Reading Goal Progress

My students and I have set reading goals for the second half of our year. Each of us chose what seemed right for us. My goal is to read a list of classics that I never read when I was in school. Some of my students are working on reading a set number of minutes each day, a number of books each month, or a new genre. Each of us posted our goal on a book page cutout that we attached to the classroom door.

By posting my own goal, I've showed my students that I'm taking this seriously.

By posting my own goal, I’ve showed my students that I’m taking this seriously.

Each Friday, we are evaluating the progress we’ve made. I created a road on the wall of my classroom from black paper.

The street I created to track our progress toward our goal.

The street I created to track our progress toward our goal.

My theme this year has been cars and driving, since I’m using a textbook called Reading Street. Each student is represented by a small cutout of a car. The cars started out lined up at the bottom of the road. Road signs move up the side of the road at 6 inch increments. Each road sign is marked Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, etc.

Last Friday was our first evaluation check. I admitted to my students that too many things got in my way and I couldn’t read as much of Pride and Prejudice as I would have liked. My progress for the week was about half. Each student moved his or her car the amount he or she thought represented the progress for the week. The students seemed to be pretty honest about it. I pointed out that fibbing about the goal progress wouldn’t help anyone, so it wasn’t worth doing.

As you can see, some students made progress, others didn't.  Hopefully, next week, everyone will start moving up the wall.

As you can see, some students made progress, others didn’t. Hopefully, next week, everyone will start moving up the wall.

My students have really taken to the goal setting we’ve been doing. Each Monday, we check to see who met the goal set for their weekly test score. Then, on Fridays, we will look at our reading goal progress. Based on the weekly test scores and our winter reading screeners, I think all of this may be helping. My students’ reading abilities seem to be showing growth.

Do you set goals with your students? Do you include yourself in the goal setting?

Are Boys Getting the Short Stick in School?

I’ve been seeing quite a bit about issues for boys in school. One piece I read asked “what is your ideal student? Did you describe a girl?” I was kind of surprised to realize that, typically, an ideal student is one who is quiet, compliant, raises their hand politely, etc.
this pretty much describes our female students.

Many of the boys in my classes are very bright. However, the behavioral expectation for them is to sit quietly and let the expert in the room (the teacher) provide them with knowledge. Now, that’s not my usual teaching style, but lately, that’s what the curriculum our school district is using dictates. I try to have students discuss with their group at times, but overall, the textbook requires me to be up in front, explaining the content. Since I’ve been told to follow this curriculum “with fidelity”, I can only modify occasionally.

All of this got me thinking: would it be helpful for students (boys in particular, but girls are also antsy at times) to have treadmills, exercise bikes, etc in the classroom. My husband pointed out that we got a new treadmill, so we have an old one in the basement that could be taken to school. I’m wondering if this would be a good idea, or if it could lead to trouble down the line. The noise of a treadmill might make it difficult for students to hear the lesson. Students might fight over who’s turn it is to use it. Might they also get so involved in their “workout” that they forget to pay attention?

I don’t have a solid opinion about this, but it seems like a question woth asking. What are we doing to make school “work” for our boys?

Setting Reading Goals

I participated in a Twitterchat last night about setting reading goals. To be perfectly honest, I have never set a reading goal in my life. Even in 7th grade, when we were graded on how many books we read during reading class, I just read and ended up with the grade I received. I have always loved to read, but never thought too much about improving my reading.

Based on the ideas and thoughts of the chat last night, I decided to try out reading goals with my classes. So, today, I announced we would be setting a reading goal at the end of the week. I gave them the warning and time to think, because I need that time to come up with my own goal. We discussed the possible goals they could set: number of pages per week, minutes per day, books per month, types of genre, etc. I also explained to them the amount of reading in their future (in high school and college). Telling them they will be expected to read 500-600 pages each week really made an impact.

Interestingly, my morning class was totally on board with the idea. They were immediately enthusiastic about setting goals. My afternoon class, on the other hand, needed some persuading (read: arm twisting). I had several of them ask “what if I’m happy with my reading as it is?” To which I replied: it’s my job to challenge you in your education, so yes, you’ll be setting a reading goal.

Things took an upward turn when I pointed out that I had never set a reading goal for myself before, but that I’m looking forward to it. I mentioned that this would make me smarter, which absolutely SHOCKED them. They had never before thought about a teacher getting smarter. That one statement rocked their world! I think that might be the hook I needed, though. We finished our goals discussion on a positive note.

Now to see if it works. We’ll be posting our reading goals on the door for all the world to see. I haven’t yet decided what mine will be. It should be to read more classics, since I’ve never read most of them. However, it may be to read more graphic novels, since I’ve missed out on most of them, too. Or, maybe it will be to read more about technology and the future. I just can’t decide.

I’ll let you know what I settle on and how the goal setting is working with my students. Do you have a reading goal? If so, what is it?

What a great way to encourage reading!

Reading, Writing, & Religion

Note: In this post, I’ll be using some terms that are sometimes seen as synonymous. To aid clarity, I’ll use book talk to refer to a teacher or student giving a trailer for a book and bookchat or book conference to refer to a conversation about a book held between a teacher and a student.

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My English students know our routine. Each day we begin class with ten minutes of silent reading on any book. No homework, no texting, just reading. They might choose to read our current novel of study, but the majority of them read a title they themselves have selected. I ground my basis for such a silent sustained reading program in the research and real-life practices of Kelly Gallagher, Donalyn Miller, Nancie Atwell, and other teacher-leaders. In this century of rigorous standards, a daily reading routine remains one of the most…

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