A few years ago, my teaching colleagues and I read the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher and decided it was really important for us to support student reading growth with dedicated time in the classroom for choice reading.
Gallagher's main argument is that school's have killed the love of reading and that to engender this in our students again, we need to let them read purely for choice, with no guided accountability.
However, this is hard to do because as a teacher, I want to monitor their growth and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, especially if we are using valuable class time to do it.
Based on the recommendations of a peer and through conversation with my teaching partner, we have decided that we were going to read for 10 minutes EVERY day this year. We will have the students create reading goals based on their desired speed and fluency. We will use their state testing data as a place to begin and then time them on the first day we give them reading time in class. We will then tell them that at the very minimum, they should read for 90 minutes a week, which means that they will be accountable for 40 minutes on their own each week.
I disagree with one of Gallagher's ideas as I think it is still important to guide students towards the right books and to support them by having personal goal setting and accountability. I have not collected any data yet, but we have read every day so far. The best thing has been that they have all had a book and have been talking to me about stories. I hope that it will go beyond that, but time will tell based on their written reflections and some conferencing I plan to do in coming weeks.
As today is one of our short Wednesday periods, we will devote all of our 30 minute class period to establishing our purpose and plan for SSR for this year.
Then I will have students look at their testing data from the past school year and create reading goals based on the skills they need improvement with. For example, our state test assesses students on their ability to read and comprehend a variety of literary styles and genres (RL.9-10.10 and RI.9-10.10). Some students are already very strong with their fiction reading skills. I will encourage those students to set a goal of reaidng at least one full length informational text this semester. Some students really struggle with poetry. I might encourage them to look for a text that will help them work on their ability to interpret figurative language. Each student will have a different goal and I hope that they will see these goals as meaningful based on the data they are analyzing.
I will print out their data and have them create cards with their goals. I will use these cards to monitor progress and as a basis for conferencing throughout the year. I also hope that they will help me to focus on specific student needs as I create reading specific lesson plans and activities in the months to come.
The last 20 minutes of class will be very independent work time for my students. I will ask them create their personal reading contracts and then allow them to use the rest of the period to read.
I hope the students will be honest about their struggles so I can use these contracts to guide class and individual instruction around basic reading strategies throughout the year. These contracts will also serve to guide my check ins on their progress. As this is a very independent kind of work, it will help me to monitor if students really are using this time well.