Imagine this: a room with thousands of YA (and some MG) titles, with new titles always arriving. Books are everywhere students turn. Time is dedicated to reading books of choice every day. Students aren’t forced to complete reading logs or AR tests, but instead encouraged to simply enjoy their books. The teacher shares amazing books she loved, and ones she can’t wait to read. THIS is my classroom. With the last day of school in less than one week, and my 9th graders just finishing up their end-of-the-year reading ladders, I know it is time for me to reflect on how independent reading went this year. Below is my reflection on a great year of reading.
1. Book talks are essential! So many of my students mentioned that my book talks got them excited about books, or helped them find a book they were interested in. It makes sense. How will students ever find “that book” if they don’t even know what books are out there? Book talks have become “my thing,” as many of my students would say, and I will forever be doing one every day I see my students.
2. Students need to SEE my reading life. My students have never seen me read for pleasure in school. I know that sounds awful, but if you ask any one of them if I read, they would immediately shake their heads yes. I keep a sign next to my classroom door that states my current book title and author. I also have a section of my front whiteboard called “What is Mrs. Krajewski reading?” and from day one, I encourage students to ask me about the books I am reading. If I’m more than a few pages in, I can go on forever. Along with those conversations, my book talks, and all the recommendations I have made, my students know with 100% certainty that I read, and that I truly love it. It’s because they know I read that they feel comfortable asking for recommendations and sharing where they are confused.
3. Best year yet, but still not good enough. My current group of 9th graders have read more than any other group of students I have had in 13 years (401,448 pages), and they are also the smallest group I have had (89 students, compared to my usual 100-110). I’m so proud of them, and I have told them so, but unfortunately I didn’t pull all of them into my wonderful world of reading. One student, though he read almost 300 pages throughout the school year, didn’t finish a single book. (He likes his current book and says he plans to finish it.) Other students missed 8-10 weeks of the school year due to suspensions, and then had to get back into the reading habit all over again, which was tough for them. I caught another student “fake reading” four times. I think about these students constantly, for I wonder where I went wrong. I didn’t become a nag, but should I have been more of one? How could I have hooked these students in another way? I have some thinking and planning to do this summer.
4. I need more time for reading conferences. I had some amazing conferences with my students this year; however, there were days that I felt I didn’t have even one “proper” conference. Until this year, I always thought that a conference had to be formulaic, where students would sit at a table with me and answer prewritten questions I had. After doing a little research, I found that I have more “conferences” than I thought. I have a conference every time a students asks for help finding a book. I have a brief conference with a student when I ask how they met, or did not meet, their page goals. They may be shorter, but I am still talking to students about their books. One major change I know I need to make is to change my 10 minutes of reading time for students to 15. Last year, I was told by administration that I could not devote more than 10 minutes each day to independent reading, but that was when I saw students every day of the week. Now I see them four days out of a six-day cycle, meaning I only see them 3-4 times per week. I think 15 minutes is a logical change, and I am willing to go to bat for it. More reading time also means more conference time.
5. Grading reading. Is it really necessary? I know I am VERY lucky that my administrators allow me to incorporate independent reading into my high school curriculum. There is, however, a catch. I need to grade them on aspects of their reading that I don’t really want to, or find beneficial. They lose points if they don’t meet their weekly page goals. I HATE that. I absolutely HATE that. I even had a student say in her reading ladder that she probably would have read more if a grade wasn’t stuck to it. That made me cringe. So how can I fix it? I do reading ladders and student book talks, but the students see the benefits and enjoy them. What can I change?
More to come about this once I read my students’ reading ladders.