Establishing independent reading procedures is probably the most important beginning-of-the-year task for a reading teacher. Students need to understand that these 10 to 15 minutes of independent reading are critical to their development as readers and that this is a time for reading–really reading. The first step is to help them find a book to read.
It’s tough at the beginning of the year with 130 new students; it’s hard to learn their names, let alone their preferences in books, but you’ve got to start somewhere! A book pass is a great way to help all of your students find a book during the first week.
- Limit the number of books you’re passing. Some teachers recommend arranging all the desks in a circle, each student starts with a book and passes it around, so that by the end, the students will have reviewed 24 books. That’s too many for my students. I arrange my desks into groups of three or four and place a stack of four well-chosen books at each group of desks. The students at those desks will review those four books today and then four more tomorrow.
- Choose your books wisely. In each stack of four, I try to vary the types of books–a realistic fiction that has been a student favorite, one first-in-a-series book, a nonfiction option, and the fourth book can be anything else. Prepare many different stacks of four—not all kids need to evaluate the same books, and you’ll want some back-up stacks/titles in case students start checking out books early in the day. If you don’t have a large enough classroom library yet, ask your media specialist to help you facilitate a book pass in the library.
- Don’t judge books by their covers…or first pages. Teach students to open the book to the middle and start reading; the text in the middle will provide a more authentic look at the style and pace of the writing. The beginning of every book starts out to hook readers, so it might be a little deceiving; if the student is still intrigued after reading from the middle of the book for two minutes, the book is probably a keeper.
- Keep ’em moving. I allow four minutes to review a book; this includes recording the title and author on the log sheet, reading the front and back covers, and opening to the center to read for a few minutes. When the timer goes off, they take 30 seconds to answer a few questions on their book pass records and rate the book. Then, they pass the book and we start over. Ideally, we can complete the entire process in 20 minutes. (You can download my Book Pass Recording Sheet here.)
- Let them go. If a student finds a book he/she wants to read that day, let it go! Check the book out to the student and use a book from one of your back-up stacks. I used to want to keep the titles together and have the kids review all the same books all day long. Not only did this cause problems when more students wanted to read the books than I had copies, but the initial excitement of choosing a book was diluted by the wait. I do require they review all four books in the stack, but immediately following this book pass, they are permitted to check out a book.
Stay tuned (follow this blog!) for more tips to help establish your independent reading program. Coming this week–
- Three Go-To Titles for Reluctant High School Readers
- Strategies for Monitoring & Evaluating Independent Reading
- After-Reading Project? Keep it Real!