Well, I’ll start out by saying that although my data shows student progress, it’s not my fave data ever gathered.
On the first day of school, I gave all of my students a survey, asking them how much of their assigned reading they’d “faked” before this year.
In an anonymous survey, 93 students reported they had faked the following percentage of their assigned reading prior to this school year:
In American Studies, our team has always taught The Great Gatsby as a whole-class novel in our first unit. Although my teaching partners and I were a little worried about this, due to the difficulty of the text, we went forward. If anything, I figured it would give me some data on how much students read in a whole-class novel.
We gave our students loads of background information, time to read in class, gave all students access to the audiobook, and had small and large class discussions. In short, we gave our students everything we thought we could to help them complete the novel.
After the unit, 75 students reported out the following in an anonymous survey:
Disappointing. Despite our intervention, supports, and accommodations, less than 25% of our students read all of The Great Gatsby. When asked why, responses ranged from, “It was boring,” “It was too hard,” or “It wasn’t interesting to me.”
For our next unit on the 1930s, we pulled four books for a genre study: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Bud, Not Buddy, and To Kill A Mockingbird.
I book talked all of the titles, then gave students a few minutes to look through the texts before making their choice of novel. They received reading schedules and discussion point handouts, and over the next three weeks, we ran a reading workshop. They were all given access to the audiobook and the choice to switch books if they became overwhelmed.
Students had time to read in class every day, and once a week, for a 90 minute period, I met with small groups. Students had to have their reading and discussion points to join the conversation. If their work was not complete, or their group wasn’t meeting, they continued independent work in the classroom.
At the end of the unit, 81 students reported out the following in an anonymous survey:
So, yeah. This was disappointing.
Although this data shows a tremendous amount of progress, it also shows that only 55% of students read the entirety of their chosen novel. This is sad, tragic, and drastically different than the data I gathered last year.
Why the disparity?
As I sit and think and cry and analyze this data, I can identify a few differences between this year and last year.
The biggest difference is that this year, we have less time to devote to reading workshop. Although students had time to read in class every day throughout this unit, they had less in-class time to read than my previous class.
These are not excuses; they’re problems that need to be solved, and I’m ready and willing to solve them.
Finally, I gathered data on how many choice books my students have read this year. This data was not disappointing.
In an anonymous survey, 81 students estimated how many choice books they’ve read so far this year:
We’re still reading.
We’re still making progress. It’s slow, but we’re getting there.
That’s worth celebrating.