IR Update: 20 Weeks In

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Since it’s the beginning of the second semester, I spent a great deal of time yesterday doing math. Yep, I said math. That’s because I was checking how many pages each students has read so far, as well as the totals for each class and the 9th grade group as a whole. Here are two stats I am quite impressed with:

Total Books Read: 612 (that’s an average of almost 7 books per student)

Total Pages Read: 227,984 (that’s an average of 2,400 pages per student)

To say I am proud is an understatement. I thought the group I had last year did a great job, and they read 308,904 pages for the whole year! When I saw the numbers, I immediately went to my reflection notebook and began writing. I had to write down the results, as well as try to determine why there was such a drastic increase. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Book talks put books in the hands of students. I’ve always tried to do book talks, but I just never seemed to make it enough of a priority that they became a routine. This year I can say they are. My students make sure of it! I always share one or more books after their IR time is up, and if I forget a student will usually say, “Mrs. K. you forgot something,” or “Book talk time Mrs. K!” It’s become a routine for them. I don’t do one every single day, but I’m quite close. These book talks introduce new titles many students never would have picked up. I share a quick summary, why I loved it (or why I want to read it), and a short 1-2 page excerpt. Lately I cannot use the same book for each class because someone wants it. Without sharing new books with my students, they would not know all the amazing titles out there!

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2. Conferences are always happening. I always try to have at least one “official conference” per class, but sometimes I have to help students find new books, or have a conversation with a student who was absent during the previous class. Things happen. But I talk books all the time. I see students in the halls and ask about their books. I venture into the library and talk with students in there. If they are not enjoying a current book, I help them find a new one. Students stop by my room during a Study Hall or after school and I ask how things are going. These may not all be “official conferences” where diligent notes are taken, but they count. They are just as important. My students trust that I know my books. They may not always admit it, but they enjoy “talking books” with me.

3. I am constantly getting new titles for my classroom library. Some women like to buy clothes; I buy books. Way too many, if you ask my husband. It’s necessary though, and he knows it. Plus, I read many of them myself. My students need to see the latest and greatest titles. I have them open the boxes when they arrive. I keep a running list in my classroom of titles they want. Again, it’s necessary. Students get excited and “call them” before others can grab them. Don’t get me wrong. There are other ways to get new books besides spending my own money. Donors Choose is a perfect example. I am currently trying to get friends and family to donate to my 9th Donors Choose project: http://www.donorschoose.org/project/creating-an-amazing-classroom-library/1485798/?rf=link-siteshare-2015-02-teacher_account-teacher_229652&challengeid=53255 I’m sure many of people are sick of getting the emails and seeing my posts on Facebook and Twitter. Again, it’s necessary.

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Now I am thinking about the second half of the school year. I’m excited to have my students start their midyear reading ladders next week. I have a research unit coming up after that, and my classes will be in the school’s library computer lab for almost five weeks straight. How will I show them my new books? Thankfully, the librarian said I could use the table in the lab and my display area. The lab is also connected to the school library, so students can look in there. No matter what, I know reading has to be front and center.

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