The school year is quickly coming to a close, and it has been a very, very good year. I had the opportunity to open a lab in a school new to me and to Read Naturally. In the fall, I was nervous about how the reading lab would work in the new setting, how the teachers would accept the new program, and how the parents would feel about their children coming to the lab. But, I have been gratified by the outcomes: The teachers were welcoming and supportive, the parents appreciated the reading help for their children, and, most importantly, the children made great strides as readers and self-motivated learners.

Though we’ve had a very good year, I have some ideas for making things even better next year. (Don’t all of us teachers begin to think of next year even before the current year ends?)

Next year, I will pay closer attention to changing goals in a timely way. After analyzing the data from the Benchmark Assessor Live and the Students-at-a-Glance reports with my colleague Karen, I realized (or, more accurately, Karen pointed out to me) that I let some students keep the same goals for too long after their cold timings had improved significantly. For example, Ben’s average cold timing score on his last three stories had improved by 20 words, yet I had left his goal unchanged. Although Ben still made good progress this year, his improvement may have been greater if I had challenged him a bit more. I’ll pay closer attention to goals in the future.

In the fall, I plan to organize a parent/child meeting so I can introduce myself, my fellow volunteer teachers, and the Read Live program to the parents. I think meeting us and learning about the program will encourage parents to call with questions, to stop in and visit, and to support their children’s work in the lab. And, I know I will be more likely to communicate with the parents if I have met them. I plan to wait to have the meeting until the children know how to work in the program, so they can work through part of a story with their parents to show them what they do in lab. This will take extra planning. I welcome any suggestions you may have!

Also, next year I plan to invite the classroom teachers to visit the lab in the fall. This year, I invited the classroom teachers to visit the lab late in April. The idea came to me after a teacher asked me if I ever listened to the children read! How much did they know about the program? I discovered they didn’t know nearly enough. I wished I had taken the time to show them sooner.

The teachers’ visit showed me how important it was to the students that their classroom teachers see and affirm what they do in the lab. It also made the teachers and I better aware of how we can work together. When one teacher discovered I required the question stem be included in the answer of each open-ended question, she cheerfully announced that she would begin to have the same expectation in her classroom. The other teacher suggested I change my expectations to match hers by requiring at least two examples or responses to the open-ended questions instead of just one. As you can imagine, the children were not thrilled with the new requirements, but both changes were excellent outcomes of the visit. Most importantly, the children saw the teachers as a team.

Yes, this was a very, very good year. I have had a fabulous experience working with the third graders. I have been inspired by their eagerness to come to class each morning. I have had the thrill of watching them meet their goals. I have had the joy of seeing their eyes brighten when they’ve answered all their questions correctly. I have shared their delight when they’ve moved to higher levels and goals. I have had the pleasure of hearing them discuss the stories they are reading. But most of all, I have had the honor of watching children work very hard to achieve their goals. I can hardly wait until next fall—partly because I will miss the children over the summer, but also because I am eager to try my new ideas.