Try it Tuesday: 15 Minutes to Make Time For Reading

My students don’t have time to read.  Just ask them. They’ll tell you.
In reflections, on their goal cards, to my face.

They’re sweet about it, mostly:
“I really wish I had more time to read, Mrs. Dennis. I’m just super busy.”
“The musical is just taking up all my time. I’ll get back at it soon. I promise.”
“AP tests are coming up and every time I sit down to read, I can’t stop thinking about the more important things I have to do.”

Ouch. That last one was like a swift kick to the shin. Or my soul.

But regardless of the reason, medium of delivery, or general sentiment, all of the excuses amount to the same end result: I need to keep reading at the forefront of every class period, or these kids are going to completely fall off the wagon.

As Amy alluded to yesterday in her post about personal reading challenges, we can’t always win the competition between getting our students reading and other homework, extracurriculars, or spring sunshine, but we can work to spark their interest and show them ways to make reading possible in their own lives.

Here’s what I tried at the end of last week and it took all of 15 minutes to create a buzz about setting goals, making time to read, and exploring a few new texts to capture student interest:

  1. I reminded my students how two hours of reading per week is the expectation, not just a cute suggestion. So, we started off a bit more serious. I reminded kids that I purposefully don’t give as much homework as I used to in order to help them have more time to read. We had an honest conversation (sort of one sided) about what it means to prioritize other things over reading and how it short changes their writing and their development as readers.I reminded them too that I’m busy, but I’m also a part of our classroom of readers. As specific examples can really help hit home a point (and including humor doesn’t hurt either), I shared with them that I read Columbine by Dave Cullen last week in six days (It’s honestly riveting. Unbelievably good), all while keeping my toddler entertained and alive, finding a few consecutive minutes to spend with my husband, trying to keep up with the recent release of Catastrophe on Amazon, preparing meals, doing laundry, cleaning up the house, and continuing to change their lives with my teaching each and every day (chuckle, chuckle).

    Then we took a look at this brilliant graphic from Tricia Ebarvia2 hours of reading

    I think it really helped kids to see that 2 hours of reading can be accomplished in a variety of ways depending on how they can work it into their schedule. I see my kids every other day on the block schedule, so I asked them to imagine establishing their 35 minute base either in resource period or through the 10 minutes we get to read at the start of each class.

  2. We then did a modified version of speed dating with booksMy district has really come through in recent weeks with a surge of funding for classroom libraries and as a result, I have a delicious variety of new and enticing titles.

    Allison investigates Little Princes by Conor Grennan

    In place of our book talk, I asked students to take a “field trip” around the room and judge some books by their covers. Students were asked to take two or three books back to their seats based on interest in the title, a connection to the text (someone recommended it and curiosity was stirred), or any criteria that caught their attention. I asked students to spread the books out across the table and follow these simple steps:

    • Talk about the books! What do you know about any of the books on the table? Have you read it? Heard about it? Why did you bring a certain text to the table? Students chatted for 3 or 4 minutes and comments varied from “So many people are talking about this book” to “I picked it because the cover looked interesting.” Students were also making some great connections between authors. Several students picked up The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Crane Wife  because of previous experiences with Patrick Ness and one student specifically said she chose a text because it had a recommendation from John Green on the front.
    • Next, I asked students to choose a book from the table and read it for four minutes with a directive to look over the cover, search out accolades, read the back, and flip open the book to get a sample of the author’s style. When I called time, students who were interested in their books were asked to raise the book up over their heads so others could get a look.
    • The next round of reading went the same way, with students choosing books from their tables (either something they brought over or a text a peer put overhead).
    • For the final round, students could go swipe books from other tables. I told them to keep their eyes out for texts that had been put in the air by more than one person.

I told them to act natural.

In 15 minutes we reconnected about making time for reading and explored our classroom library in search of a spark or two that could move us forward as readers. Students said they really enjoyed “shopping” for texts by looking at covers and then stealing books from other tables. They added to their “I Want to Read” lists, made some notes in their planners about scheduling time to read, and several books were checked out each class period.

15 minutes very well spent.




5 thoughts on “Try it Tuesday: 15 Minutes to Make Time For Reading

  1. […] If your reading workshop has gotten a bit off track and your students aren’t reading as much as they need to be, try the strategies in 15 Minutes to Make Time for Reading. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jesters1&11 April 19, 2016 at 8:56 pm Reply

    My kids completed the mini lesson Amy posted yesterday. I think we will use your idea on Monday of next week. It will be a great opportunity for them to find specific titles to go with their reading challenge lists they created today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cmadeleine0816 April 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm Reply

    I also like that you reminded them that it’s an “expectation, not just a cute suggestion.” So true. How do we keep helping them realize that yes, they do have time? Thank you for a great suggestion!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Amy April 19, 2016 at 8:41 am Reply

    Lisa, you know I love this, right?! I just said to my student teacher this morning: “I don’t like that we have allowed other things to take the place of our regular reading.” Seems I let this happen way too often. Every time I get in a time crunch — like this week we don’t have school on Friday because we never used our snow days, darn, and I feel the pressure of that AP exam marching closer — I find it much to easy to say, “We won’t read today, or we won’t read as long today.” I hate that I do this. But — I know I do it, so I am also constantly battling the urge to replace other tasks with reading. I know that if I do not give students time to read in class they most certainly not be reading at home. They are just too busy.

    Thank you for this great reminder to talk about books, immerse kids with books, live, breathe, and read them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jhuber2015 April 19, 2016 at 8:38 am Reply

    Awesome ideas! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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