Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Big Guy in Town

I get it, Spot, I really do. Sometimes you just want to feel like the big guy on the block. You wanna muscle your way, in and let everybody know that you are large and in charge. You are one smart doggie, and you always will be. But...what you need is confidence. And so, believe it or not, does your friend, Ruiz the Rebel.

The other day, Ruiz came to visit me. He wanted to read a book that our librarian would call out of his zone. Listen up now, Spot. A lot of people get this confused and it's important for you to get into your zone! When kids read in their reading groups with teachers teaching, and stopping and discussing...that is called the INSTRUCTIONAL zone. Those books are usually, but not always, a little more of a stretch. Kind of like going out after always need an adult for that, right? The INDEPENDENT zone is a whole different story. You can read to your heart's content with no adult in sight. You can take the AR quiz, and you'll probably get a 90 or 100.

Well, your buddy, Ruiz is a rebel. He knows the zones, he knows his level...but he's a sneaky one! He comes to me every day to beef up his skills in our smaller reading class that's just the right fit for him. He's smart as can be, don't get me wrong...but he's just a bit under where he needs to be...because he's a rule-breaker. Can you believe it? Who would break the rules in school, anyway? When Ruiz takes a test, whether it's the small, in class types, or the mighty CMTs, he almost refuses to follow the recipe for success. So...he's deemed, 'cuspy.' Just on the cusp of doing great things.

Last week, once again, Ruiz had a book that was way out of his zone. He wanted it anyway. We stood out by the trophy case in the hallway, and he begged and pleaded...and I had to hold the line. Killed me, Spot. Who really wants to deny a kid a book? When I asked him why he was so set on that book, he couldn't tell me. He just wanted it. So...I told him, I'm gonna hold onto it for him. And I am. I also told him...for real, how smart he is. I gave him examples of how I see it in class, and how other teachers see it in the things he says and does. But I told him he needs to grow into this book, just like I sometimes have to do myself. If I don't read every day, my reading speed dips and I have to reorient myself in a book. He looked at me like I had six eyes. "Really?" he said. "Yup," I said. Even teachers have to practice what they preach.

Spot...Ruiz just wants to be the big guy on the block. He wants to feel like he's in control, and not the other way around. So, I made a pinky-swear pact with him right there in the hallway. If he reads every day in learning lab and for homework each night...and if he gets his 90's in three right-sized books, I'll read his coveted book with him...not coach him, but maybe talk about it a little bit. Ruiz walked away a happy puppy, Spot. He wrestled back a little control, but more importantly, he came to know we all know just how smart he really is. And we've known it all along!

*More on the pros and cons of Accelerated Reader in the weeks to come. Teachers, what do you think...AR? Worthwhile, or not? Opinions, as always, welcome here or on FB.


  1. I too have been right where you were today. Trying to coax my students to that "just right" book. I wrestle with whether we put too much emphasis on the AR program. I have seen some who stress over being in a certain level that either they or their parent disagree with. I think it is one of many tools we use, but I must say I lean to the side that thinks the benefits outweigh the negatives at least up to a certain point. Our district has used it for many years and it has been met with much discussion for and against it. Around the end of our 1st grading period this year, we were with out for about 4 weeks due to our school updating to the new edition. I am sad to say, reading without me forcing it almost shut down. I realized I have a long way to go to make sure the students are learning to love reading. MIXED FEELINGS INDEED! 3rd grade teacher

  2. Thanks for your comment, Sandy! I taught kindergarten and then second grade for eight years, and honestly...I can't imagine using AR back then. But! I do remember the little guys that would invariably carry around Harry Potter books and pretend they were reading them. Maybe if that got nipped in the bud, it would have done a world of good for them later on. Now working with sixth graders, I do see a huge benefit in the kids that are solid readers, but just drop off the vine, b/c their social life takes over! (Hormones...jeesh.)It forces them to read when they wouldn't choose to do so. I teach in a school of 850 fifth and sixth graders, and by December they'd read over 10,000 books!! Check out Jim Trelease's website and his stance on it though. And please...don't EVER stop reading aloud! That's where the real love of reading gets planted and grows! Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to many future conversations!! ;)