We believe strongly that students should live authentic lives as readers in our classrooms. Following each interview, we want to put the information together for ourselves. We start by asking ourselves questions that help us focus on our main goals during the first six weeks — helping all students see themselves as readers.
Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak
Franki and Karen write about the importance of interviews early in the year —not just for assessment, but for helping students see themselves as readers. I want to help all of my kindergarten students to see themselves as readers too, but there are challenges in attempting reading interviews early in the year with five-year-olds.
I’ve done reading interviews in the fall in every grade I’ve taught, with the exception of kindergarten. The first six weeks for these youngsters who are new to the school environment can be filled with anxiety and uncertainty about navigating the day and the physical space, and creating friendships within a new community. There is excitement and curiosity too, as well as an abundance of time and patience needed for teaching basic routines. With all of the adjusting to school and direct guidance my new learners need, I haven’t felt fall was the right time to do a reading interest inventory. We use a district wide assessment tool that asks children, “What is your favorite book? Tell me something about it.” Surprisingly, this is a hard question for many kindergartners to answer early in the year. Asking these children a bunch of additional questions related to their reading life at the start of the year would be overwhelming.
I do miss this one-on-one interaction that helped me learn about my students in previous grades. I began wondering how I could fit this piece into my kindergarten year. As I thought about the school year and when a reading interview would be a good idea, I realized the first criterion that would need to be in place is for the students to see themselves as readers — whether it’s when they are being read to, or when they themselves are reading. In Reading Essentials, Regie Routman writes, “An informal interview encourages both the student and teacher to speak freely about reading habits, attitudes, and preferences in a natural, relaxed way.” I’ve come to believe a well-established relationship is needed to help foster an effective reading interview with kindergartners. I realized this might be something useful for later in the school year. But what purpose would my reading interview have? It wouldn’t be to get to know them as readers as in previous years.
At the same time I had these thoughts about using a reading interview, I began thinking about the upcoming summer vacation and how could I support my emerging readers and families during the summer months ahead. I asked myself, wouldn’t it be a gift to send parents home a reading interview as some insight and support for summer reading? I developed the interview with an eye toward sending it home with parents. You can download the template for the interview by clicking here.
As I crafted my reading interview for kindergarten this spring, I found myself thinking about the past year, and lots of things we had discussed and read about. I hope they had a favorite spot to read books in the classroom and at home, as well as some strategies for picking books to read. I hope they valued rereading for enjoyment, and not just as a reading strategy within a line of text. I hope I’ve instilled an interest in books that will guide them beyond our days together. I can’t wait to find out their responses, and use them to reflect upon my work for next year with new students.