As my summer vacation comes to a close I am looking forward to new beginnings. Over the summer I read the book, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. This book was written by a teacher of intermediate Language Arts. She is so passionate about reading in her classroom it is difficult not to question every single one of your own practices in the classroom while reading about hers. Some of the main points that Miller makes in this book include:
-creating an environment in the classroom that is conducive to reading
-establishing routines so students are set up for reading success
-allowing students to choose the books that they read
-setting challenging yet attainable reading goals for students
In her book, Miller describes the way in which she took her usual Language Arts classroom and challenged her students to finish forty books each by the end of the school year. She sets minimal guidelines on the books that they read. According to her experience, it is best when students have a say in the novels that they read. She does provide some guidance about the number of books per genre that students should read, but beyond that it is all up to them.
When I first read this book I had this empowered feeling like I needed to completely revamp my course and copy the teaching style of Donalyn Miller. If she could get fifth graders to read forty books in a year then my ninth graders should be doing close to one hundred, right? Not quite.
So as I approached this book and tried to apply it to my own classroom I definitely had to consider ways in which teaching ninth grade varied from teaching fifth. In years past I have been fairly successful with my independent reading implementation. Each year I’ve had students read four books on their own outside of the classroom novels and texts. At the end of each quarter they had to perform some sort of presentation or project to the class which varied from quarter to quarter. Although I experienced success with this practice I did feel convicted to require more reading. One thing I was doing by requiring one novel a quarter was stifling these ninth graders. On average a ninth grader should not take more than three weeks to read a novel written on their reading level and I was giving them nine weeks.
So with this information considered I’ve designed a slightly adapted version of the Forty Book Challenge for my class this year. It is called Nine in 9th. Students in my class this year will be required to read two books per quarter and one over Christmas break. Additionally, students are expected to bring a book to class everyday. If they go above and beyond the book number expectation there will be incentive. I plan to address independent reading books more frequently in my class this year than in previous years. I want to give opportunities to students to talk to one another and myself about what they are reading.
For each book they finish for the Nine in 9th there will still be some form of assessment or presentation, but I want to keep the focus on doing reading and less on assessing reading. At this age level my goal is to hone in on skills they have been building for years and also to develop a love and routine for reading daily in the life of these young adults. Each quarter one book assessment will be a writing prompt and the second will be a creative presentation.
Many of you are well aware of my passion for reading. This fire has lit a fire into my teaching about passing that passion on to my students. As the year begins I look forward to sharing with my students about the books I’ve read recently and I hope to spread some enthusiasm for reading to those who may lack that passion. I anticipate a great year and I also am excited to start getting book recommendations from students once more.
A final thing that I am working on for the reading portion of my curriculum is a class hashtag for Instagram. If you want to join in or follow along we will be posting pictures of the books we are reading using the hashtag: #sisleynine. Using this hashtag we will be creating book reviews in fifty words or less. This will be a great tool for sharing books and recommendations with one another. Here is the book I am currently reading and the first ever post on my new class hashtag: