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Choice: It's Not Just For Reading

Besides talking about books at my #yalit seminars, I also share real-world examples of student success stories, classroom activities, and how I incorporate and promote reading during the school day.

I can talk about the importance of CHOICE reading ad nauseum, and could probably write a dissertation on the topic at this point. So instead, I thought I would focus this post on student responses to reading. One of the questions I get asked frequently is "how do you know if they've read the book?" I'm going to be honest, READING is the point of the class for me and what I consider the most important. But you're right, schools require us to grade something, and since I hate reading logs, here are some ideas that I do throughout the year.

1) Free Read Friday: Barring assemblies, field days, or standardized testing, our Fridays are spent READING! As long as students are on task, we spend the 45-ish minutes of class "silent" reading. (All of us...teacher included). First of all, I will fight any administrator that says this is a waste of time. Luckily I don't have to at my school. Now, before you think that I've cracked the code to keep a class full of teenagers silent, on task, and reading for 45 minutes, I haven't. Fridays are days where I have reading conversations with students, do formal and informal booktalks as needed, give students the opportunity to write book reviews and tell other students about what they're reading, and more. Of course, the majority of the time is spent reading, and I'll be honest, most of my students honor this time and their classmates by finding a place to relax and read. I think most of them appreciated the "break" from the stresses of other classes. Do students get off task? Sure. Are there students who don't read? Sometimes. But as with any classroom, you deal with that as necessary.

2) Reading Response Projects: Besides informal conversations, book reviews, and the occasional in-class on-demand writing prompt, students are required to complete a "project" after their reading. (Middle school and high school had different guidelines for number of books read vs projects completed but every one had to complete at least a few each semester). At the start of the year I offered students a list of choices for these projects as well as guidelines/rubrics. They included anything from one-pagers, book commercials, and poetry journals... to comic strips, quote posters, and Snapchat stories. Here are a few samples of my high school class' projects this spring:

Digital art representing Moxie by Jen Mathieu

One pager for Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner

One pager for The Girl Who Was Supposed To Die by April Henry

Comic strip for a poem in The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Quote poster for Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Playlist for The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Part of the script of a book commercial for The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.