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Identifying Dependent Readers

As I was reading Chapter 2, I found myself nodding at the differentiation between independent readers and dependent readers. But here's the difficulty with that differentiation in my sixth graders. In Beers' examples, the kids she labels as "dependent readers" are all "Georges." She shows students who lack ALL the 3 forms of confidence (cognitive, social and emotional, and text), and who say things like "I don't get it," or "I can't read that." What I find most difficult in my sixth graders is that they HAVE text confidence (to choose books) and the Social and Emotional confidence (they are willing participants, etc), but they fly through a book without the cognitive confidence. In that sense, they are dependent readers: they fit into the category of "read on through when text gets tough." By sixth grade, they have learned for FAKE IT really well. They don't self-identify as struggling readers. So, being an ELL resource teacher who only sees them for 40 minutes each day, I find it takes me a LONG time to identify my dependent readers, which becomes a lot of lost teachable moments. I know who the kids in CRISIS are, but I feel (fear) that there are many who are just barely getting by, and we aren't as good at identifying their needs. Does this resonate with anyone else's experience?

Erica-- I face similar situation with my 7-8th grade ELLs. The more I carefully structure successfully reading experiences, the more they feel that they can get more out of reading. I have "book clubs"-- really they're literature circles -- that the kids get to pick their titles and somethings their groups. By working together through the text, they seem to get more of the books.

I often point out what I'm thinking as I read the books to show them that there is more to reading than skimming through the letters on the page. Because they don't read for pleasure, they often haven't made it to this level as a reader. With time, hopefully they will see the bigger picture of what reading means so they aren't so dependent on us as teachers. But as a middle school teacher, I won't often see the end results. I hope I've given them enough opportunities to use their skills in the future to graduate.


I would encourage you to not think of the time you take to 'diagnose' students as wasted time. My students, rather than 'faking it', try to 'hide' inside the classroom -never volunteering to read, for example. With the Beers' book and the issues you raise, I have a hard time imagining how I could find the time to get to and address the needs of all of the individuals. Certainly, when I make small groups,I try to keep the different confidences in mind. I also do the same with my limited conrol for selecting the texts I use.

Erica--you just described at least half my class. I wasn't able to differentiate at all because their reading needs were too diverse and overwhelming for me. I just started teaching Beers' strategies to the whole class all the time and found them to be engaging and useful to almost all students.


In a word, yes. Students who remain dependent readers into upper elementary and secondary levels usually learn several ways to compensate for the lack of independent reading skills - I believe this is due to self-esteem issues and to the prevailing student idea that I call "Just Get it done". For many students, accomplished or not, the dominant goal where school work is concerned is not the quality of the product or the learning. It is about getting the work finished and turned in. It is about being rid of it. It is difficult to get around this.



You are so right - often, teachers on my team don't want to teach a strategy because they thinksome of their students don't "need it." But ELL research has shown that when we use strategies with ALL students, even the ones we don't think "need it" benefit. Good point!

Erica's entry and the many comments resonate with me too, since my college students (mostly honors students) also have these "unbalanced" reading abilities and have too often reduced the act of reading of "getting it done and over with," as Mary suggests. It's even more challenging to diagnose in my classroom, since reading typically only happens outside of class. I can see from our discussions and their writing that they have huge gaps in comprehension, but its only now that I'm realizing I need to bring reading back into my classroom in ways that help them break through their "faking it" habits.