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Gasping for Air

The last sentence is just beautiful

It is no surprise to regular readers that I am a huge fan of the work of Bob Probst and Kylene Beers. I work with my students to help them understand and discuss text better with Notice and Note and I try to get them to connect to their text with the Book Head Heart Framework. Earlier this week Kylene tweeted out this gem and I just had to capture it in a Canva poster.

Last night my sister sent me a text concerned over some information she read on my niece's new school web page. The main point was that the school relied on a computerized screening exam (Star 360) to assess all students k-12 in their division twice a year. My sister is concerned because my niece already has assessment anxiety in grade 1 and the teacher told my sister that my niece was behind by a letter compared to her peers. I can imagine the regular reader of the blog know what happened next but for the first time readers I will just lay it out.

First, because I know Renaissance Learning when I see it, I told my sister what the test would be like and that hopefully they don't put much weight on the results because well it is terrible. Second, I told her that if AR was even mentioned to demand that my niece not have to do it and that any school based competition include an alternative way for her to participate. Parents don't always know the damage these programs like AR do (not talking about all program type things, some have a purpose, AR however only has one to kill reading joy), luckily for my sister she can send me a quick message and we can talk through it. My sister shouldn't know what letter my niece is, my niece isn't a letter she is a 7 year old girl that has the most infectious laugh in the world and a joy that literally pours from her soul but she is a frustrated reader because she knows she struggles, she knows she is behind her friends and by all means why don't we add some computer tests to her life. Perhaps the goal really is to extinguish reading joy.

I was fired up last night and then went back to Kylene's words above. I decided I really needed my students to see them because I need to make sure they know what I believe in deep in my soul and I could not write it better, so I shared it with them and we wrote.

Below are quotes typed because it was a quick write not a neat write haha. I will put in the pictures at the end.

I agree with that quote! You don't get better at reading by taking tests or being told you have 3 minutes to read a paragraph full of words you don't understand and can't read. Grade 7 Student
I know that Kylene Beers is right. That kids should be able to pick their own books and read what they like, not what they "need" to read...Teachers need to let children know that it's okay to be behind and they can get help with reading. Grade 7 Student
Books are important because they help you read and they get you off your phone and tv. They allow you to have a world away from reality, an imagination. They give you more than a movie or your phone. Grade 7 Student
I think Kylene Beers quote is verry accurate and smart. What would be the point of time testing a kid in kindergarten? Grade 7 Student
Thinking about what might happen next can make the book more thrilling. (on why students should take their time) Grade 7 Student
Books are for reading. Not for taking tests on them for prizes. They are for people to have fun with what they are reading. Grade 7 Student
"Readers need a book not a lexile level" I agree with this quote as well because I never really liked AR. It wasn't very fun and you kinda lost some motivation to read after you got your certain amount of points in order to go to the pizza party. Grade 7 Student
I agree with Kylene Beers on what she is saying, I was timed at grade 3-4 cause I had a problem which makes it hard to read every sentence. I would stutter and it made me mad. I would write a letter to that school to if that happens. Grade 7 Student and reading this response made the eyes itch a bit haha
Sometimes you should let kids read picture book even if it's to easy. Grade 7
When Kylene say's that "they need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in" that really stood out to me because finding books that I enjoy can be really hard but when you find that really good book that is how you feel. Grade 7 Student
"they need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in" I love that comparison. It really makes you think and physically feel it. Grade 8 Student
"They need to dive into books and come up gasping for air so they can dive back in" This made me think of when I am reading a book and the character is holding their breath and I'm holding mine. When I am so into a part of the book I stop to breathe and just keep reading until I all of the sudden need air because I forgot to breathe. Grade 8 Student
I remember (in elementary) that the teacher won't let me read my books that I want so at lunch I go to the library and sneek a book hide in the corner and the teacher got after me and I got in the "Blue Book"! But now I can read the book. Yay! Grade 8 student (I tried to type exactly as written)
AR is like a bribe to read, once you got your goal there was no more incentive to read. Grade 8 Student
Last year reading felt like a jail. I felt I couldn't read what I wanted to and it seemed like they were challenging me. It was also harder because we weren't reading for fun. But with Grade 7 it is so much fun I actually read at home. Grade 7 Student
I think is telling us that instead of making kids read books let them pick between millions of books that they love so that they can take the million pound weight off their chest to love books in the future. Grade 7 Student

Reading through all of these responses from my students I am so proud. I am proud that they felt safe enough to express their thoughts on reading. As teachers part of our job is to protect our students. While they might not be physically harmed by these practices there is no question harm is being done. With phrases like "jail" and "forced" being thrown about without hesitation I can't understand how some continue to justify these practices.

My students were horrified that my niece was going to have to be taking tests so young, that she was already aware she was behind. What are we doing?

The picture to follow is a students response. I decided to leave it as is. My students know Kylene Beers as the lady who's words are on our wall, as my teaching idol and today they know her as an inspiration for their writing. I am grateful to know so many wonderful teachers and so many wonderful students in the pursuit of becoming readers coming out of their books for gasps of air.

Love the Notice and Note reference :)

The lady who's words are on our wall :)

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