IR Reflecting and Planning for 2016-2017

Recently, I tearfully watched the Class of 2016 walk across the stage. In some respects, I couldn’t believe they were graduating already. I just had them as freshmen! When I think back to how I instilled reading in their lives four years ago, I wish I could have done better. I didn’t know what I know now. I’m sure a lot of teachers think this way, for we are always revising and making changes each year. Below are some of my thoughts for what I plan to keep, as well as what I plan to implement.

Continuing with:

Independent reading time will be given EVERY DAY. This is a non-negotiable for me. I see my students 4 days in a 6-day cycle, and this year I will only have them 55 minutes on those 4 days (instead of 60 minutes like last year). Those 15 minutes of independent reading are vital. For most of my students, they will not receive independent reading time again after 9th grade, so I need to instill that love of reading as best I can.

Choice is allowed, and encouraged. I want my 9th graders to read what interests them, even if a title is below their reading level. Why? Students first need to gain confidence in their reading abilities. Only then will they be willing to try more challenging books. I’ve watched this happen year after year. A 9th grader may start in September with a book by Kate DiCamillo, and by June that same student is trying titles by Laurie Halse Anderson or Marissa Meyer. Also, I know the type of reader I am, and I enjoy books by DiCamillo, Anderson, and Meyer! Learning can always take place, even if the reading levels of the books vary from time to time.

Book talks will be part of our IR routine. I did more book talks last year than I ever have before. I also had more students read consistently than ever before. I know there is a link! So many students read titles this year that they never knew about. How could they? They need to be introduced to the titles available to them.

Book passes will be done at least once each marking period. Book talks are important, but I found that book passes worked wonders as well. They give students the opportunity to discover new, interesting titles on their own. Book passes are basically speed dating with books. In about 20-30 minutes, students review 20 or so books. Often times, to-read lists grow quite lengthy after a book pass.

Books will continue to be visible in my classroom. Last year, I worked quite hard to find ways to display books so students could see more than the bindings. I got two front-facing bookshelves, and I bought display stands for books so I could put some on top of bookshelves. I also started displaying every book I read throughout the year in an ever-growing display instead of just my current title. I can’t tell you the amount of times students would ask about the books I read, or the ones that were on display. I am already looking into adding to my displays for next year.

Staff Signs – Students need to know that they are not the only ones in the building reading. Teachers read too, and not just English teachers! Last year, I sent a template to teachers (see below) so they could display what they were reading on their doors, and some teachers decided to use it! I plan to send it out again in September, so any new teachers who want to use it can do so.

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New Changes for 2016-2017:

Student Book Talks – As mentioned above, book talks will take place every day, but I plan to make sure I am not the only one giving them. Last year, a few students (both current and former) were willing to go up in front of my classes and share their favorite books. If students view me, their teacher, as a trusted resource for great books, they will definitely trust their peers as well. I plan to designate certain days for student book talks, and sign-up sheets will be posted in the classroom.

Grading and Incentives – I am required to grade my students’ independent reading in some way. I don’t use Accelerated Reader or other testing programs though. Instead, it’s simply  based on if students are reading during their given class time. This is what I care about most. If students read consistently during class, they will likely start reading more often outside of class. Next year, I am looking to give an extra incentive of some sort. My plan is to email Study Hall teachers to get them to not only promote reading in their Study Halls (instead of listening to music or napping), but also send me names of students who read and/or share their book titles with others. I want to make this easy on Study Hall teachers, so I am still working how to implement this one. If you have suggestions, please feel free to let me know!

Conferences and Writing Notebooks – I hate to admit this, but I was quite inconsistent with my reading conferences last year. I know how important they are, but so much always seemed to get in the way. I planned to confer with students during their 15 minutes of IR time, but part of that time I used for keeping track of the titles and page numbers  of the books students were reading. Then students would need book recommendations, or someone would come in late, or a student would need redirection. Next year, I plan to confer more, but also add in writing notebooks. In the past, I always used notebooks for separate writing lessons and quick writes, not IR. This year I’d like to give students writing time at least one day each week so they can share how their independent reading is going. This way I can give them written feedback if they are struggling, and they can reference these notes in the future. I think this will help me get inside their heads more, but I know conversations are still vital. If you have conference or notebook suggestions, please share!

What does independent reading look like in your classroom? Please feel free to share a comment below.

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7 thoughts on “IR Reflecting and Planning for 2016-2017

  1. I love this post because it mirrors so much of my classroom. I agree that daily reading is a MUST if we want to build a love of reading. I take the first 15 minutes and really try to avoid any disruptions to that! Displaying books and getting new titles have also been key to promoting reading.
    When we get new titles, after a break, at the beginning of a semester, like you, I always take time for book passes. It gives students access to so many books in a short time, and they always find multpile titles to add to their TBR.

    For marking, students calculate their weekly reading goals (Book Love by Penny Kittle) and we track that each week. I tweak it a little bit depending on the grade level. They get a mark out of 10 for each week. Also, each term students complete Reading Ladders (Terry Lesesne). I love seeing their reflections and their growth. Especially when they realize it! These also get marked. Beyond that, I want them to read because they want to not for external rewards.

    I did book talks throughout the year, and had students do them as well, but we did not do enough of them, so I would like to do a better job of that. Also, conferring durine silent reading us something I need to do better. I usually use that time to track IR or read, as I like to have students see me reading as well, but more time needs to be spent with them.

    Would love to continue to chat with you about our practices. Maybe even set something up (book talks, book clubs, writing projects, book partners) between our classrooms. Keep up the great work. You and your students are an inspiration!

    Tessa Jordan

    • I also use a similar form to Penny’s! I actually keep track of it myself though. I’ve found that students fudge theirs, so I created a spreadsheet that adds it up for me. We also do mid year and end of year reading ladders. I used to read when my students did, but I found that they knew I was reading by all the book talks I did. That would be fun to set something up between classrooms!

  2. If you are still aiming for a paperless classroom and want to use Google Forms, try making your record keeping simpler for the students to record their reading progress. Create a form for Status of the Class where your students can record the books they are reading and the pages they have finished. You will have a permanent record of their reading for the year, the results go automatically to a spreadsheet, and the responsibility belongs to the students, not you! My students record theirs at the beginning of each class, and I can see at a glance what they are reading and who needs a nudge. I can grade pages or completion or not at all. Several students asked for a copy at the end of the year for their own reasons or to write about their reading. This is truly the best way to keep track of independent reading.

    • We actually use Goodreads for their “to-read” lists. It’s worked out great, since they always have their phones on them with the Goodreads app. I created a spreadsheet similar to the form in Penny Kittle’s Book Love for tracking reading throughout each week. That definitely saved me a lot of time doing math! I like the idea of creating a Google Form for tracking writing about reading.

  3. I love this post. Maybe because so much of what you do mirrors what I do in my classroom. I agree that time to read in class, everyday, is a MUST if we want to develop a love of reading. I do 15 minutes at the beginning of class and try to avoid disruptions to this time. I have also found that starting the class with IR has created a calm atmosphere for my classroom, which I love!
    Having books visible and adding new titles is also vital to the building of readers. Students love to be able to see the covers! Most of my bookshelves are front facing or I use them as front facing.
    Book passes have also been successful in my classroom, especially after holidays, when new books arrive, or the beginning of a new semester. Students always find titles to add to their TBR!

    For grading, I track weekly pages according to individal student goals (Book Love by Penny Kittle). Students receive a mark out of 10 for each week. Also each term I have students complete Reading Ladders (Terry Lesesne) and those are marked as well. I love seeing the growth and reflection in their reading through their ladder. It’s even better when they notice it too!
    I like your idea of using notebooks…will have to give more thought on how I could make that work without becoming inauthentic of real world reading.

    Both students and I book talked this past year, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I need to continue to develop this so it happens if not everyday, at least 3 times per week.
    Conferencing is also an area that I need to do a better job of. I usually use IR time to track IR or read on my own (I like to have the kids see me reading). But more time needs to be spent delving into students reading live through conferences.
    Thanks for sharing that template to give to other teachers…great idea! I post my own but will send out to others to invite them to post their reading on their door.

    Keep up the awesome work! You and your students are an inspiration. I would love to team up our classrooms (book clubs, book talks, book partners, writing projects). Thanks for this post!

    Tessa Jordan

  4. I really like your ideas, especially the one about assessing IR. I have 10 minutes of IR each period, in a 48 minute class, and I too struggle with how to assess this time. I have some students who consistently want to use the restroom, go to their locker, come in late, and they miss this time each day. I like the idea of assessing their progress and letting them write about their reading in the WN. I had them do that a few times last year, but definitely want to do more of that next year.

    • Our classrooms sound similar! I deal with the same issues at the beginning of class. I’ve learned that consistency is best with my students, so I’ll be sure to share how using the writing notebooks go.

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