In a previous post I discussed the reasons why you should add free choice reading to your English class – even if you teach upper level AP classes like I do. There’s a good chance that over the course of their high school careers they have lost a lot of their love for reading, and free choice reading can help bring that back. In this post I’m going to go over how I incorporated free choice reading in my classroom
1. Ten minutes a day, every day.
I know some teachers like “free read Friday” and have students read for the entire period. I like to do it every day because I’m trying to develop a habit and, as Gretchen Rubin says, “what you do every day is much more important than what you do once in a while.” A lot of students won’t read at home, and they can’t truly get into a book if they only read once every seven days. Furthermore, I don’t have problems with students forgetting their books like they did when they only brought them once a week.
I am very protective of this time – nothing makes me give it up. And once a week I’ll give them 15-20 minutes instead of ten.
2. Read with them.
With ten minutes a period and five periods a day, I could have 50 minutes to plan or grade papers. But I read with them. My experience has been if you read, they’ll read. And even though I’m taking graduate courses that require me to read novels, I don’t read those books either. I honor the obligation that I ask them to make for the time as well.
3. Have a classroom library.
We have a terrific media center at our school and it was hard for me to imagine that it would make that much difference if I had a classroom library. But it has. My students are much more likely to check out books from my library than they are to ask to go to the media center and look for a book there.
Fortunately I was given a pretty substantial amount of money for a classroom library from my district. I know that books are expensive. I’m not an expert on building a classroom library on a budget.
4. Don’t add any work.
My students know they’ll never be asked to do a book report. They won’t have to annotate. They won’t have to complete a certain number of books each quarter. Any of these run the risk that reading once again becomes work.
There’s always this nagging voice in the back of my head that says “shouldn’t I be doing more with this?” But the fact is, I really don’t want to rob them of the pleasure of reading. We can work on skills with other things that we do in class.
However, there are some teachers that are doing really great activities with free choice reading if you’d like to add a little more structure to it. B’s Book Love has a great blog post on this topic and Room 213 has a bunch of great activities (and products) that she uses with reader’s workshop in her classroom.
You’ll find that free choice reading has an amazing transformative effect on your classroom.