We all know that summer reading is important, but it’s hard to ensure that our students will continue nurturing their reading lives over the summer break.
Our department decided to try something new this year, and give a summer reading assignment to all students in place of what we have traditionally done, which has been a summer assignment for only AP students.
Because we value student voice and student choice, we are allowing the students to design their own summer reading goals and plans. The plan we developed has requirements, but with built in flexibility to allow for personalization.
The requirement is that they must commit to reading over the summer. As a department we decided that our “secret” minimum would be three books for summer reading. We didn’t want to put that number out there to the students though, as we knew some of them would go higher with their personal goals if we didn’t give them suggestions and left them to their own thoughts. Thats where the flexibility comes into play.
On the other hand, a few students had to be gently prodded into adding a third book to their lists, but they didn’t push back too hard. Because they were allowed to choose their titles, it wasn’t too difficult of a sell. They all have next reads lists based on recommendations from each other and from daily book talks. Many students planned summer reading based on their own lists.
Students were encouraged after totaling their pages for the school year. I had one student walk into class and proudly announce “Sixteen-thousand-three-hundred-seventy-one!” While not every student had read this amount, these numbers still helped students realize how much reading they would be capable of over the summer.
After the students chose their titles and wrote them down, they conferred with their current English teachers who talked them through their choices and eventually signed off on the plans.
The accountability piece comes into play in September, as these goal sheets will be passed on to next year’s English teachers and will be the basis for the first reading conference of the school year.
Our students seem keen on their summer reading planning. It’s a gentle requirement, and I believe it will nudge them into some healthy independent reading habits.
What are you doing in your classes and departments and schools to ensure summer reading? There are many ways of doing it, and I’d love to hear more ideas.
Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, and the last four in Amman, Jordan. She’s thrilled to report that she and her family will be moving across the world to Managua, Nicaragua next year, where a new adventure will begin.
Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie