Reading partnerships are not a new concepts.  Teachers in the upper grades have been using them for many years within the reading workshop.  Partnerships are a great, authentic ways to engage kids in reading and practice discussing the text. They are also PERFECT for this time of year.  Sometimes you need to shake things up a bit, and these will do the trick nicely! LOL

However, reading partnerships may seem difficult in the primary classroom because kids are reading shorter, simpler chapter books or even picture books.

Let’s take a look at an easy way can teachers allow first and second graders to engage in reading partnerships.

What are Reading Partnerships Anyway?

Reading partnerships are similar to literature circles.  In both students read (somewhat) self-selected texts and discuss them based on some kind of role or format.  However, in a reading partnership only two students are reading a self-selected text, instead of a group as in literature circles.  After reading, kids meet to discuss the text.

In the upper grades, students typically choose a partner and text.  They decide when the will read and how much of the text they will read before each meeting.  Students then independently read the text and discuss their reading based on a specified checklist or annotations made while reading.

How can I Modify Reading Partnerships for Primary Readers?

This is actually very simple. Students can still choose a partner and text.  However, the discussion will be determined by the length and difficulty of the text. I created these Reading Partnership bookmark (FREEBIES!) to help students organize their thinking and provided a guided focus. Each student will receive a bookmark. Students respond to the text by writing in the two boxes.  By keeping the response short and focuses, students are able to have more time to read and are also not overwhelmed by the task.  However, the bookmark gives students a focus and purpose for writing.  The teacher can select whichever bookmark supports the learning in the classroom, or best supports the book.

Each bookmark has a different focus.  The focuses are:

  • Thinking while reading
  • Questioning
  • Creating and adjusting predictions
  • Identifying important events
  • Character response

Students reading picture books can simply read the book, complete the bookmark.  Students that finish the book can reread to practice fluency.

What Does the Discussion Look Like?

The discussion aspect of any student led reading can be tricky.  We want students to be invested and motivated, but we also we want them to focus on the task on hand.  The bookmarks are perfect for student students. On the backside of every bookmark is a checklist for students. Students discuss each item on the checklist.

First, students will retell the story together.  This provides students additional practice with oral retelling.  It also gives students a chance to see if they each noticed the same big, overall ideas in the story.

Next, students will take turns sharing each partner’s “thought boxes.” Students note the page on the bookmark, so when it is time to discuss, they can turn to the indicated page for discussion.

Finally, students will review the book together.  They can discuss if the liked or did not like the story.

This is a super simple and to the point way for students to discuss the text.

What About Longer Books?

Students that are reading early chapter books can read one chapter (or story as in Frog and Toad books) and complete the bookmark.  Students can get a new bookmark to complete for the NEXT chapter after the discussion. This scaffolds the responsibility for the student.  They are still responsible for reading longer texts. However, there is a clear end point and work load (end of the chapter and one bookmark).

Students that are reading easy early chapter books can read two chapters (such as Magic Tree House) at a time and complete the bookmark.  Students can get a new bookmark to complete for the NEXT two chapters after the discussion. Continue this until the end of the book.

Can I assign the partners and books?

Allowing students to select the text that they want to read with their partner is not necessary. The teacher can select the text on reading level.

However, please consider that self-selection of the texts provides student buy in and automatic engagement.  They want to read it! If the teacher is concerned that students will not be able to read the text because it is too difficult, then there are several simple solutions:

  • Students can listen to the book on CD or on the computer
  • Students can partner read the text with their buddy.
  • Students can take the book home to read with a parent

Any Final Tips or Ideas?

Before setting students loose with reading partnerships, I highly encourage teachers to model every step first.  To do this chose a student that is not shy.  They will need to be able to “perform” 😉 for the class! LOL. Model all the steps in front of the whole class.

  1. Picking a book as a partner.
  2. Reviewing the bookmark before reading the book.
  3. Model deciding HOW MUCH to read (the whole book, one chapter, etc.) before the next meeting.
  4. Read aloud the book and model completing a bookmark using a think aloud. Ask the partner student to this as well. If the student is a high reader this can be done individually. You may need to pull the child aside for a conference to complete the bookmark if he or she needs support.
  5. Complete the partnership discussion in front of students.

Also, if you want, instead so students writing directly on the bookmarks, the teacher can put post it marks on the boxes. Then when students are ready to respond, they can pull the post in mark off the page, respond, and store it on the corresponding page.  This can make things a bit more interesting. 😉

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