive of this type of homework and loved that it gave the ir child more freedom and less busy work. Kids are busy after school, and they loved that soccer practice and piano lessons (both gr eat uses of after school time !) could be counted toward their weekly homework. Using menus also eliminates parents who constantly tell you their child isn't be ing challenged by the work you're sending home. since the kids are making the choices.

Q: Parents are concerned that their children aren’t old enough to make choices. What if they just want a homework packet?
A: If parents want a packet, I nicely take them outside my classroom (where I keep copies of all the homework choices) with a stapler in hand, randomly take three or four assignments and staple them together. Voila! A homework packet! I don’t think this is the best way to assign homework as it takes responsibility away from the student, but I don’t believe homework is important enough to cause rifts between teachers and parents. I strongly, strongly, strongly (did I say strongly?) disagree that children aren’t able to make choices for themselves.

Q: What if students can’t handle turning in homework only once a week?
A: Weekly turn in typically works for 99% of students. For the other 1% I use a Daily Homework Tracker or Bookmark. Students who use these do the same assign ments, but turn in a bookmark/tracker each morning wi th the minutes the y read the night before and the menu option they completed (or are working on) so they don't get behind.

Q: How do you keep track of homework that has been turned in? Do students ever repeat the same assignment?
A: I keep track of homework in an Excel document where I record the total minutes of reading and the numbers from the homework menu that students complete each week. At a glance I can make sure students are completing different assignments throughout the month

Q: How do you grade homework? How much time does this take when students are completing different assignments?
A: Grading and entering homework into the Excel document is one of the parent volunteer jobs in my classroom. I feel my grading time is much better spent working on reader’s response notebooks or giving students comments on their writer’s workshop pieces rather than grading and entering homework assignments. I have a pack of answer keys that I include in my parent volunteer section of the room for al l the mont hly assignments, so a willing parent volunteer can do the grading for you. If parent volunteers are scarce, I would grade for completion only. Check! Sticker! Done!

Q: What do you do if students choose only the easiest assignments?

A: Parents are usually much more concerned about this than I. Homework is something students should be able to complete independently so technically they should choose assignments that are easy (on an independent level) for them. I talk with my students throughout the year about choosing just right homework assignments and train the parents to do the same. If you can finish it in two minutes it’s too easy. If it makes you want to cry it’s too hard. Since I can’t necessarily control which assignments students pick as this is HOMEwork, I choose my battles. I would rather battle about reading just right books in the classroom than choosing just right homework assignments.

Q: Parents are telling me they have to teach their child how to do the assignment(s). What should I do?
A: Remind the parent that there are a number of options for homework. Their job is to provide a calm place, time and structure for their child to work and then congratulate them when their child does their best. Train parents the same way you do students about choosing just right homework assignments (finish in 2 minutes vs. make you want to cry) and make some assignments available online if possible so parents can see what options are available.

If you're thinking menus might be the way to go for your classroom. check out my NEW FREEBIE here. It includes a homework menu with 15 options in PDF and editable PowerPoint formats, plus 4 printables that a lign with the menu.

If you are ready to get started with homework menus for the year, I have homework menus with corresponding printables for August-May at my store. You can buy them one month at a time or take the leap and get the entire year bundle .


Have you tried out the freebie? Alre ady using menus for homework? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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