Choice Reading Personal Book Challenges

ID-10022022I participated in a wonderful #titletalk Twitter chat last night. I mentioned that I provided my students with a list of independent reading Personal Challenge options for them to choose and undertake. Several participants asked for a copy, so I promised I would post it this morning.

Here is a little background about this list.

First, for the last six years, I have devoted the first 10 minutes of every class to independent choice reading. I currently teach at an independent middle school and have 45 minute class periods (the longest I have ever had to teach middle school ELA is 52 minutes), but I believe choice reading is time well spent. We have a slightly shorter school year than the local public schools, so I changed the traditional 40 book challenge to 30 to accommodate.

Second, my school emphasizes the study of literature so, with the exception of one, the challenges are for fiction books.

Third, there are no rewards for these challenges. They are merely a fun option to get them engaged and they seem to enjoy setting their own goals.

Fourth, there is the option to design their own challenge which several students chose to develop.

If I come up with any more ideas, I am going to add them to the list for next year. Please let me know what you would add.

Below is the document I created with details of the challenges. Feel free to adapt for your own use.

Personal Book Challenge Ideas

Update: this is a graphic I created of the Personal Book challenges using Canva.

Mizerny Personal Reading ChallengesPersonal Reading Challenge

image courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net

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You mean we get to read for fun?

Whenever I am in a group of English teachers and we discuss our classroom practices, I share that the best thing I have done for my students over the last six years is to offer them ten minutes of free, choice reading at the beginning of every class. I even offer to share the research demonstrating the validity of this practice because I believe in it so much. They challenge me by saying that they cannot afford to give up the classroom time because they have so much material to cover. I completely understand this as I only have 45 minute class periods myself, but I can’t imagine taking this time away. It is a challenge, but it is non-negotiable. The conversation inevitably turns to how I assess this choice reading. I dread this question because it puts me on the defensive. My answer is that I don’t. I am always met with disbelief, disapproval, or peers that tell me their kids won’t read if it is not for points, a prize, or a grade. This has not been my experience. It works for me and my students and I see the results in their improved reading, writing, and speaking skills. Additionally, they are completely engaged on a daily basis. They enter class and open their books right away. They share their favorite books with me and even show me passages that they particularly enjoy. You can hear a pin drop during those ten minutes and they groan when it’s over. That’s enough assessment for me.

I consider Donalyn Miller, Terry Lesesne, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Stephen Krashen, and Kylene Beers (among others) to be experts on this topic and all are a huge influence on the way I run my class. I have drunk their Kool-Aid and it is my favorite flavor–literacy. In his book, Readicide, Kelly Gallagher asks readers to put themselves in their happy reading place at home. He asks, “Do you finish your book quickly so you’ll have more time to write a report, make a poster, or build a diorama?” Of course not. Adults do not do this, and children should not have to either.

My students do a great deal of formal and informal activities with the books that they read. I require them to keep a reading log including the author, title, genre, rating, and rationale for their rating. I want them to look for patterns to learn what they love and where there may be areas for growth. I have them write a literacy letter to me each marking period. They tell me what they are enjoying reading and why, and I respond to their letter. They do book talks, book trailers, and book recommendations one another. We have book swaps and book floods, write reviews for bulletin boards, make graffiti walls of favorite quotes, and use the texts as examples for mentor texts. I just don’t grade their reading in any way. These activities are naturally motivating and they always complete them. The bonus is that the children are always reading. I almost can’t keep up with the requests for book recommendations. They get so excited when I tell them I tweeted the author to tell them how much they loved the book. They take their books to other classes and read when they finish their work. (To the point where a colleague complained that all the kids wanted to do was read, and another colleague replied that there are worse problems we could have.) What more can I say? This system just works for me.

I don’t know whether this will work for you, but you truly have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Signing off for now. I am sure there is a twitter chat I am missing.