Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Classroom Reading Project: End of Week One

Because so many of you have donated, and are still donating, books to our new classroom library, and because I promised to let you know how this “reading in class” project was going, I’d like to take just a moment here at the end of the first full week and do just that.

The first day of school was typical meet and greet fare, explain the course material, class rules and expectations, and that sort of thing. I did talk about our classroom library and show students which shelves were fiction and which held non-fiction. We talked about their reading habits and I had them fill out reading interest surveys so I could gather information I could use to help suggest books for them.

By Day Two we were reading. Actually, at least ten students checked books out the first day.

I have started out with fifteen minutes at the beginning of each class. I hope to work up to thirty minutes a day. That sounds like a lot of class time, and it is, but I believe, and piles of research supports, that silent reading helps students not just with vocabulary acquisition but also with processing ideas. The more they read the better they will get at comprehension. Additionally, reading develops that critical background knowledge that so many lack.

I am still following my prescribed curriculum and covering the mandated standards that are tested at the end of each semester.

Overall, even at this early stage, I’m very pleased with how many are buying into this project and with the feedback they are giving me. I have about fifty-five students through the day and of those only perhaps five have not bought in to reading a book. I have three boys in particular who are resisting.

“I don’t like reading,” one says.

I believe that he just hasn’t found the right book! I keep putting books on his desk, suggestions based on information he has given me about what he likes and doesn’t like. So far nothing is sticking. Right now he is reading a book far below his ability “because it has pictures.”

I have another boy who isn’t as verbal about his dislike of reading but just grabs a random book off the shelf each day and opens it to any page, staring at it. I talk to him daily, trying to get him committed to a book. I know from our discussions that he likes science so I put a book on his desk
Friday about space. He read a couple of pages and kept the book; this is progress!

All five of my resistant readers are in the same class; I’m not certain how they will change the scope of this activity, or if I will alter anything because of them. Right now I am taking it day by day. I’m under the perhaps naive hope that they will see the rest of us talking about books and sharing good books and they will eventually fall in line. As I said, perhaps I’m being naive in this hope, but I’m going to stick with it.

I’m committed to this project and I don’t alter our reading schedule for any reason. We had to take a parish required Diagnostic test this week, but we read our books first. It is already becoming routine to them to begin their reading immediately after turning in their first five and in two of my three classes I no longer have to announce that it’s reading time or direct them to take out books. Even better, in all three classes I’m seeing students take their books back out and start reading when they finish their assignments.

Over the next couple of weeks I will reinforce the idea of finding reading time through the day and we will have discussions about all of those extra minutes in the day that you could read: waiting at the bus stop, waiting in line for school pictures, at lunch, before bed, on the bus on the way to and from school…, the possibilities are limitless.

I’ve given each student a Reader’s Notebook which I patterned after Donalyn Miller’s description in The Book Whisperer. In it, students have designated pages for their Reading Log and books they want to read. Most of the notebook is for correspondence with me about their reading: each Friday they write me a letter about their book and what is happening in it. They are expected to reflect on what they’ve read, get into a little character analysis or plot discussion, and then I write each student back a few lines.

They turned in their first letters yesterday, and every single student turned in a notebook. I stayed late after school yesterday so I could read each one and respond. None of them were so superficial that I felt like they were just making it up. Even my five who haven’t bought-in completely yet were honest about that and explained what they had attempted to read and why it didn’t work.

So, here at this very early date, I’m really excited about what is happening in my classroom and I know that something good has to come of this for my students. I know they are engaged, they are reading, and they are learning. We are sharing ideas and having discussions and building a really unique classroom environment where we are all readers.

I hope we can keep it going!

If you want to help us out and send us a book off our wish list, here is the Amazon link!

Further reading:
It's Not Complicated! by Donalyn Miller (April 22, 2018)


Unknown said...

Where did you get the library check-out cards? I'm so happy that you are inspiring kids to read!

Pat Austin Becker said...

Amazon! :)