If I were to ask any educator which instructional practices create joyful readers, you might expect to hear any of the following: a rich classroom library, access to just-right books, teachers who model a love of reading, supportive parents, and more. You probably would not expect any educator to say a high-stakes assessment could create readers. But according to my son, it does.
You might not expect a child to come home from multiple days of high-stakes assessments as a joyful reader. But he did. You might not expect a child to be more excited about reading than he was before the three-day ELA assessment. But he was. You might not expect a child to wish there were just a few more days of assessment. But he did.
Why? Since the assessments were untimed, students who finished before the rest of the class were able to sit at their seats quietly and read a book of their choosing. Each day, he was able to enjoy uninterrupted reading time, something that can be hard to come by in a busy school day. Those precious minutes spent reading a text of his choice without interruption or a response requirement reminded him what it felt like to be a reader . . . who actually reads. I marveled over the fact that a high-stakes assessment actually provided him with this precious reading time, and collaborated with teachers to make a plan for more independent reading in our classrooms.
Here are ideas from Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild, Pernille Ripp’s Passionate Readers, and Penny Kittle’s Book Love as inspiration. Each inspires teachers to reconnect with their reading lives and make time for independent reading in the classroom. But how? Here are some suggestions for putting them to work.
Rethink morning routines. Ah, morning work. I don’t know about you, but I do not like to start my day with a required task that does not hold personal meaning to me. I like to ease into my day with a cup of coffee, scrolling my news feed and professional social media feeds, and even writing a few sentences in my daily sentence journal. I do not complete a worksheet or copy sentences into my notebook. If we think carefully about our morning routines, we might find ways to ease students into the instructional day with a bit more joy and a bit more reading. Rather than complete a worksheet or skills task, have students read independently or with a buddy. They can read a book of their choice or even head to Wonderopolis’s Wonder of the Day to spark their curiosity.
Abandon busywork. Think about the kinds of readers and writers you want to have at the end of the school year. Then, think about the kinds of daily activities you are asking students to do, and reflect honestly. Do your daily practices match your goals for the year? Get rid of the ones that do not meet your goals, and focus on the things that do. You might be surprised at what you find and the minutes you gain.
Steal back wasted time. If we were completely honest with ourselves, we could probably find times in our instructional day that are less than productive. Steal back that wasted time in creative ways. Play with your schedule to decrease transitions. Change daily attendance procedures. Rethink class bathroom breaks. Devise a new “packing up” routine. Brainstorm with other teachers and think outside the box to steal back those stolen times of your day.
Tighten transitions. Transitions can be tough, and in a busy day, there can be many of them, robbing us of precious instructional time. Think carefully about your transitions and see if you might be able to tighten them. Develop predictable and consistent transition routines, and steal back a minute or two. Over the course of a school day, these precious minutes add up.
Just do it. When it comes right down to it, we know that providing students with independent reading time during the classroom day is critical to their success as readers and even promotes reading at home. So, just do it. Take 10 minutes of your literacy block and simply let students read books of their choosing. Give it a week and see how it goes. You might find that you do have the time after all.
As you mull these ideas over, chances are you can find 10 minutes somewhere in your day to give students the gift of reading, and 10 minutes is all it takes. Ten minutes is all it takes to create a daily reading habit. Ten minutes is all it takes for students to connect with a book. Ten minutes is all it takes to remind students of the joy in simply reading for pleasure.
Where will you find 10 minutes in your day for joyful independent reading? Share your ideas with other teachers using the hashtag #just10minutes. Take pictures of your new morning routine, tightened transitions, and innovative ideas to give students the gift of time to read for pleasure. Together, let’s celebrate the accumulating minutes we are providing to our students to develop a love of reading. You never know: You might find yourself looking for #just10moreminutes next!