At this time, all students should have a novel, at their reading level, of their choosing. We've been to the school library and they've explored my library; it is time for them to now make a choice and dive in for some reading.
At the start of the year, I start with independent reading for no more than 25 minutes. Kids must build reading stamina, which is directly linked with CCS. Reading stamina is crucial for college and career readiness. First and foremost, we want kids reading. I let them spread out around the room to find a quiet place. I have a few very comfortable places for kids to read, and in order to create equitable chances for all kids to get the comfortable chairs, I have a rotating schedule. I go weekly, by birthday months. If your birthday is in January, you get the comfy chair this week.
It is crucial to keep an eye on kids at this time. I just observe. Who is looking up every few minutes? Who already has strong reading stamina? If someone keeps looking up and doesn't seem to be focusing, I wave them over. I usually say something like, "I noticed you're not really connecting with your text. What do you think seems to be the problem?" Usually the kid will say, either, "Nothing, I like it, sorry." Or they will say something like, "This book is boring." Or maybe, "I'm not really understanding." This is when I make sure to let them know they aren't stuck with this book. "This is the first book of the year, lets start with something fabulous!"
Then I will help them make a better reading choice by suggesting other titles based on their interests. When suggesting titles, I usually give a stack of books for a kid to pick from. This came from a suggestion from a colleague. Give the kids as much choice as possible! Even when suggesting titles.
I explain the concept of the five-minute focus read, or the independent reading weekly goal:
Each week, every student sets an independent weekly reading goal, tailor made to the text they're reading that week. This strategy was taken from Penny Kittle.
We go over the guidelines of a five-minute focus read. I ask, "do you think it's your fastest reading? Is it your slowest reading?" We narrow down that it sounds like your most concentrated reading. I ask the question, "If a principal walked in, what would they see and hear?"
Then I set the timer and we begin our first five minute focus read of the year.
After that is complete, I have the kids go through the equation, which is attached under resources.
They must tally the total number of pages they read in five minutes. Then they take that number and multiply it by six to get their nightly goal. Then they take their nightly goal and multiply it by the number of nights they are held accountable for during that particular week. The first week, I give a two night log, so they have to multiply this by two. Finally, they must note the page they are starting on, and add the total number of pages they are being held accountable for to the page they are currently on. Then they get their reading goal for the week. I have them flag the page they need to read until in their book with a Post-It Note.
The students now understand that they are going to be held accountable for a certain number of pages per week. The next piece is that they must understand that going along with this, they will also have a reading log to complete.
On the reading log, they will submit a summary, as well as a "my thinking" section that should accompany each summary. In the "my thinking," they will essentially go a step beyond a typical summary. I explain that I am looking for some kind of extension of their thinking here.
Then I model both of these sections using our in class read aloud, Crash, written by Jerry Spinelli.
I like to use this novel at the start of the year for a lot of reasons. One, it extends nicely, because we started reading the novel during So, This is Middle School, when students were asked to write about their name. Two, the richness of the character's works very well when working on character motivation, as well as character change. Three, its hilarious. Every kid is on the edge of their seats for this read aloud.