We all know that part of building a community of readers in our classrooms and in our schools requires modeling the behaviors and habits we are trying to promote.
The question for me, though, has been how? How do we model our reading lives at school when we do most of our reading at home, on vacation, or while in the waiting room during our own kids’ orthodontist appointments? Our students certainly don’t have access to those moments, so modeling a healthy reading life can be a challenge.
Of course, we do read at school sometimes. But school is busy, and while our students are reading we are submitting our attendance records, welcoming in the occasional tardy students, and conferring. It’s difficult to model the behavior we want to see in our students because of all of the tasks teachers do.
This past school year, our school tried three different easy strategies for sharing our reading lives and habits with our students. They aren’t revolutionary, new, or difficult, but they worked, and I think they are worth sharing.
- We put laminated signs on everyone’s classroom doors. Sticky notes and scraps of paper were used for posting our current titles, and students regularly noticed and commented on different titles throughout the year. 2. After finishing our books, we took the sticky notes and scraps of paper and posted them in the secondary office of our school. This is a place where students and teachers are in and out every day, and it was on a highly noticeable wall. This bulletin board was a great place to get “next reads” suggestions, and sparked conversation between students, teachers, and other staff.
- Some teachers kept a list posted in their classrooms. I kept mine on my classroom door right next to my current reads sign so that when I changed out the titles, I could easily add it to my list.
One of the benefits of going public with our reading lives like this is it has motivated me to read through many of the books in my classroom library and in our school library. As I read through my classroom library, I got to know the books better, and I was more deliberate about book talks and about recommending titles to individual students.
While posting titles isn’t exactly the same as modeling the reading behaviors and habits we are trying to instill in our students, it’s close. It’s a visual reminder to our students that we read. It’s a way to show students that we aren’t asking them to do anything we aren’t willing to do ourselves, and it’s a great conversation starter when it comes to building next reads lists and encouraging independent reading habits.
Next year I will use these same strategies, and in addition I might try to get my students involved in the same type of board — a “What are the students reading?” bulletin board in our classroom where students can share titles and recommendations with each other.
How do you model a healthy reading life to your students? I’d love to learn about more strategies and ideas!
Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for twenty years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and the most recent school year in Managua, Nicaragua.
Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie