The Most Important “Unit” of the Year

Every year, I am always nervous about the first day of school. (See a recent blog post.) I know I need to impress my students. I need them to love my class enough that they want to be successful in it. Most importantly, I need my students to believe in me. I am their 9th grade English teacher. They have no choice in that, for I am the only 9th grade English teacher in my small district. It is my job to help them make a smooth transition into high school, as well as get them ready for the rest of high school and beyond. If 9th grade English is that important, what do I start with? You’d think I’d be nervous about that too, but the answer to that is simple: READING.

Starting on the second day of classes, I got my students into the library. I introduced them to my reading guidelines, Goodreads, and the importance of reading by showing them one of Penny Kittle’s reading videos. I did my first book talk and read aloud. I told my students about my reading life. Next week, they will hear more read alouds and book talks, and I will share with them how I finished The Taking by Kimberly Derting, moved on to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and then picked up One for the Murphy’s by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. When students ask me, “Why do you read so much?” or “How do you find time to read?” I will have detailed answers for them. Because I need my students to believe in me, I need to be a great model for them. Why? Reading is the single most important thing my students can do to improve as a student. Reading introduces us to new vocabulary. It reduces stress. It improves our memory. It improves our ability to concentrate. It improves our verbal skills. It makes us more open-minded. It helps us gain new knowledge about the outside world. It provides entertainment. It improves our imagination. And, yes, it improves our writing skills. 

Based on that list above, it should be no surprise that my IR “unit” goes all year long. Last year, my 9th graders read 384,904 pages. Yes, I have that number memorized, and I mention it to anyone who will listen. I am so very proud of my students from last year. They were readers! 384,904 is now posted in my room on a gigantic poster right above my desk. I posted it because I am proud of their accomplishments, but also so my new students know what they can aim to beat this year. Some students will rejoice over reading 50 books, and others will read 7 and be thrilled. Every reader is different. Every reader can improve and make huge strides in one school year. They just need the freedom to choose what they love, and the time to read in the classroom.

I look forward to sharing how IR goes throughout this school year! Happy reading to all!


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