With roughly a month of school under your belt, you’re likely aware now of which students qualify for a reading intervention. You may soon find yourself with a group of students who are brand new to Read Naturally. This is an important moment. Communicating your expectations clearly will set the stage for success.

In her blog post “Who Signed Me Up for This?”, Read Naturally founder Candyce Ihnot describes her first day in the reading lab with new students. She says her most important job that day was to explain to the students why they were there and what they could expect. When a skeptical little boy asked, “Who signed me up for this?”, Candyce knew how to put him at ease. Here are the words she used:

I carefully explained that the students had been selected to come to the Read Naturally lab to become good readers—not fast readers, but good readers. I explained that good readers read like they speak. When we speak, we say words accurately, at a rate others can understand, and with expression. When we speak, we also (hopefully) know what we’re talking about!

Then I explained that, in order to become good readers, we need to read a lot. So, the lab is like a reading gym—a place to “work out” as a reader.

“How do you think those great athletes do it?” I asked. “LeBron James, Michael Phelps—how did they get so good?”

Of course, the students knew the answer: Practice, practice, and more practice. Thinking about the athletes seemed to make the skeptical little boy slightly less weary of our “reading gym.” I was starting to earn his trust.

In the beginning, your students may be anxious about a number of things. Some of their questions will include: Why am I here? What are the boundaries in this space? What does my teacher expect me to do? What happens if I don’t know how? If, like Candyce, you can put their minds at ease, they’ll be able to redirect this anxious energy into an eagerness to learn something new.

After you explain more broadly what you expect, you will begin training your students in the Read Naturally program. Every step of the Read Naturally Strategy has a goal, and your students will perform much better if they know it. For example, in Read Naturally Live, a blue ribbon appears on the screen when a student answers all of the comprehension questions correctly on the first try. Teachers report that when they talk to students specifically about how to get the blue ribbon, students put much more effort into answering their questions correctly on the first attempt. The students have a goal—the ribbon—and they know exactly how to achieve it. 

Because student expectations are so crucial, we have created free resources to assist you as you train your students. These documents explain the purpose of each step of the Read Naturally Strategy and include student-friendly language you can use to clarify the expectations. Please download and share these resources.

Guidelines for setting student expectations

Many struggling readers expect themselves to fail, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thankfully, you can help them change their mindset by showing them a clear path to fluency that is accessible to many different kinds of learners. One step at a time, they will meet—and exceed—the expectations. And one day soon, they’ll hear themselves fluently reading a story for the first time.