Even Older Kids Should Have Time to Read in Class
In her article for MiddleWeb, Marilyn Pryle describes how scheduling silent reading time for her ninth- and tenth-grade students during the first 10 minutes of each class became “one of the most profound and fulfilling modifications in classroom teaching” she has made in her career.
Students now “read, and can’t stop reading,” according to Pryle, instead of skimming entire volumes at the last minute, as they used to. “They finish their novels in as little as two weeks, often even less. They want to know what will occur that motivates them to read during study hall, at home, and in our lectures.”
In Pryle’s opinion, the shift underscores what many educators already know: if we want pupils to read—and perhaps even learn to enjoy reading—time for in-class reading must be prioritised in the school day. Price is an author and was named Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year last year. It is far from a waste of time, and it can have a significant and long-term impact on students’ reading and writing skills, despite the intense pressures placed on teachers to meet academic requirements. When schools make the shift to include in-class reading time, it can have a significant and long-term impact on students’ reading and writing skills.
This is a problem that literacy experts like Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, have been working on for quite some time. “There aren’t enough books in schools,” Gallagher says, echoing a complaint that has been heard before. “There isn’t a wide enough selection of literature available in classrooms. In addition, there isn’t enough time for them to read at school. “Those are the factors that must change.”
It is also necessary to provide students with guidance on how to find a diverse range of books that they might enjoy; exercises that teach them how to engage with and think deeply about what they are reading, at least occasionally; and countless low-stake opportunities for reflection that reduce the pressure students feel around reading by removing it from the stressful realm of more homework and grading.
Daily, students in high school English instructor Chris D’Ippolito’s classroom read for between 10 and 15 minutes at the start of each class period—and, once or twice a month, for even larger blocks of time—a practice he believes is essential for preparing pupils to be lifelong readers. “Providing pupils with both choices and regular practice helps to foster a school culture that places a high priority on literature,” adds D’Ippolito. Daily practice becomes habitual, and even if students aren’t reading at home, they’re still getting the experience they need to create a lifelong independent reading habit, says the author.
Try Book Clubs: In addition to her regular curriculum, Pryle creates book clubs for her high school pupils, allowing them to choose their groups and the novels they’ll read in the process. She follows a set of simple rules: Students’ choices for books must be a minimum of 150 pages in length, and each book must be a new title to everyone in the group, according to Pryle, who also points out that teachers can analyse students’ choices to verify that they are acceptable for their age group.
If a student is having difficulty finding a group to belong to, Pryle steps in to assist by asking the student about friends or acquaintances who are also enrolled in the class. “After that, I discreetly converse with someone in the group, usually choosing the individual who appears to be the most mature and nice.” “So far, everything has worked out well.”
Provide Choice and Encourage Agency: Pryle views choice as a learnable and vital talent that is “not else nurtured in most children’s school experiences.” Provide Choice and Encourage Agency: For book recommendations, she advises her pupils to consult their friends and parents, as well as their teachers; she also suggests that they use Goodreads or Amazon to discover novels they’ve already read and scroll through related book suggestions. In her school library, she invites pupils to peruse the materials and makes “soft suggestions.” As a result, when her school adopted a remote learning model, she continued the book discussion by filming and sharing videos on books on her Google Classroom, as well as submitting suggestions for further books on the site.
Sometimes schools and communities opt not to allow pupils to explore books in such a broad manner. In this scenario, Pryle recommends that pupils be given a list of literature that is as broad and varied as possible to choose from. “This will ensure that the element of choice, which is critical in this process, is preserved,” she explains.
Encourage Students to Participate in Low-Stakes Reflection: Some traditional evaluation and accountability techniques, like mandated daily reading logs, can hurt students’ motivation to read and can transform daily reading into something of a burden rather than an enjoyable pastime. Compulsory graded essays at the end of every book, on the other hand, have the unfortunate effect of turning reading into a tiresome cycle of reward and punishment. Nonetheless, some type of accountability measure is important so that teachers can ensure that students are reading and comprehending the material.
Alley Thrower, a continuous improvement coach in South Carolina, came up with a reading accountability exercise that turns it into a social activity, reducing some of the typical emphasis on external motivators such as grades to motivate students to read.
She begins by assigning pupils to a partner—someone who “will challenge them academically while also encouraging them emotionally,” according to her writing. “Mini-lessons to assist students to understand their position as reading accountability partners—how they can keep a peer accountable for daily reading while also being responsive to feedback,” she writes after that. These dialogues are avoided at all costs by Thrower, who strives to avoid “stipulations or awarding marks or other measures.” “Simply put, the objective of this practise should be to encourage kids’ enjoyment of reading.”
In Pryle’s classroom, each five-week book club cycle concludes with two low-stakes assessments: one on vocabulary and one on reading comprehension. For Goodreads, students write a one-page review of the book they’ve read, and then they break into groups for a 60-minute discussion of the book they’ve read. Students can participate in an hour-long conversation in one sitting, break it up into 30-minute segments, or even break it up into short chats spread out across the five-week cycle as they work through their books. Using a Google Doc, she requests that students submit either typed notes from the discussion or an audio recording of their interaction. The chats are monitored by Pryle, who looks for “convincing evidence of an intelligent, natural 60-minute conversation” and notes his observations with “improvement tips.”