A few years ago I started interviewing each of my students at the beginning of the year to get an inside look to their relationship with reading. As with many reading teachers, I find it important to get the learner's perspective on their own progress and learning in literacy. I find it interesting how most of my fourth graders are able to give me an accurate gage on their needs.
I spend about 5-10 minutes with each student and ask them a series of simple questions:
1. Do you think reading is important? Why? Nearly all students say yes, but it's interesting to hear how they say it. Some exclaim it with a bright face, others mumble, "uh, ha." Then comes the why. Many students say it's because reading makes them smarter. I always like to hear when students say the practical things like, "If you couldn't read, then you wouldn't be able to go grocery shopping and read the labels or read the signs to drive."
2. Do you like to read? Why? This question if the first one where some students may show their signs of struggling with reading by answering no, or not really. Again, some exclaim their love of reading. This is also a question where students are able to show their level of love of reading. Some read because they're bored, others show me they have good visualization. One boy this year told me he loved to read because it was like he could, "play TV in his head."
3. What do you like to read? Of course this gives me a chance to take inventory of students' interests. I also like to write down book titles and have a little book chat about books we have both read or get recommendations from students on books I should read up on. This question can lead to great conversation. I also take this opportunity to point out the boxes of books we have in our classroom library that contain books in a genre the student enjoys and make sure they have had a chance to look through them.
4. Do you think you are a good reader? Why? Here, again, students surprise me with their honesty. Some students start to compare themselves to others, pointing out what reading group they have been in in the past. I try to emphasize that they should only be working on improving themselves and not worrying about where they are in relation to others. We all learn at our own pace, after all!
5. How would you know if you were a better reader? Most often the answer is, "when I can read faster." This reminds me of the post Melissa wrote last week on speed reading. I often take a moment to discuss that sometimes reading fast doesn't mean you are a better reader. I also tell them that I am a slow reader, but I make sure I understand what I read. Another popular answer is, "when I can read harder words," or "when I can read words more easily." This is a good reminder to me that, even though these students are in fourth grade, it's still important to work on words.
The time it takes to conduct these interviews is well worth it, and once I get into a groove of calling students up, time does seem to fly. The best part, though is that it does give me a depth of perception that the data from their baseline tests don't, helping me to start their reading instruction off on the right foot.
Please share! Do you conduct reading interviews?