Tag Archive | SSR

Trimester Reflections

So another trimester has come to an end.  Seriously, where is this year going?!  Before I know it, Prom will be here and then graduation and then the wedding…but I am getting WAY ahead of myself.  The end of the trimester and all that I have been learning this year leads me to reflect on what I have done and what I want to do.

Things I am proud of

I am proud of a number of things I have accomplished in the last 12 weeks.  First of all, I loved the narrative writing unit in 10 B.  I have written about this before.  It really pushed students in a good way to start thinking of other types of writing besides persuasive (THANK GOODNESS!) and I think the long-term effects are more voice is coming out in my students’ writing.  Plus, it was a great way to get to know my students more.

I am also happy with how the research project in 10A improved this trimester.  While there is still room for improvement (and more ideas to come) I think it was much more successful this trimester than first trimester.  Teaching research is HARD, there is no other way to describe it.  But with anything, the more practice I have at it, the stronger the unit will become.  I also know that my students need these skills.  That makes it worth it, no matter what happens.  At least I know they have learned something.

I have also incorporated more informational texts in the curriculum and am becoming more comfortable teaching them.  I have been modeling for students how I approach these texts more and more and incorporated the Close and Critical Reading Questions to help students get to that higher level of thinking.  Again, it will take more practice – for me and my students – but I have been pleasantly surprised with how insightful the responses have been and where some students have been taking the synthesis of text and comparing across texts.

Finally, I had much more success in the choice book unit in 10B this trimester than I did in 10A first trimester.  Students for the most part really got into the books, especially The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polsnier.  I became more comfortable in my mini-lessons and conferencing with the students.  I observed deeper conversations in the groups as well.  I am hoping for more success in this as well.

Focus for Third Trimester

This trimester, I am single prepped with 10B and I have a lot of ideas for what I want to do.  My major goal is to conference with students more, especially reading conferences.  I have been doing some writing conferencing but have avoided reading conferences, at least in a more formal way than just chatting with students before or after class.  I think there are two main reasons why.  First, I felt it would interrupt the students too much during SSR.  Second, I was kind of selfish (*looks down ashamedly*).  I wanted to read during SSR time and didn’t want to give that up.  However, I am much more aware of how important that time can be in a conference.  And I also can’t wait to see the new information I will gather from my students this way.

Second, I want to balance out my units more.  I think there can be a healthy balance of reading and writing every day and not keeping them in such isolation.   For example, just because we are working on the narratives does not mean that is the ONLY thing I can focus on.  There can still be time for writing workshop as well as dedicating time to reading.  This will give more time for the choice book units and independent work for students.

Finally, I want my students interacting more.  Jim Burke stressed the importance of talk in the classroom at MRA.  I think that the more the students talk, the richer choice book discussions will be and the more independence students will have in the class.

I am looking forward to see what this trimester brings and what else I will learn this year.


Read in 2012!

Our best ideas can come at the strangest times.  My most recent one hit me when I was in the shower earlier this week.  And it was all about a bulletin board.


I have made a personal goal this year to read 50 books.  I am using Good Reads to help me keep track.  I have also told my students about it.  They tell me I am crazy for going for that much and think the number is huge.  But I told them I will do it.  Each time I finish a book (currently at five!) I share that with them

I wanted to encourage my students to realize how much they read and brag about how much they read.  Then I had an idea for the new board…Read in 2012!  Students and I would write the titles and authors of the books we read this year and post them on the board.  My mom suggested having the students write a quick review (of course!) and an idea was born.

I put the board up on Tuesday with the cards for three of the four books I had had read by that point.  I saved my most recent card to use as an example.  I couldn’t wait to tell the plan to my students but I was also wondering how they would respond.  Luckily, I knew a few students in each class that have already finished reading a book this year because of SSR or what they had told me.  

I explained the idea to my third hour, and the first reaction was kind of silent.  I called on a few students who I knew had finished a book and gave them a card.  Slowly, more students started to raise their hands and ask for note cards too.  I Googled some author for students who could not remember the names.  I added those cards to the board, hopeful what the next class would bring.

Fourth hour had a lot of interest, too.  More cards pass out, and more cards stapled for all the world to see.  Fifth hour also had a huge response!  I had a few students needing more than one card to fill out all the titles they have read so far this year.  I was ecstatic over how many cards I already had after that first day!  In this picture, only three of them are mine! 


A few more students have asked for cards as the week has gone on.  Other students have told me how they are almost done and can’t wait to put a card up.  I will remember to ask at least once a week for more titles to add.  I told my students that even if they are not in my class next trimester to feel free to come in and add to the board.  My goal is that this board will have LAYERS of cards when I have to take it down come June.  

The responses students shared are great.  Here are just a few from this week:




I will keep this updated about the progress my students and I make throughout the school year.

Music to My Ears

I have been meaning to post for quite some time, but like most teachers, I am desperate for more time.  (Which will be a whole post in and of itself one day!)  However, I am too excited about some amazing things I have been observing in my classroom not to take a moment and brag a little.

I am a huge supporter of SSR.  I was ecstatic when SSR became regular practice in our department last year.  SSR days are the best days of the week!  The idea of allowing students to read what they want to read and for fun inspires many readers.  Last year, I had a student in my tenth grade class who was actually a senior.  I had him his ninth grade year as well.  He took part, however unwillingly, in SSR.  Typically, he would just take any old book off the shelf, read it for the time, and return it.  One day he picked up Tuesdays with Morrie.  I have my own suspicious that he did because it was the smallest book on the shelf.  Whatever reason he chose it, the book hooked him.  One day as I greeted students at my door, I asked him how he like the book.  His whole face lit up and he explained that he loved it and it was the first book he has read all the way through since fifth grade.  Fifth grade!  I was blown away.  He also read The Five People You Meet in Heaven that year.  I gave him a copy of One More Day when our paths crossed this year; I hope he has enjoyed that as well.

This year I have been blessed with books.  Not only did a Donors Choose project get fulfilled, but we were also given budgets from our district to build up our classroom libraries.  I was floored!  I never thought that in these current times I would have the opportunity.  Right now, I have more books the shelving space in my classroom!  I have been truly lucky.

A number of books have attracted my students’ attention this year.  I have two books by Courtney Summers, Some Girls Are and Cracked Up to Be.  I CANNOT keep those on my shelf!  As soon as one girl finishes one, another girl is snatching it up.  Once of my students told me Some Girls Are is the best book she ever read while another read Cracked Up to Be in a week…her own personal record!  Unwind by Neal Schusterman has been a hot item with my boys.  There is no way I can keep any of the Hunger Games books on my shelf for anything.  I have two students sharing Catching Fire right now and a senior in another class borrowed Mockingjay so he could finish the series.  Then of course, anything like Hunger Games is in high demand.  I have had a number of studnets read Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I just brought in my dystopian books my students want to read.  Three students are each reading a copy of Monster by Walter Dean Myers right now.  A junior that told me he has hated reading has discovered graphic novels.  While I am still building up my own collection, I am grateful he has found some in the media center.  Two different students told me today that they are reading three books at one time…and already know what they want to read next! 

“Ms. B, can we read today?”

That question was asked by a fifth hour student on Friday.  She chose to read We Beat the Streets from my newest book order when I book talked some of the memoirs and nonfiction books I had since we just finished a narrative writing unit.  I have to pry the book out of her hands for class time (and yes, it breaks my heart to ever have to do that).  I felt awful today because I feel into the trap of feeling overwhelmed with time and I put off SSR, hoping to have extra time at the end of the period.  Students in my fifth hour were disappointed at the news.  I had at least ten students as they finished their grammar quiz today take out their books and use the extra time to read.  They actually wanted to read…not sleep or sneak texts on their phones!  It killed me to tell them to put their books away when the lesson continued.

Not only do my students want to read, but they also want to talk about reading.  Students come up to me nearly every day giving me updates on what they are reading, sharing titles, requesting copies for my library, or asking for recommendations.  I love having a discussion with a student about a book we have both read.  I love to hear that someone is waiting for a copy of a certain book because her friend told her how good it is.  I feel like I am building a community of readers and it feels amazing!

Some may say there is no “scientific evidence” to support SSR.  I don’t need any scientific evidence.  I witness the power of it every day in my classroom.