Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brainstorming Ideas Regarding Independent Reading...

Met Ewan McIntosh in Bloomfield, Michigan for an all-day session on the "Design Thinking" process.
This is where it all started...

---Quarterly Book Project
How will students just keep reading on their own?
---How to read nonfiction / be exposed to nonfiction

Have students reading independently, across genres.
- This has been my goal, but the way we"assessed" independent reading is bugging me. Students are "forced" to read a certain genre, and produce a certain project (or choice of projects) once every quarter. This is to reading in real life. Yes, I want students to love fiction, and to love biographies (3rd quarter!), but that's not how adults read at all. I want them to be life-long readers, and thus life-long learners, but book projects are not the way to go. I need something that has students reading "20 min a day" like I ask of them...!

Student engagement
---issue now, is that some students just create projects that get a grade of an A even if they didn't read the book
---another issue is that some kids just don't like reading (fiction, mostly)

Troublesome thoughts about this project
---will students just do the same thing each year if this is done in multiple grades? I will not worry about that right now, as it's something I can't control anyway. The kids that do this will do it regardless
---grading... But I think I've got that figured out... Maybe!

Share books?
Get everybody reading independently?

Time, Space, and Assessment are the biggest barriers.
Conference Time... What are you currently learning? What have you learned already? What do you still need to learn? How can I help you get there? What are your next steps?


  1. Joy,
    I should have read this last February. It is exactly what I was challenged with this week by reading Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone. I should have been paying better attention, but then maybe I wasn't ready to hear it while I was in the thick of those blasted book projects last semester. I did try to tweak reading projects our last semester, but still, students were not engaged.

    I will be curious to learn how genius hour works with reading fiction. (I think I asked that question recently on another blog post comment, but I forget where! Oops!)

    Thanks again, for the challenge,

  2. Joy and Denise,
    The other language arts teacher, Staci, and I struggle with this problem yearly. After reading Atwell's IN THE ZONE and THE BOOK WHISPERER last year, I decided to do away with book talks, forms, projects, and just let the students read. I started this second semester and for third quarter I think it went okay. At the beginning of the third quarter, I met with each student and together we came up with a goal of how many books he/she could read during this time. I kept a three ring binder with a form that contained each student's name, title of book, when it was started, when they finished, if he/she quit it, etc. My intent was to meet with every student at least once a week, so I could keep track. Unfortunately, that didn't happen so accountable wasn't there; I do know that the students were glad to be rid of book talks, filling out book forms, and doing projects. Even though I didn't fulfill my objective, I still think this is the direction I want to continue.

    Fourth quarter - well, we were in novel groups, so the independent choice disappeared. During their 20 minutes of reading they read their group novel. I'm not sure about keeping novel groups or go completely cold turkey. We need to have a Twitter group, so we can chat about what to do with helping our students become life-long readers. Do we care if it's nonfiction, fiction, magazine long as they enjoy what they're reading.

    Thanks, Joy and Denise for bringing up this troubling issue.

    1. Hello, Kris!

      Oh, thank you for responding! Yes, independent reading was an issue in my class - hence the reason for this blog! If you'll notice, this is the oldest post. Once I realized I was keeping all my notes to myself, I decided to begin this blog. It is not the same Genius Hour that Denise and Gallit do, but I wanted my students to be reading - all the time! So I dedicated my 20% of the week to weekly check-ups and time to read in class. Most of their independent reading was still supposed to be done independently outside of class, but I wanted to help steer this time, and guide them to more they might like to read.

      I have a favor to ask of you... Could you now read the rest of my blog posts for this blog? They will help you see the journey I went on, or the process I went through, to try to get the kids to READ. (After all, who can't read the summary or reviews of a book the night before a project with a fail-proof rubric is due and turn in a beautiful project that takes me 20 min to grade and not get an A?!?! This was my frustration!) Anyway... I am so elated you read this first post. I hope you take some time to read the others - maybe this will help guide other conversations we'll have. Oh, and let's check to see if Twitter has a hash tag for us. If not, let's make one!!

      Thanks again, and keep doing what you're doing - let's get every student to love reading!!

  3. Joy and Kris,
    I'm glad to have other middle school teachers to connect with who are struggling with the same things! And I keep adding new books to my reading list!