Written by Gen
Entering into Roaming Around the Known (RATK) sessions in your second round of Reading Recovery can sometimes feel like a beast! Not only has it been 20 weeks since you put yourself in this frame of mind, the students who you work with can be very different from your first round kiddos. Over the years, I’ve collected good advice from two incredible teacher leaders and learning from countless professionals in Reading Recovery. Here are a few of my new insights about how to prepare for second round RATK:
Potential Pitfalls & Solutions
Pitfall #1: Fewer weeks!
What Reading Recovery teacher hasn’t felt at least a small surge of panic when noticing that some second round students will have only 13-14 weeks in their program due to the school calendar? After 14 years as a literacy specialist, I’ve found that the panicked feeling often leads me to make teaching decisions that are not in the best interest of the student. In the current educational climate, where teachers are under extreme pressure to “prove” that their teaching techniques work, it can be hard not to succumb to the urge to get students to “the right level.”
Solution #1: Avoid the Pressure
Step 1: recognize the panic. It took me years to really notice that the panic was setting in. It’s not always obvious. Ask yourself, “Am I worried that this student won’t have enough time to get to (fill in a reading level)?” If the answer is yes, you may be experiencing this the panic!
Step 2: breathe. Yep. I don’t mean this metaphorically, like taking some time to mentally relax and take a step back. I mean, once you notice the panic, inhale deeply and then release it slowly. It will physically cleanse your mind. Then you can do all of that metaphorical stuff.
Step 3: arm yourself with knowledge about your students. Nothing cures panic more than feeling prepared. Take yourself through another analysis of the students’ running records from the Observation Survey. Determine the next steps that are needed to move the student forward and develop specific Predictions of Progress to keep yourself grounded. Don’t skip the Predictions of Progress!
Pitfall #2: Students may know a lot more this time around!
Remember those first round students? They were practically blank slates! So many of them didn’t know where to look, or start, or what a letter was! Second round students can look very different, though. They read higher level texts, they know more words, they can write some words. But with all of that knowledge, there are often habituated reading and writing behaviors that are inefficient that have been habituated over the last 15-20 weeks. Since they’ve had more time to practice inefficient reading and writing, it can be HARD to find all of the misconceptions and untangle them.
Solution #2: Be cautious!
Step 1: Carefully analyze the student’s Observation Survey. Take even more time to analyze this document than you did for your first round students. Try to speculate on why the student responded in particular ways and try to come up with more than one reason. This exercise will prevent you from getting locked into inaccurate assumptions about your students.
Step 2: Second-round can be short. Avoid the temptation to rush through or skip Roaming Around the Known sessions. RATK is a crucial time to not only develop a strong teaching relationship but also to further investigate and observe a student’s hidden strengths and misconceptions. Keep in mind that if our second round students have had classroom teaching, and possibly other interventions, for the past 15-20 weeks and are still qualifying for Reading Recovery, then they may be even more tangled than our first-round students. This is the time to really get a full picture of the students and to discover what you may have missed.
Step 3: Don’t forget to start at the beginning! Demonstrate all of those early reading behaviors that second-round students may appear to already have in place. We don’t want to find out in week 7 that our student doesn’t fully understand what “first letter” means. Here are a few early reading concepts to be sure to observe and model during RATK:
- Where to start
- What is a letter?
- What is a word?
- First letter/last letter
- First word/last word
- Spaces/word boundaries
- Types of punctuation
Pitfall #3: You’re in the lessons frame of mind
You have just finished 12-18 weeks of teaching lessons, and now you have to stop teaching. It’s easy to slip into teaching during second-round RATK, and before you know it, your roaming sessions look more like lessons. This could set us up for an unsuccessful round of Reading Recovery.
Solution #3 Revisit your resources
Step 1: Go to the guidebook! Reread Marie Clay’s section on Roaming Around the Known in the second edition of, Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals before every round of Reading Recovery students, particularly before second round, to get yourself back into the roaming frame of mind.
Step 2: While you’re at it, you may want to check out the article, Promoting Discovery During Roaming Around the Known, by James R. Schnug. This information provides a deeper analysis of what RATK is all about and how we are meant to create reading and writing “activities.”
Step 3: Connect with your Teacher Leader and colleagues. It was hard for me to see that my roaming sessions were looking an awful lot like regular ol’ lessons until I had a visit from my teacher leader. Invite your leaders and colleagues in to help you think about your second round students early. With a round that has fewer weeks, it’s important to get feedback early.
Step 4: When in doubt, make a video. If you’re the only Reading Recovery teacher in your building or district, or it’s hard to connect with others, video a few roaming sessions and watch them back. It’s much easier to analyze your teacher moves when you’re not in the moment with the student.
How do you prepare yourself for Roaming Around the Known? We would love to hear your ideas!