September 19, 2012

Reading Success

After working at 12 hour day today, I want to take a minute to remember something very good that happened in my classroom today:

I managed to get all 25 students in my homeroom class, the class with whom we do DEAR each day (that's Drop Everything And Read, for those that don't know), to be fully engaged in their personal reading books.

And when I say fully engaged, I mean not one person in the room was "fake reading" (ELA teachers out there will know exactly what I'm talking about) as they have been for weeks. They were not just reading the words on the page, either. They were eagerly devouring the stories in front of them... for pleasure!

I know! It's super exciting, right?!

You're probably wondering what the heck I did to motivate these reluctant readers. And you're in luck because I'm gonna let you in on my strategies here...

We started with a very high-interest class novel, A Child Called It, which my students read with fervour. The shocking content of this novel was exactly what this group needed to stay engrossed in the story. It was like a bad train wreck; they just couldn't stop reading about the terrible abuse in the story. Every time I would stop them to talk about a passage, they'd rush me through my modeling to get back to the reading. It was pretty much the most engaged I've ever seen students in a whole class novel study.

As you read in my previous post, the reason we chose to read that novel for our autobiography unit was because of a discussion of "banned books" in my classroom. Since that time, my students have asked me daily about which of those books they can read next. My students find it very appealing to be able to read what others cannot.

To that end, I walked into my room today with a box of books from my personal stash. Books like Go Ask Alice, The Lovely Bones, Such a Pretty Girl, Black Like Me, Thirteen Reasons Why, and the remaining books in the series by Dave Pelzer. I also included some of my high interest books like The Hunger Games series, The Twilight Saga, The Help, and the Percy Jackson series. I explained to my class that these books were chosen especially for them, and that no other classes would be allowed to read them.

They. Were. Hooked.

I thought maybe a few of my fake readers would come browse through the box, but I was pleasantly surprised to see all of my students jump out of their seats to see what I brought. They immediately started calling dibs on novels and asking me to make waiting lists for the most popular titles. Within 10 minutes, all of my students had new books in their hands they were so excited to be reading. I told them we needed to keep reading after the DEAR bell since we spent so much time choosing new books, and not one student even flinched.

I don't even have the words to express how I excited I am to see them so engaged in reading. I now feel like DEAR time is my happy time. I could cry... tears of joy this time! :)

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