Secrets of self-selected reading time for High Schoolers
Silent Self-selected Reading in High School
A staple of my Reading Workshop is allowing students total choice in what to read. I stake out twenty to thirty minutes of each class period (I teach in a block schedule) and have student read silently. There are some important planning pieces that have helped this to work in my classroom.
- Have a decent classroom library with a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction.
- Take frequent trips to the school library as a class to select high interest books.
- Establishing a culture of silent reading, even if that means I pull up a chair in between two chatty Cathy’s and read.
- Model being a reader. During this time, I pull out a book and read right along with the kids.
- Book talk, book talk, book talk. Let kids know about the rich selection of literature that is available to them. They are far more likely to find a book that matches their interests if they hear about it first.
- Allow kids to get comfy. I have three bean bag chairs in my room. Not a class period goes by in which students don’t sit in them during reading time. I also allow kids to spread out across the room. They love carving out their own space.
- Start with smaller increments of time and build up to the twenty or thirty minutes. I started with nine minutes in the first few weeks of school and added a minute or two each couple days.
- Solve off-task behavior immediately. If I notice a kid goofing around, I know he isn’t engaged in what he is reading. I know I have to help him find something different. Ripley’s Believe It or Not books work wonders for a kid who just can’t get into a longer text during a specific reading time.
- Immediately following reading time, I ask kids to journal. I require them to write four sentences summarizing what they read and telling me what they think about it. I can tell a lot about my students' comprehension from their responses. Some kids respond in detail and I know they are comprehending the text. Others fake their journal entry or give me really vague answers and I know they are fake reading. Some students want me to help them talk through their journal first and this gives me a chance to conference with them-a wonderful teaching tool.
Having conducted self-selected reading time for a while, I would say it is the corner stone of what I do in my reading classroom. I see even the most reluctant readers engage in texts during this time. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the few who just prop the book open instead of opening their minds. I gently encourage them to find different books or to find a way to engage in the book they have chosen.
Each day is a learning process, but if I am going to repeat anything next year, it will be this block of reading time. Huzzah!
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