Launching the Reader’s Workshop

Last school year I had a vision: I wanted every one of my seniors to read a book.  I wanted them to have choice. I wanted a classroom library. I wanted to incorporate a reader’s workshop into my curriculum.

I started in April and with the help of you and a grant from The Book Love Foundation, I have been able to increase my library from a measly 104 books to almost 600 books with more on the way. I have an online check-out system for students that has every title in it. I have labeled every book with my name and stamped it with a “property of Sluiter Nation” stamp. I’ve sorted each book into a category so students can “shop” by interest (fantasy, sci-fi, sports, life in high school, etc) when they are looking for something to read.

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We started school with a week of procedures and figuring out where our starting point was. Students took their first SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) Test of the year. I had them record these scores.

We talked about goals and increasing SRI scores and reading stamina. I gave them a tour of my classroom library and its categories.  I did book talks of some of my favorite things to read that are available to them in the classroom library.

And this week, I turned my 134 eighth and ninth graders loose to check out books.

It was exhilarating.

Each hour, students crowded the back of my room searching for the book that they wouldn’t hate. Some searching for a particular author or series.

I kept track of requests for authors, titles, and subjects that I didn’t have. I started wait lists for books that were checked out early in the day, but had lots of requests.

By the end of book check out day, I had six pages of book check outs that I had to enter into my book check out program on my computer.  It was the best kind of overwhelm.

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Today (Tuesday) students calculated their reading rate: how many pages they could read per hour (by counting how many pages we could comfortably read in 10 minutes and multiplying by 6). When the 10 minutes were up, many students were complaining that they wanted to read longer because they had just gotten into their books.

My usually chatty junior high classes were silently immersed in books. Almost every student. I only had to take three kids aside out of 134 and discuss being respectful to our sacred reading time. Three.

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We have a long road ahead, but this week was the start. Kids are reading. All the books I’ve lovingly collected and organized are out there.

I really can’t wait to get a groove, learn what works and what doesn’t, and see kids discover reading. Some kids are doubtful and I can tell who will be my “project kids”; but some…oh…some.  They are on fire about this.

That is what keeps me fired up too.