For the challenge they needed to read a certain number of books in each of 10 genres, plus several free choice books. Every teacher sets up the 40 books differently, here's how I do mine:
This year, 14 out of 19 students have completed the challenge. The others each completed at least 25 books. The books totals in our class ranged from 25-90, with an average of 52 books read.
Hold on - wait - really!?!?!? That is simply amazing.
Granted, this group of students was already known as "readers," by teachers of previous grades. But still...
So what did I do differently this year to have such a dramatic change in results?
1. I made a concerted effort to emphasize productive reading habits. My students took to bringing their book with them everywhere - even to the computer lab since it takes 3-4 minutes for the computer to load. This is a strategy Donalyn Miller talks about in her terrific book, The Book Whisperer.
2. We did our weekly check-in, It's Monday, What Are You Reading? religiously. They held each other accountable, "You're still reading that book! It's been 3 weeks! That book is only 200 pages long. You need to do something about that."
We developed a cult of excitement about books. At It's Monday, What Are You Reading? books changed hands regularly. "What part are you at?" became the most popular question. Heated discussions, spoiler alerts, and debates over which book is best in the series were commonplace.
3. The 25% Boards were effective motivators. Students fist-pumped whenever they reached a new board. "Yes! I can sign the 50% board!" They smiled broadly as we clapped for them.
The only downside, is that the social pressure was maybe a bit too intense. I'm a bit worried about my 5 students who "only" 25+ books. Although I told them that it was only a challenge, and we emphasized how awesome it is to read 30 books in one year, the social pressure to finish all 40 was palpable. Still, I had a one-on-one conversation with each student during the last week of school to emphasize their incredible reading growth this year.
4. I took on the challenge for myself as well - and made my progress VERY VERY public. You can read more about The Teacher's 40 Book Challenge in my reflection post.
Something I still need to work on ~
Also - I had several students who still avoided poetry, nonfiction, and traditional literature like the plague. I know that the best way to prop up these genres is to get excited about them myself... working on that...
I successfully added nonfiction read alouds this year and my class got really into reading nonfiction books by Kadir Nelson. I'm still looking for really engaging nonfiction to read aloud - I discovered Catherine Thimmesh's books this year so I may read one of those. Of course, I also need to read aloud more poetry.
Perhaps we will try a sequence of read aloud books:
I'm really curious to see if these results will be replicated next year. If so, that means that this success wasn't just a group that already read a lot. Crossing my fingers.