Margin Notes

Increasing the Volume of Reading in the ELA Classroom PL


Recently, we met with an inspiring group of high school teachers to learn together about ways to increase the volume of reading in ELA classrooms.  We started the day in one of our favourite ways with a read aloud from a picture book and a quick write.  To make our learning visible, we then responded to the Compass Points questions and discussed/read some current research regarding the importance of reading in the high school classroom.

Next, we delved into some professional reading on increasing the volume of reading and reflected on our own reading identities and practices.  We explored the resource, “Teaching Reading With YA Literature” by Jennifer Buehler and pushed our thinking around three main ideas: Classrooms That Cultivate A Reading Community, Teachers As Expert Match Makers and, Reading Tasks That Foster Complexity, Agency and Autonomy. Following that, we looked deeper into conferring with individuals and groups through discussions and watching videos.  We also looked into the classroom conditions that were necessary to support reading and talking about reading with students.  We ended with reading like a writer by co-constructing criteria after delving into real-world mentor texts then coming back to our compass points activity to show the learning that had occurred throughout the day.  We celebrated our learning by giving each teacher a stack of brand new novels to share with their students and to add to their classroom libraries.

We asked each participant to leave with a goal to try out some of their new learning. As a follow up, we asked teachers to give us some feedback on the day and this is what they shared:

Conferring with Students

“The idea of conferencing with students while they are reading was difficult for me to wrap my head around.  Logistically I could not see how it would work.  I was concerned that it would be a distraction to the other students.  The week following the PL I decided to dive right in and give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised that it did not in fact disrupt the students, and it was extremely eye-opening.  I circled the classroom with a notebook and the copy of Penny Kittle’s possible conference questions, conferring with students and making notes.  In a span of 30 minutes, I was able to speak with on average 6 students.  In the past, I would have had the students complete a reading response, but threw that to the wayside after this PL.  I gained a far better understanding of what my student was reading and their overall comprehension during our conversation.”

Creating Book Buzz

“I have placed them with the cover out and have created the book bubbles with the summaries on them.  Kids were asking about them before I had the chance to display them.”

“Because of the amazing new books I have received this year, students now come to my classroom to see what to read next. It has gone beyond my English class!  Students from all grades come to check out the new books and ask what I think they might like to read.  It has been really fun!”

“Yes!  They love them.  I have a waiting list in my classroom beside the blurb speech balloons I made.  As soon as one student finishes, the books are immediately checked out by another.  It’s so great!”


“One of the boys in my classes has fallen love with the books written in verse (Solo, The Long Way Down).  He said that these are the first two books he has read cover to cover, and in little to no time.  He said that previously, he would often lose interest or become frustrated because it was taking him so long to finish.  It has really helped his confidence as a reader to see that he can read just as quickly as his classmates, and enjoy what he is reading.”

“Another student who is a chronic absentee at school excitedly approached me on Monday morning to tell me she had finished the book I gave her over the weekend and had spent the majority of her Sunday reading!”

“I tried doing small book talks almost every day showcasing a different novel.  I made multiple trips to the FHS library to take out books to bring into my classroom for these showcases.  I convinced the librarian to order even more books that I heard about from you and from students.  Once I knew a student finished a book they liked, I had them tell the class about it, too.  I have never seen so many books flying out of my hands after my mini-talks or from student to student.  Simply just sharing books consistently was so effective.”

As always, there is nothing we love more than a room full of keen teachers and tons of new books!

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