Autonomy leads to engagement
Research supports time-on-task as a proven strategy in developing reading skills. Studies show that students’ time spent engaged directly correlates to achievement levels. The more they are engaged, the more they learn. The key word is engaged. Simply allocating time to read during the school day doesn’t guarantee that children are tuned in. Teachers have seen this: a phenomenon known as fake reading. For some students, twenty minutes of reading time translates to “twenty minutes of daydreaming time.” Engagement is the factor that increases student learning. How can teachers ensure that their students are engaged with the texts they are reading?
One way to increase student engagement is to give choices. It's true that children need structure. However, it's equally important to provide some level of autonomy so that they feel a sense of ownership over their learning process. This is true even for young students. A simple way to provide students with a voice in the classroom is to let them choose their reading material. While reading at a “just-right” level is important, providing choice within a given reading level is invaluable for student engagement.
Even adults choose the books and articles they read based on their interest level. Imagine if someone required you to sit for twenty minutes and read a text that was irrelevant to you. Most likely you would quickly lose interest, just as many students do. Reluctant readers often become even more reluctant when teachers dictate what they have to read. Reading becomes boring and meaningless, and consequently, students become disengaged. Without this crucial engagement time, these students do not improve their reading achievement level, and the cycle continues. But how can teachers collect the data necessary to monitor student progress if each child has complete freedom over text selection?
Reading Recs offers a solution
Reading Recs is a running record application that allows students to record their own oral reading, answer comprehension questions, and then submit their work to their teacher for evaluation. Most importantly, it allows students to choose their reading passages. This tool allows teachers to monitor students' growth by assigning passages at varying reading levels. At the same time, it provides students some autonomy based on their interests.
Children become engaged in their learning when they have a say in what they read. This engagement not only improves their reading skills, but it also increases the chance that they will foster a love for reading along the way. Reading Recs is a great resource to use with any reader, but providing the power to pick will help fake readers buy in to the learning process.