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Be a Mentor: Coach Students Into Deeper Reading

By Gravity Goldberg
 | Dec 22, 2015

mentor chartHave you ever finished modeling a lesson, crossed your fingers, and hoped some of the students actually go back and use what you taught? We have all been there, no matter what grade level we teach. Once we have been a model and shown students new ways of reading, we hope they begin to try the strategies when needed in their own books. But we can do more than hope; we can coach readers and help them get started.

When we become a mentor to readers, we sit by them and guide them as they go about deeper thinking, but we don’t take over their books or do the work for them. I see being a mentor as being a coach on the sideline of the field.

As a former soccer player, I noticed two types of coaches I had over the years—“sideline” coaches and “on-the-field” coaches—and the two are quite distinct. Sideline coaches would stay off the field, where they would watch practice, pause the play, give us more instruction, and then set us back to scrimmage. While we were playing, the sideline coaches would comment and suggest—and sometimes even yell—but all of it was aimed at helping us players who were on the field make wise choices.

On-the-field coaches would literally step on the field with us in practice and play with us. They would pass us beautiful balls and set us up to score, but most of the time our level of play was elevated because they were out on the field doing much of the work for us. I learned from both types of coaches, but I developed much more independence from the sideline coaches. Our team’s performance in practice and in games was similar with sideline coaches, but our team’s performance was much less successful in games when we had on-the-field coaches. We were so used to the coach doing a lot of the work for us we never learned to do it on our own.

What kind of reading coach are you? If you are not sure, consider how much work you do in the students’ books and how often you pick up their books to get them started. Consider where you sit in relation to students when coaching. Be on the sideline by sitting next to a student. Consider how much you say as they try a strategy. Are you telling them every step or calling out “plays” in the moment and then watching to see what they need next?

If you are choosing to be in the book with your students like an on-the-field coach, remember to eventually step back and coach from the sidelines.

Here are a few qualities I notice about the coach who sets up independence and transfer:

  • Names one step at a time
  • Tells students what they can try (not asking a lot questions for them to think through while reading)
  • Focuses on what to do (not what to avoid)
  • Keeps language and prompts clear
  • Does less over time and expects students to take on more

The chart in this post from Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge shows how you might do less over time.

Gravity Goldberg headshot-2Gravity Goldberg is a literacy consultant and author of Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge (Corwin, 2015) and coauthor of Conferring With Readers: Supporting Each Student’s Growth and Independence(Heinemann, 2007) in addition to managing her blog. This post is one in a series on how teachers can create more independence in the classroom by embracing new roles. She also can be reached via Twitter

 

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