Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? (#3)

“Good readers know that group dynamics can either help or hinder the talk that takes place. If norms aren’t established and honored, the group disintegrates. Change the makeup of the groups every so often to ensure that students’ interest levels, social levels, and skill levels are met as they shift over time”
— Tovani, 2004, pp. 99

Over the course of this school year, I have looked at a multitude of facets within my learners that could have successful opportunities for them. Within group work, some of my learners have found their weaknesses to be facing the adversity of working with others. Some have had different ideas, working styles, leadership roles, or work ethic that has not matched up. Regardless of the type of people my learners work with, our community norms have always kept groups honest and on task.

At the beginning of this year, I looked at my class lists and realized the diverse range of abilities I would be having in my learning community. I have learners take interest and self-awareness surveys to help guide me in my observations and grouping choices throughout the year. As a community, we also establish norms that we adhere to. If anyone is not following the norms, all we have to say is, “Norms.” It is non-threatening and understood by all.

When reflecting on my learners who have a hard time working in groups due to their high expectations or their desire for a good grade, our community norms helps everyone involved stay civil and on task. A part of their academic and life journey will ask them to work with other people. Facing this adversity and gaining understandings and abilities in how to work with others is a powerful skill. Of course, there are some learners who may not care about the norms or care for working at all. This is where I will be trying out a new peer evaluation program next year. This program allows for your learners to give each other anonymous feedback, grade each other, and evaluate each other. As an educator, you can choose to have your learners see the responses they received, or simply use it for group grading purposes. Either way, getting feedback from educators and peers alike is valuable. It can also help learners see how they are when working with others.

Tovani, C. (2004). Do I really have to teach reading? Content comprehension, Grades 6-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.