Tuesday, October 11, 2011


My son is in karate. When they've all been working particularly hard, the instructor will call out the word, "Enthusiasm!" Everyone stops where they are and starts clapping for each other.

As teachers, we need to do this to ourselves. So here's a little enthusiasm for me and the other teachers on my fifth grade team! We've devoted our year to one basic principle in reading, and here it is - reading. Yep. We want our kids to read more.

We have TONS of books in our classrooms (see the shelf from my classroom in the photo). We love to read. I talk to the kids all the time about books I love, and I recommend/talk up books like I'm paid to do it! (Well, in truth, I am, aren't I?)

Kids have time for independent reading in our classroom. Yep - every kid. Time to read silently. I love it!

I have even been accused of being crazy. I have a few kids who have been hooked on a book series, but I only have perhaps books one and two, so I will invite the student over to my table, get on my laptop, and order the rest of the books in the series from Amazon with One-Click. (Thank goodness for free shipping from Amazon Prime!)

And one of my most favorite things that we do? We allow our kids to select their own books to read. Yes, it's true. When I teach the standards, it is quite possible that I'm teaching a reading standard to 55 different novels. Scary? Sure. Effective? You bet. It has made an amazing difference in our classrooms! Our kids are reading more, it seems, than ever before.
As a true teacher, aka "data collector," I wanted to see if our reading initiative was working. I asked two questions on Edmodo, a safe and secure social networking site for teachers and their students.

1) Compared to your other years in elementary school, do you think you are reading
     a) the same amount as in previous years
     b) more than in previous years
     c) less than in previous years.


2) If you answered that this year, you are reading more, why do you think that's true?

So far, in 2 days, 1 student has said that he reads the same, and 17 students say that they are reading MORE. Enthusiasm!

I was also pleased when the students told me what made the difference. Here's the breakdown:

*7 students said, "My teacher loves to read, and she encourages me to read." (Pass me a tissue!)
*4 students said, "We are allowed to choose our own books to read." A true testament to the power of self-selected books!
*3 students said, "My teacher helps recommend books to me that she thinks I will like."
*2 students said, "We have time in class for silent reading."
*1 student said, "We have a lot of books in our classroom."

If I had to recommend any tips for a teacher who wants her students to read more, here's what I'd say: 

1) Read. A lot. And tell your kids, and
2) Let kids choose their own books to read!

If you follow a scripted reading program at your school, then I understand that sometimes you have to have more structure. However, if you can find a time during the year, or a little bit of time during the day, for your kids to choose their own books - do it! You'll be amazed at the difference it will make!

In 8 weeks, my students have read between 3 and 22 books each! Enthusiasm for them! They are proud of themselves, and I'm pretty darn proud of them too.