Engagement and Ownership

The traditional components of reading (phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) continue to be important learning aspects for our beginning readers. Yet in today’s modern world of evolving and changing literacies, “Engagement and Ownership” have become essential means and end goals for achieving success for all readers. In my work with young learners, this has become a critical component of learning to read.

“Engagement” refers to a reader’s independent enjoyment, ability and self-determination to read, write and communicate with others.

“Ownership” means readers have voice, choice and meta-cognitive awareness to apply strategies and understandings to make meaning and monitor progress, needs, and success. Burkins and Yaris in Who’s Doing the Work (2016), along with other current literacy writers, refer to ownership as agency.

As a literacy support teacher (after years of classroom teaching), I discovered this “new” reading component out of urgent need. Teaching small group, pull-out intervention with grade 2 and 3 students, considered the “lowest” readers from several classrooms, brought new challenges and opportunities. We had no purchased program to follow, but had a few levelled texts and mountains of books from my classroom teaching days. There were no worksheets or booklets about reading, as I had given that practice up many years prior.  I thought I knew how to teach reading using actual children’s books (along with a Smart Board, magnetic alphabet, blank paper and a few word games). But now I was faced with a new challenge- students who could not read well, and more importantly did not want to read. Period.

With deep reflection, colleague conversation and advise from Significant Perspectives, children soon had their own pocket folders to house a favourite book along with a few self chosen levelled picks for independent reading. I used read aloud and book previews to discover interests and preferences. We read excerpt passages from favourite books for shared reading. We read “adapted” reader’s theatre scripts from the Mo Willems Pigeon series. Guided reading material was carefully chosen to respond to interest and needs of the learners. We talked about purpose for re-reading- even if it was to increase stamina or develop smooth phrasing. We talked about what they noticed and wondered after reading- ideas from the book or from their thinking. Children chose which word work activity to use for practice. We co-created success criteria to ensure everyone understood expectations- what it looked like, sounded like and even felt like. We talked about what they “used to do” as readers, and celebrated “but now I…” and so on. Voice and choice to increase enjoyment and ability.

Breaking down this transfer goal (essential component) includes the following parts:

  • Enjoying and interacting with text: Emergent Literacy
  • Finding personal favourites and preferences
  • Choosing from a wide variety of text appropriate for purpose
  • Developing routines and stamina
  • Collaborating with text and ideas
  • Setting goals, success criteria, celebrating accomplishments
  • Meta-cognition- knowing what works

Engagement and Ownership is a daily component of my intervention and tutoring lessons in some form or another. As teachers, we make instructional decisions (based on observations and conversations) and ensure children get what they need.  Without embedding some form of engagement and ownership, children would probably still improve isolated reading skills (I can statements). However ensuring that it is an essential part of learning to read, statements such as  I want, I hope, I like, I have learned,  I need to try,  I will work on…etc. will develop learners who can and want to learn to read.



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