We’ve now been in school for one month. One month! I can’t believe it. It seems like just yesterday I was putting my classroom back together. Now that all the nitty-gritty has been taken care of (syllabus, classroom expectations, where to find things in the classroom), class has settled in and there’s the slow hum of students reading and writing.
By the end of the first week of school, students understand that independent reading is a big component of my class. Many smile, as they love books, but there’s always a small handful that dread finding books to read, let alone reading them.
The following strategies have worked in my classroom with all kinds of readers, voracious and limited and everywhere in between. And if you think about it for a minute, don’t we all have ups and downs in our reading paths? I know for me, there’s been times that I have read book after book, created piles of completed books and piles of what-to-read-next books in my house. There has also been times where I don’t want to pick up a book, that I can think of a million other things I would rather do than read. When I understand that of myself, I understand that of my students.
The goal in my classroom is to foster a love of reading, and grow as a result, no matter where a student is on their reading path. If you’re looking for ideas to grow all your readers, try some of these!
This is a helpful tool getting to know students on a deeper level. The background they provide is paramount to seeing where a student came from, and to guide future conversations and lessons. I give out this survey the first week of school and keep it in a binder with reading conference notes.
This is also helpful to see writing genres students like, strengths they see in their own writing, and how scoring rubrics help them grow.
If you’d like to see what I use, click here.
I have a LARGE 3-ring binder. In the binder I have all students’ Read/Write Survey, alphabetized and sectioned by class period, and a sheet of paper tracking books students are reading along with notes for reading conferences.
My goal is to conference with each student once a month, to ask questions about their reading habit, questions about their current novel, questions about novels in general. While they talk, I make notes. Then, when we meet next time, I look at the notes (and sometimes talk about what they said in their Read/Write Survey) and use it to help encourage the student along.
This is such an amazing tool! Every year, I have students complete a book recommendation sheet on a favorite book they think others would enjoy. Those recommendations go in binders, separated by genres, for future classes. (In the picture below I have two binders on top of one of the bookshelves. I had an aide create a cover and organize all the papers.)
Just the other day I had a student stare at the classroom library, and I went over to her and asked if I could help her find a book. She shook her head. “No, Mrs. Dottarar, I think I’m just going to look at the binder.”
She sat in my rocking chair, read recommendations for about 5 minutes, then asked, “Do you have this book?” Love it!
Click here for a student recommendation form.
There is a page in each of my student’s English Notebook titled What-to-Read-Next. Every time I book talk a book, or they hear friends or classmates talk about a book, and it seems interesting, they write the title down on the page. Often when I conduct reading conferences I ask, “What are you thinking about reading next?” Many turn to the page in their Notebook and show me. If they shrug their shoulders, I grab a post-it, ask a few questions about their likes in stories (plot lines, characters, genres) and jot down a few titles.
Every Monday I share two books that I love and think students will enjoy. When I book talk books, I put up a slide that has the title of the novel, author, genre, and page number. Then I give a brief summary of the book–brief as in 3-5 sentences.
After that I either read a short passage, show a book trailer, or find the author reading from his/her own book. I print out the book jacket and tape it on the whiteboard in the back of the room, under the title Book Talks. That way, students can see what books I shared and read them if they’re interested.
It’s important to share what you’re reading with students, even if you don’t plan to book talk the books. Sharing your completed reading list and your what-to-read-next list is as valuable as you seeing what they are reading. Students see that reading matters to you too!
This idea comes directly from Penny Kittle’s book Book Love. I spent one summer with 38 composition books, scrapbook paper, 3×5 cards, and packing tape to create these. About every trimester I pull the books out, have students look at the topics and choose one theme topic that relates to their book. They then find an open entry, write the title of the book, author, and a few paragraphs connecting something in the book to that theme topic.
I have done this for 6 years now, and they are slowly filling up! It’s also a great way for students to not only read other student’s writing, but if they like a particular theme topic, they can pull out the comp book and see book recommendations right there!
What strategies do you use to help foster and encourage readers in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!