This year, I have really been pushing the students to read on their own. The traditional model of English class is to read class novels, use the text book, and stay very structured. I am fortunate enough to be at a school where this is not the model. My school models reading as an independent, unique practice. We use two things to ensure the kids are making progress in their reading: 1) independent novels and 2) reading conferences.
I have had HUGE success with reading conferences. It’s a way to personally find out what the kids are reading, who knows how to self-select books, who needs help, and who is reading books out of level. With three of my classes, most kids are able to self select books within their reading level. I have a few kids in my low level class that just do not understand how to self-select their books. We have tried to work with them. I tell them “Pick a book, if it’s not right, I pick the next one.” These kids usually have been picking for the cover of the book and have no idea what the actual content is about. For some reason, the kids keep picking this book called “The Book” and no one can get into it. That being said, it has a bleeding crow on the cover and is very “minimal”. I think it attracts the non-readers.
Some resources I have used to build up my knowledge of mini-lessons and just right books are ‘The Nerdy Book Club” blog and The Book Whisperer by Donalynn Miller . She actually recommended Nerdy Book Club to me, but whatever (: I have used this site to build knowledge of popular books and ideas for “book talking” them. Another great website for book talks is http://www.nancykeane.com The book talks on this site are ENDLESS. Some are written by critics and professionals, some are written by students. It’s a great way for me to helps students select novels for themselves that are within their realm of taste.
Have I had success with this model? Between read all-days, mini-lessons, and discussion, I have had great success. Some of my readers that were reading at a 7th grade level are now reading at an 11th grade or higher. Some of my lowest kids are actually excited about reading books, even if their reading level hasn’t increased dramatically. I have had a ton of book recommendations made for me, and students are even discussing books in class and recommending them to each other. A few of my students have already read 30+ books this year and it’s just past second semester. It’s really exciting to see this model is actually workable!!
Below is a free PDF of my Just Right Books poster. This is the model I use with students when they are self-selecting their books. My main emphasis is that they can discuss their books in a conference with me. I will post more about that later, and also take you into my classroom library that I have quickly developed this year!! Please comment with any questions or ideas!!
Just Right Books Poster (click here to download the PDF-uneditable)