Monday, March 9, 2015

SOLC #9 One Benefit of Reading Widely

The Slice of Life March Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Throughout the year we do formative assessments and writing activities which are similar to our standardized test in the spring.  There is a plethora of these available online which makes it much easier for teachers to find resources.

A common writing activity is to continue writing a story.  For example, for one of the activities, students had to read an excerpt from a novel, and continue writing the story of the characters going down the river.

That was a pretty simple task as most students have background knowledge of being in some type of water or playing with some type of water vessel.  Sounds easy enough.

Another practice activity we completed was a historical fiction piece.  Students had to read a passage about a specific time in history and continue the story. If a student had no background knowledge about this time period, then this one wasn't quite so easy.

After the students were finished, I asked them what they thought about it.

Student:  "It was hard."

Me:  "Why was this one so hard?"

Student:  "Because I didn't know what they were talking about."

Student:  "I couldn't think of anything to write about."

Me:  "This was historical fiction.  So you are saying you had no background knowledge of this time period in which to draw upon or to give you an idea for your writing?"

Student:  "Yeah, I don't read those kinds of books."

Me:  "How many of you think you would have done better had you read at least one book set during this time period?"

Almost every hand went up.  

Me:  "This goes to show you that there is more to reading than the Diary of A Wimpy Kid books.  This is one of the many reasons why you need to read widely and to read many different genres.  Because you never know what you might find on that test."

End of the discussion.

Lesson learned.

Teacher smiling.

Bloggers note:  After reading Michelle's comment, I feel a need to clarify something.  I do not believe that students should read widely for a test.  That was not my intention for writing this post.  When a person reads widely, they have more knowledge on different subjects and genres.  This incident was just one of the many benefits of reading widely that came up in my classroom.  


  1. I have to agree with you that reading widely is an important lifelong reading skill because of the exposure to a variety of genres and texts ... but not for the test! I hate to say it, but none of the friends that I work with will be running out to grab a book because it may help them on a test. I'm encouraging just reading and baby steps to a variety of reading. So, YES to reading widely! :)


    1. I did not mean to imply that reading widely was ONLY for the test. When we read widely, we build background knowledge in many different areas. And sometimes that comes in handy for the test. That was my intention in writing this post. Maybe I need to go back and clarify that in my post??

    2. I see that now in your title also: One benefit to reading widely. That makes perfect sense. The way you ended your post made it seem to me that you were encouraging to read widely for this: "This is why you need to read widely and to read many different genres. Because you never know what you might find on that test.
      End of the discussion.
      Lesson learned.
      Teacher smiling."

      I know we are on the same page and in agreement! :)

      See why comments are beneficial? Conversations continue even after the writing is done. Thanks for clarifying, adding your note and reaching out to me. :)

    3. I actually changed the title after your comment because I didn't want it to seem like that was the only reason. I knew what I wanted to say, but it obviously needed some tweaking! Thanks!

    4. That's why community and trust is essential in pushing our thinking forward. I wouldn't have left that comment on just anyone's post (lucky you!), but I felt comfortable to be honest with you in how I read the post. :) But as I said -- we were always on the same page!

  2. That would be why Donalyn Miller has genres that students must select from when she has the students do the forty book challenge. I'm afraid I was never adventurous as a reader and also stuck to mystery genre the most. Perhaps that will make the students a little more aware.

  3. Elsie hit the nail on the head -- I was thinking about the 40 book challenge throughout your slice. I also was not (am not?) an adventurous reader, but I also was not encouraged to try new genres as a young child. Sounds like a great lesson learned!


  4. Sounds like a very teachable moment used wisely! Well said and wonderful point. Reading ruts can really begin to affect kids in so many ways!

  5. I have so many students that "binge" read Diary of Wimpy Kid and Bone. And then they want to read them again! I try to maximize my read aloud to entice those "binge" readers into different genres. It can truly be a challenge!

  6. Love the wording of "reading widely." You make a great point to your class about how this expands our writing abilities. Such a real, authentic way to make kids see that reading widely would of enhanced their writing work today.

  7. I think the beauty I reminding students to read widely is that there are soooo many more books to choose from these days-our genres were limited to SRA kits when I was in third/fourth/fifth grade! Important to make students aware and genre jump if they dare!

  8. "Reading widely."
    Love the wording!