After much reading, researching, and deliberating, I have FINALLY decided on my reading incentive program for the year. I knew that I did NOT want anything to do with AR (Accelerated Reader). This program, while it has its benefits was not achieving my goal for the classroom, which has always been for students to love reading.
I believe I blogged about my views recently, but I’ll further explain my final program here. First, I must give credit to the amazing people who created, published, and promulgated the idea of the reader’s notebook and book challenges. *Note: Reader’s Notebooks, reading workshop, reading instruction, etc. ideas have been around for a long time. I have found these three sources to be the best I have come across thus far. (Pinterest–you are amazing, but I needed to do extra research to determine how I could implement a book challenge all year.)
My students were asked to bring a composition book to school for their reader’s notebook. (Next year, I’ll be sure to specify to bring a composition book with a cardboard/paper cover, not a plastic one. The plastic covers were difficult to adhere their pictures to, even with modge podge.)
After introducing the book challenge, I passed out copies of the forms to be cut and glued in their notebooks. The forms included genre tally sheet, genre overview, characteristics of a genre (see “genre hunt”), weekly schedule accountability sheet, instructions for weekly response letter, sample of student letter, and more. The package can be purchased in my tpt store- Reader’s Notebook Book Challenge.
Our first lesson was introducing all the genres (genre hunt) which I blogged about already, but it was really an awesome learning experience for me and the students. Categorizing books according to genre was more difficult then they had anticipated. We are now in the process of sorting the entire classroom library–yikes! and yay!
So far, I am one month into my school year. I have blocked off 15 minutes for silent reading in the morning. (The Book Whisperer really helped in figuring out the logistics of this entire process.) It is during this time that I conference with students individually and/or in small groups of 3. They bring with them the book they are currently reading and their notebooks. Sometimes I have them read to me. Other times we are discussing the book they are reading and how it’s working for them: are they on track to complete the challenge? If not, I try to steer them in the right direction.
As far as keeping the students accountable for their weekly response letters, I have divided the class between all five days. I have a group of students that always turn in their notebooks on Monday, a group for Tuesday, etc. This way I only have 6-7 students to read and respond to each day. I’m not sure how other teachers do this, but I would never trust myself to collect all 34 notebooks on Friday and have them back by Monday. So far, it’s working out well. A couple of days I even took them with me to lunch and completed them before school was out. The immediate feedback and constant writing about reading has already shown benefits. I feel like I have learned my kids faster than I have other years. And not simply their academic skills and abilities, but their interests and personalities. It’s been great so I’m determined to keep it up.
The following are some photos of my students work. I hope to see MAJOR improvements by the end of the year–fingers crossed!