Our English Department requires students to read at least one ORB (outside reading book) a semester, along with reading the grade level novels on our curriculum guides. Last year I noticed because the ORB reading ended in one culminating project, my students either “fake read” or rushed to finish a book at the last minute. I was fortunate enough to attend the UCI December Conference for Teachers and the keynote speakers were Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle…I know, awesome, right? Both Gallagher and Kittle make reading in class a priority because as Kittle suggests “engagement leads to volume leads to rigor.” The more time and encouragement we offer students to fall in love with books, the more likely they will read more and then in turn try more challenging texts. Following the conference, I made outside reading a priority. Here’s what I did:
1. In Class Time for Reading
I tried my best to offer 15 minutes each day solely to the reading of their ORBs. This was my opening activity and as soon as the bell rang, I stared my One Click Timer and everyone read quietly until the timer went off.
2. Reading Conferences
Taking the idea from Gallagher, I created a Student Reading Conference journal and called up about 3-4 students each period to talk about their reading. During this time, I learned what types of books my students loved, their favorite genres, and discussed the plots of their current books. Not surprisingly, many students said they enjoyed reading, but with all their homework and extracurricular activities they had stopped reading for enjoyment. Several of my Honors freshmen explained that the last time they had read a book out of their own volition and not because it was a class assignment was in upper elementary or sixth grade. The conferences were extremely valuable as I felt it also helped me establish stronger relationships with each student in my class.
3. Book Clubs
Also inspired by Kittle and Gallagher, this past month, I assigned students to Book Clubs. I selected six books for the students to choose from and asked students to complete a Google form ranking their top choices; to help, I supplied a brief synopsis of each book and links to book reviews to make ranking easier. I used the results to assign students to Book Clubs in each period. Most students were assigned to their first or second choice.
Students met once a week in Book Clubs to discuss their reactions. Each week, I provided guided questions to help support their conversations, along with assigning one task. These questions and tasks were shared on Google Slides during each Book Club meeting.
Meeting Foci (we had 4 meetings total):
- First Impressions
- Character Analysis
- Passage Annotation
- Theme/ Character Analysis (Final Meeting)
Today was our final Book Club meeting and I tried for the first time a Fictional Twitter Account activity I discovered on Twitter (ironic?). Tony Vincent tweeted this blog post. Check it out! The students made a copy of the Google Drawing template and then once they were done, downloaded the file as a JPEG and uploaded it to our Google Slides. Their creativity was astounding! As I circulated the room, I heard giggles and conversations such as “that character would say that!” How awesome to observe students having fun while they critically thought about the characters in their Book Club books.
Next week, my students who read Out of Reach will get to Skype with the author, Carrie Arcos during lunch. This will be my first time Skyping in the classroom, so I am super excited!
I don’t yet know how I plan to follow up Book Clubs, but I do know that I care about making the love of reading in my class a priority and I hope when students leave my class this year they will be able to say that they fell in love with at least one book!