November chain
We read 70 choice novels last month!  

Each link in that brown paper chain represents a book finished during the month of November.

Each day, we read our choice novels for the first ten minutes of class.  No matter what.  I encourage abandonment of books that don’t quite fit, I conference with students, and I model reading for students.  We practice reading the things we like to get better at reading the things we might not like.  

I keep a chart of our choice novel progress on one of our bulletin boards.

Choice books read nov chartWe’ve read 208 choice books so far this year!  


(Check out our September and October chains!)



We read 74 choice novels last month!  


Each link of this purple chain represents a choice novel finished during the month of October.

(That’s in addition to the assigned novels for our genre study:  We don’t put up links for those books!)

Even while we run through a literature unit, the choice reading we do at the beginning of class is my number one non-negotiable.  No matter what, we read for the first ten minutes of class, reading the books we like to read, just to read them.

Even if students are behind in their assigned novels, they read their choice novels during the first ten minutes of class.  (Sometimes they fight with me about this, but I don’t bend.)

Even if I’m behind in my curriculum, we read our choice novels during the first ten minutes of class.

It’s important to me to separate the “fun” literacy we start our class with from the “work” literacy we do afterwards.

That’s 138 choice novels read so far this year!

Reading Workshop: What’s going on this week?

In my previous post, I detailed what a genre study looks like in my classroom.

So what’s going on this week?

This student forgot his discussion points at home, but still wanted to join the group. So he called his dad and had his dad post a picture of his points on Facebook, and then brought that Facebook post into our group.

This student forgot his discussion points at home, but still wanted to join the group. So he called his dad and had his dad post a picture of his points on Facebook, and then brought that Facebook post into our group.

We’ve had a great week of rich, small-group discussions.  A group of boys reading This Boy’s Life in my third period class have championed through their discussions and drive-by sold the book as a choice read to their eavesdropping classmates.

While my students are reading and writing discussion points for this unit, they’re also pulling pithy quotes from the novels that they can connect to in some way.  By next week, they should have ten quotes and corresponding analysis compiled in their journals.  They’ll reuse those on their summative assessment.

One student, currently reading The Bell Jar, has been obsessively pulling out quotations beyond her required ten.  She just can’t stop.  The book speaks to her.

I’m trying to be more flexible with how students are accessing the texts.

This student chose to listen to the audiobook of The Catcher in the Rye via YouTube and write his discussion points as he listens along.

This student chose to listen to the audiobook of The Catcher in the Rye via YouTube and write his discussion points as he listens along.

I have students accessing their assigned reading in all kinds of ways this year.

Most are reading silently.  Some are listening and reading along with the recording. Some are just plugged into the audiobook.

Are they still “reading” when they listen to the audiobook?

Not traditionally, but they may be “reading” more than they would be if they didn’t have access to the audiobook, right?

(That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.)

I’ve also been rescuing students.

kyleThis week, I continued to check in with students who haven’t been joining our discussions.

I asked, “So, what’s going on in your book right now?”

Just about everyone could tell me, but a few told me that the book wasn’t making pictures, and they didn’t get it. But, they said, they were trying.

I switched both of those students out and into new books that also have an audiobook option.  They’ll be a little behind next week when most students are finishing, but that’s okay.

I’ve been keeping stats and recording data.
I met with one of my administrators earlier this week and he asked me if I was tracking student progress beyond our discussion points.

I jotted down page numbers at the end of class today and yesterday.

I jotted down page numbers at the end of class today and yesterday.

“No,” I said.  “Should I?”

He told me that I didn’t have to, but that it could prove to be valuable data.

I thought about it, and on our last day of class this week, I asked for an honest recording of where my students were in their books.

And now I have proof that they’re reading.
When I checked in, most students (yes, most) were a little behind, but not by much.

At first, it was mega-disheartening to see that most of my students weren’t where I wanted them to be, but, really, what does this data tell me?

First, it tells me that even though they’re not where I’d like them to be, they’re actually reading these books.  That’s awesome.

Secondly, and most importantly, this data informs my instruction for our next genre study.  Although my students are making progress, they’re moving more slowly than I thought they’d go.

For our next unit, I know that I should cut their assigned reading in half:  Instead of two chapters a day, I’ll give them one.  Instead of twenty pages a day, I’ll assign ten.

I’ve also had a few peaceful (and not so peaceful) protests.
emilyI’ve had intense resistance from three students who are actively refusing to pick up their chosen text. It’s not that they can’t read it:  they’re refusing to read it.

I remind them that they chose their assigned text themselves, and that if they need help, I’m here.

I remind them if they want to switch, they still can.

I remind them that when they’re ready to try, I’m here.

As frustrating as this can be:  these three refusing students translate to 3% of my students, which means that 97% of my students are making progress in their assigned books.

97% of my students are reading their assigned novels, even if they’re moving slowly.  

What’s more:  even though these three students are refusing to read their assigned texts for our genre study, they’re still reading their free choice books at the beginning of class.  Even within their peaceful protest, these students are still reading.

We’ll get there together.

The First Day(s) of School

Today marks the last day of the first week of school. I’m feeling so lucky to be able to work with the same group of students that I had a few years ago as freshmen, now juniors.

One of the best things about looping with students is that the first day doesn’t have to be about rules or the syllabus.  They know me, and they know my expectations.  We can just GO.

We spent our first day in a circle, reintroducing ourselves to each other, writing a little, reading a little, and answering the silly questions I wrote on index cards and really, just reconnected.

Just a year after they left me, my students are all over the place. Some have continued reading, some have read a single book, some have fake-read assigned novels, some have read absolutely nothing since they left me. (This made me sad. They collectively read 939 choice books just a year ago!)

If your students are anything like mine, they’ll all tell you that they hate reading in the first days of school, EVEN IF THEY READ TEN BOOKS A YEAR AGO. I tell them that they haven’t found the right book, that I can help, and they roll their eyes.

The book pass
Holding book pass is so easy, and a great “first days” activity. I pull good books off of shelves, pile them on a table, and let my students at them. That’s it.

A book pass, believe it or not, usually takes the whole period, and is a great way for
students to explore different novels without the pressure of commitment.

During a book pass, students pick a book, any book, and take it back to t
heir desk. They spend two minutes reading, then decide if they like it or not. That’s it.

The goal of the book pass is not only to find books that they’ll take out that same day, but also books that they’ll read later.  This is also a great way for me to get acquainted with my students by peeking at the books that they are immediately drawn to.

I keep their notes afterwards and reference them when they’re struggling with what to read next.   If we have time at the end of the period, we spend the rest of the time reading our newly selected books.

Choosing my titles wisely.

I try to have books of all genres and ability levels available to my students. I know that if my students aren’t feeling successful during just two minutes of reading, I’m going to have a hard time convincing them to try again for longer periods of time.

I also tell students not to limit themselves to the book table…if they’re seeing something interesting on my shelf, they can check that out too!

I keep my (positive and negative) comments to myself.
I bite my tongue so much during this activity. Instead of telling my students how great books are, I encourage them to sell them to each other between each pass. At this point in the year, my input is annoying.  I have all year to suggest titles to them (and I will).

No, seriously. I butt out. 
This student really struggled with this activity. Within the first thirty seconds with his first two books today, he was bored and disqualifying titles before time was up. At first, I read this as defiance. I wanted to tell him to stick it out for ALL OF the two minutes, but I caught myself.  I gave him room to breathe.  Hey, I totally put books back within thirty seconds sometimes, too!

I gave him space to read, to abandon, and to explore, and he left my room with a book.  Both of us felt successful, and I’m feeling ready to roll after this long weekend.