These two posts on the topic grabbed my attention - but not just as a teacher. These posts gipped by heart as a mother. Are my boys going to go to a school where reading is a chore? Are they going to learn to hate reading instead of love it? That idea alone breaks my heart. I hope that my boys' teachers foster a love of reading instead of supress it with testing and reading logs.
The Reading Log: The Quickest Most Effective Method of Killing a Love of Reading by @LisaMorguess
How a Movie Fixed What Accelerated Reader Broke by @RafranzDavis
I hope to foster and inspire a love of reading among my middle schoolers.
So during Meet the Teacher Night, I had parents write me a ticket out the door answering the question: "How can I best help your son/daughter this year?" So many of them answered the question with a similar response:
"Get him interested in reading"
"Make reading interesting and enjoyable"
"Help her improve her reading comprehension"
"Help him learn how to read more"
"Help him build confidence as a reader"
Well, luckily, we are all on the same page. One of my four main goals for the school year is to help students develop a passion and a love for reading. And it won't be done simply by teaching three whole class novels and a poetry unit. I've decided to try a year-long reading project
So as I share my ideas with you, I should also share the inspiration. Very few of the ideas below are truly my own; most are simply adapted from these authors who have written about inspiring a love of reading in students. Their passion for the subject is contagious!
I was powerfully moved and motivated after reading Book Love by Penny Kittle (@pennykittle). Her practical implementation of reading workshop was immediately applicable in my classroom, and her reasoning behind fostering a love of reading was based in the truth that students will be expected to read at high volumes in high school and college, yet we are not truly teaching them how to manage this type of reading. Expanding on this idea I also devoured books on the topic such as:
The Book Whisper by Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks)
Reading Ladders by Teri Lesesne (@professornana)
Donalyn Miller's idea of the 40 Book Challenge got this assignment rolling. Role Reversal by Mark Barnes also helped me to see how this whole "year-long project" idea could work. I've learned so much from my PLN! Discussions with @MrRicReyes and @JoyKirr about #GeniusHour and several other conversations about blogging in our teacher blogging community #teach2blog or within a chat like #titletalk have kept me thinking about how to shape this project.
Below are the components of the project....
Spark their interest! Before mentioning anything to my students about books, reading, or challenges, I started with a metaphor. This teaching idea comes from Kevin Washburn's book and courses Architecture of Learning. When students walked into my classroom, they saw two sets of adjustable dumbbells. Entering the room I hear a few comments, "Mrs. Petersen, are you trying to start working out?" "Mrs. Petersen, what are these things?" - I am thinking to myself "gotcha"! "You'll see," I answer slyly.
Students tried to lift the dumbbell weights initially with just 5 lbs or 7 lbs. Then they "challenged" themselves to a higher weight and tried 15 or even 20 lbs. They all quickly realized that the jump was hard. We discussed the metaphor, thinking about why you can't just dive in lifting heavy weights without working up to it first. Then, we built the bridge thinking about how this relates to reading and why we need to "practice" reading.
Explain the why! Using ideas from Book Love, I explained that in high school and college students are expected to do upwards of 400-600 pages of reading a week and some of that is for a single class. Students faces were stunned. Building up their stamina as readers would be a key element to their success.
Present the challenge! So, I presented the 40 Book Challenge as a training program to get in shape for the reading they will have to do in the future. 40 books in a school year is a big challenge, but many of them were on board right away. I also gave them the opportunity to set their challenge number if they thought 40 was unrealistic. A few of my students opted for a 20 book challenge instead, but as I work with them, I want them to push themselves beyond 20 if possible. So many of my students surprised themselves in the first few months of the project by reading faster than they thought they could. I had them compile a three prong folder that would house all their materials for this project in one place.
Click here for a peek at my assignment sheet.
Have a Kick-Off Day! I loved this post and video by
Erica Beaton @b10lovesbooks called Book Speed Dating. I borrowed it and called it a Book Frenzy to make it a little more middle school friendly. It was really a great way to get students excited about reading specific books. Students investigated the books in my classroom library and then we headed to the school library keep searching for books. Students added book titles to a "Can't Wait to Read" list while they browsed.
Provide time to read! Our school runs on a seven day rotation schedule. Once every seven days, we have D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read) Day. I will sometimes give a book talk at the start of the class, then they have the rest of the 45 or 55 minute class period to read. Students truly love it and look forward to this day. You can make this work for your schedule - it could even be 10 minutes every class period. The truth is, as a teacher this can make you feel like you are losing instructional time. It is hard for me to drop all lessons once every seven days, but I continue to remind myself that students developing a passion and stamina for reading really is THAT important!
Incorporate a read aloud! This is my first year attempting a whole novel read aloud. I picked Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Thankfully that was a great choice - because even though it has taken us a very long time to read through it, they get very excited to listen. I read aloud every class period right when the bell rights for 5-7 minutes. It is a short snippet, and it always keeps them wanting more. The read aloud can help encourage their love of reading - choose a book you don't think they will pick up on their own and show them how it exceeds their expectations.
Help them set goals! Using the idea of calculating your reading rate from Book Love, I have students set a reading goal between reading days. I try to conference with students every reading day to see how they are progressing toward their reading goals and this helps them stay accountable. it also gives us structured talking points in the conference. For instance, if a student hasn't met his reading goal, we can start talking about the why. Is it other homework and sports practice or is it the content of the book that has you disinterested? Penny Kittle provides fantastic conference questions in Book Love
Help them see progress! I have my students track their completed books using this "Yay! Another Book Done Survey" as well as in their 40 Book Challenge Folders. I created class competition around the progress of each of my four classes. This kind of challenge evokes their competitive sides! Donalyn Miller suggests that students complete reflection letters to the teacher to update her on the student's reading progress. I liked this idea, but I haven't figured out the perfect way to make it work and actually be able to grade them in a timely manner. I've tried having them complete Reflections using Google Forms, which I like as an option.
Give them an audience and community! Blogging is a great way to encourage students to share their reading. I have my students write at least one blog post a month sharing a book they have read. Students can see what others are reading as well as make and receive book recommendations. Connect your students to other classes who blog by joining the discussion in the #teach2blog hashtag on Twitter.
Celebrate with them! Honestly, this is my favorite part. When they finish a book, they cannot wait to tell me about it. Their excitement is contagious and it makes me want to talk books all day long with them. Celebration doesn't have to be a "reward" - just show them how much you care by getting excited with them when they finish a book.
I hope you take a leap of faith like I did and try this tomorrow with your students. Let the joy and excitement of reading find its placce in your classroom. I'm happy to share any resources that may help you!
I would love to hear how you ignight a love for reading in your classroom. Please leave me a comment below or tweet me!