Guest Writer Katie Prescott on Personalized Reading Goals
As an English teacher, I have always encouraged my students to read, but I had not found strategies that I felt “really worked”. After attending a PL Session with Jill, Melissa, and Kelly on how to increase the volume of reading in my high school English classroom, I set out with a mission. The very next day, I started showcasing a new novel with a small book talk at the beginning of each class. I made multiple trips to the FHS Library to take out books to bring into my classroom for these showcases. I pleaded (but it didn’t take much convincing) with one of our amazing librarians to order even more books that I heard about when Jill and Melissa came into my classes to give a “30 Books in 30 Minutes” presentation, which actually turned into an hour because once they start, they can’t stop! Also, when 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 or from student to student. Simply just sharing books consistently, and with passion, was so effective.
As our Quarter 3 Independent Reading Focus, I created a Reading Goal Reflection Guide for students. For the first time, I gave them the power to choose their own reading goals. I asked them to consider their current reading habits, life-circumstances, and what struggles they have with reading. I gave them sample goals from the resources we explored at our PL Day, such as Jennifer Buehler’s Teaching Reading with YA Literature.
Allowing students to create their own reading goals and to make a plan of how they will reach their goals gave them ownership over their reading. I heard students saying how much they loved “this project” and that they “have never read this much”! Some students challenged themselves to read five books throughout the quarter, while other students challenged themselves to read just ten minutes a day or to complete one book. I loved that these goals were flexible and inclusionary, allowing students to start where they are and move forward. I had a mini-conference with each student on the day they created their goals and another mini-conference at the halfway mark. While reading their final reflections, my heart was filled with so much joy. The results were even more meaningful than I anticipated:
As a final assessment, I took Kelly Bidlake-Jamieson’s idea of asking students to create a zine for one of the books they read in Quarter 3. They shared their zines in small groups. I wanted to focus on just enjoying reading and sharing their experiences over a heavy assignment. In reading the zines afterwards, I realized that maybe I did not give enough instruction on what a “strong” response to the questions might look like, as many of their responses did not show as strong of a representation of the outcomes as I was hoping. I know this is simply another reminder about the value of, and necessity for, giving students model texts before creating their own. Although this is a change I will make next time, these book talks resulted in students adding even more books to their “lists” and the passing of books from one set of hands to another, which is exactly what I hoped for!
Here are a few of my students’ recent favourite books:
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
1984 by George Orwell
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
Sula by Toni Morrison
Katie currently teaches 112 English at Fredericton High School and here is what she has to say about teaching high school students: “I love my days with my students. I love their honesty, their vulnerability, their voices, and their passion. They break my heart, they challenge me to be better, they teach me, and they inspire me each and every day”. Next year, Katie will be a part of the 6-12 literacy team, and we are beyond thrilled!