It’s the fourth week of school, and some students are starting to panic as their weekly reading homework grades are showing up in our online gradebook. When they come to me, concerned, I ask, “Have you been doing your reading homework?”
Sheepish grins, embarrassed blushes, and nervous giggles follow. I know I need to give my students some tangible reminder of why they need to be reading two hours per week.
Objectives — Using the language of the Depth of Knowledge Levels: Calculate how much you can read in two hours; Estimate how your reading rate will change over a two-hour time period; Assess your own reading fluency and growth. Or, from the Common Core: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
Lesson — We begin class, as always, with independent reading. I ask students to pay attention to what page they’re starting on and start a timer for 15 minutes on the board.
At the end of the 15-minute reading period, I ask students to count the number of pages read and multiply that number by eight to calculate their reading rate. They complete their calculations and jot down their reading rates as I pass out paint strips and Sharpies.
“Today I want to remind one another about the importance of frequent reading. We can’t become better readers without lots of practice reading, which is why your weekly homework is to read for two hours. So, we’re going to make some bookmarks reminding us why we read, and also reminding us how much we should be reading.”
I ask students to take out their phones and look up a quote about reading. Once we all choose quotes, I model on the document camera, writing my chosen quote on my own paint strip. Students grab some Sharpies and a paint strip in their favorite color and doodle their quotes on their paint strip bookmarks.
“Once you’ve gotten your quote down, add your reading rate to your paint strip, nice and small. You’ll want to change your reading rate whenever you switch books, and you’ll also want to note your new reading rates on the log sheet as it goes around each day.”
Then, I ask students to think about what might happen to their reading rates over time. Jared predicts, “I think if I sit down for a solid two hours and read, I might read more than my reading rate. When I really get going I can read pretty fast.” Shailyn predicts, “My reading rate will increase…majorly!”
“What about if you read a harder book?” I ask.
“Um, I think I’d probably start out slow at the beginning, but as I get into the book, I’ll read it faster,” Shailyn adds.
“Awesome,” I say. “We’ll have to see what happens. So, as you use your bookmarks in the coming weeks, keep an eye on how your reading rate changes week to week, and how quickly or slowly you read your required number of pages. I’ll check in with you in reading conferences soon.”
Follow-Up — Now that students have a tangible reminder of their reading homework to use as a bookmark, they can hold themselves more accountable. The quotes give them a rationale for reading, and the written reading rates give them a reminder of their reading goals. By self-monitoring both, students can assess their own reading progress far better than I can, and we’ll confer about that self-assessment during class for weeks to come.