How Do Reading Partnerships Work?
In this unit plan, students are paired with similar readers in their class to engage in meaningful reading partnerships.
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will complete a survey that the teacher can use to compare similar reading interests and reading abilities before assigning reading partners. Students will also learn how to participate in a reading partnership by choosing a "double-copy" book, setting meeting dates, and engaging in meaningful book discussions.
- Reflect on their reading interests and strengths
- Choose a "just right" book to read with a partner
- Plan and organize reading meetings with a partner in the class
Set Up and Prepare
- Collect double copies of popular chapter books or set up a time with your school librarian for your class to visit the library so that reading partners can check out double copies of chapter books.
- Make copies of the Reading Survey (PDF) for every student. (See Part 1)
- Make copies of the Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF) for every student. (See Part 3)
I don't implement reading partnerships in my classroom until I'm familiar with my students as readers. It's important for the teacher to pair students who share common reading interests and abilities, so I use reading surveys and my own assessment of my students' reading to form partnerships that I think will be effective in helping my students grow as readers.
Part 1: Reading Surveys
- Explain to your students that they will be assigned a reading partner in the classroom with whom they will be reading a common text and then meeting with to discuss what they are reading. (I often tell stories about how my friends and I will buy the same book from a bookstore so that we can read it at the same time and talk about what is happening, share our predictions, and discuss how it ends.)
- Pass out the Reading Survey (PDF) to students and go over each question. Explain to students that you will assign reading partners based on common interests in reading genres and topics. (You, of course, will also be assigning partners who have similar reading abilities, but I do not focus much on this when introducing the reading survey.)
- After students complete the survey, use their answers about their reading interests and your knowledge of their reading ability to assign each student a partner who you think would be interested in and able to read the same type of books.
- Announce the reading partnerships and give students a short time to talk with their new partner about reading. I ask partners to talk about their favorite genres, topics that they find interesting, favorite chapter books they've read, and favorite series.
Part 2: Locating "Double-Copy" Books
All double-copy books are kept on a special bookshelf in our classroom
- Search your classroom library for books of which you have two copies. Remove them from the library, rubber-band them together, and create a special basket or shelf in your classroom where you will keep these books. This will make it easier for reading partners when they are selecting a book that they want to read together. I keep mine on a shelf labeled "Double-Copy Books." (Since I started reading partnerships in my classroom, I have made a point to start collecting multiple copies of books. I often order the 95¢ books in the Scholastic Book Orders or visit used books sales and public library sales. My students have also begun donating their own paperback books that they have finished reading at home.) Alternatively, you can set up a time with your school librarian for students to visit the library with their partners to choose a book to read together. Most school libraries have multiple copies of favorite chapter books. (You might even ask to "borrow" some double copies books to create your own "double-copy" area in your classroom library.)
Part 3: Choosing a Book for a Reading Partnership
- During the independent reading component of the Reading Workshop, invite reading partners to visit the "Double-Copy Bookshelf" or the school library to choose a book that they will read together. (You should first review the strategies for previewing a book to make sure that partners taking time to examine the book options before making their choice.)
Each student in a reading partnership has his or her own copy of the book.
- After all of your students have selected a book, plan a mini-lesson to teach students how the reading partnership will work. Pass out the Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF). (My students have a Reading Binder, so this sheet is hole-punched and added the section of the binder called "Reading Partnerships.")
- Explain to the class that they will be meeting with their partner at least three times throughout the reading of the chapter book that they have chosen to read. On this day, you will be modeling for them how to conduct a "Meet the Book" discussion using the prompts listed on the Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF).
- Choose one capable group that has already chosen its book to hold a "Meet the Book" meeting in front of the class so that other students can see what en effective first meeting should look and sound like. (This group should be prepped and ready prior to the mini-lesson.)
- After the group follows the prompts on the Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF) ("What do you think the book will be about?" and "Have you read any other books in this series or by this author?"), lead a brief discussion about how all reading partners will do this when they hold their own "Meet the Book" meetings.
Part 4: Making a Reading Plan
- Reading partners will end their "Meet the Book" meeting by setting a page number to which they will both read before meeting again. Partners should record the page number on their Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF) so that they both know where to stop. (Students will only meet three times during the book, so they should pick a page that it about one-third of the way through the book.)
- When both readers reach the agreed upon page number, they are ready for their first discussion meeting. (If one partner gets done before the other, I ask that student to read only picture books until his or her partner catches up. I find that it is hard for my third graders to be engaged in two chapter books at a time, but you may find it is different for older students.)
- Partners should read their book during independent reading time and also at home, if requested by the teacher. When both readers reach the page number at which they agreed to stop, they should prepare for their first book discussion. Read Lesson 2: Book Discussions in a Reading Partnership to find out how this works.
Supporting All Learners
While I have found in the past that most students in my classes have had someone in the class that is at their same reading level, there may a student who is well-below grade level and does not match up with any reader in the class. If this happens, I will either engage in a partnership with this student myself, or I will allow this student to join another group and listen to their chosen book on tape. (Our media specialist and special education department have recently begun purchasing many chapter books on tape for our learning disabled students. These really come in handy for my struggling readers who can still benefit from being part of a reading partnership in my classroom.)
Before I begin reading partnerships in my classroom, I provide an overview for parents to help them understand how it works. Parents are made aware that when their child is involved in a reading partnership, the chapter book that their child is reading should be the book that they are also reading to fulfill their daily independent reading goal (15 minutes a night) at home.
- All partners are expected to complete the reading survey.
- Once they are assigned a partner, all students must choose a book to read, engage in a "Meet the Book" conference, and begin a reading plan using the Reading Partnership Planning Sheet (PDF).
- Do I need to add additional lessons about choosing "just right" books?
- Do I need to provide more modeling for what a "Meet the Book" discussion should look like?
- Are there some partnerships that require extra teacher support?
- Do students understand how to make a reading plan?
Since this lesson is specifically designed to get my students ready for a reading partnership, there is very little to assess at this point. I do make sure to guide reading partners to appropriate reading selections when choosing the book they will read. I also look over students' reading plans to make sure that they have set a realistic page number for their first meeting.