Tagged: promoting reading

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What’s on your Kindle?

favicon KCP teacher Lara (Oakland, CA) sent me this great photo from her classroom whiteboard. Check it out!

What's On Your Kindle?

Have you read any of these books? Feel free to let everyone know in the comments! (I’ve read The Maze RunnerLet’s Explore Diabetes with OwlsTakedownThings Fall Apart, and Murderville.)

I really like what Lara is doing here. In a quick and informal way, she is celebrating her students’ reading, identifying good books, and building a reading community.

Reading is both a private and a social activity. On the one hand, we all need space to be with our own book and our own thoughts. On the other hand, reading offers an opportunity to connect. Young people have told me the exhilaration they feel when they talk to a peer about a common book they’ve read.

Thank you, Lara, for your dedication to your students and your hard work to promote reading in your classroom! favicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Marni Spitz, #7

“I’ve changed my mind about Kindles.”

ms. spitz 4favicon I’ve changed my mind about Kindles. (I’ve also changed my mind about which Janet Jackson album is my favorite, but that is blog post for another time.)

Back to the Kindles: It’s not that I never liked them, it’s just that I was always on the side of real, tangible, physical books. You know—books. Turning the pages! Judging the covers! (You know you do.) Bookshelves! Oh, the bookshelves! And of course, that incomparable feeling that happens when you close your book on that final page, look up, and relish in its completion. When it came to books (and my taste in pajamas), I was traditional and old-fashioned. But now, I am all aboard the Kindle Train. Toot! Toot! (But I still love me a matching flannel set of PJs.)

What caused this radical transformation, you may ask? It wasn’t my own Kindle-reading experience, but rather it was witnessing the incredible happiness and reading-frenzy that Kindles have sparked in my kiddos.


Here’s what happened: I got 20 Kindles to loan out to my young readers (thank you, Kindle Classroom Project!) and started dealing them out like crazy in my Reading Lab classes. Before you knew it, I was the Stringer Bell of Kindles! I was the Lucious Lyon of a Kindle Empire! And with each day, the Kindle following spread like a Taylor Swift song. Kids who weren’t even in my Reading Lab were requesting Kindles. In fact, kids who weren’t even my students were requesting Kindles. I simply did not have enough to meet the demand.

So I did what any successful Kindle dealer would do—channeled my inner Stringer Bell and widened my turf: I got more! Twenty more! I now have half my Reading Labbers hooked on their Kindles, including a few of those sassy pants who at the beginning of the year unabashedly told me there was nothing I could do to help them like reading. Look at you now, sassy pants! You can’t get enough of your Kindle! (Cue told-you-so smirk and giggle.) Kindles have been nothing less than magic for my young readers in a way I never could have imagined.

One huge Kindle Classroom perk that I have observed from Kindle-dealing is the infinite access to books. While I absolutely love my classroom library (bookshelves!) and love the value on reading it communicates, it can be limiting. At most, I have five copies of a certain book. But with their Kindles, my students have an endless library at their fingertips. They really have the whole world in their hands! No more, “Oh I’m sorry, Honey! Perfect Chemistry is all checked out!” or “I’m sorry, Sweetie! I don’t have the third book in the Maze Runner series!” or the saddest of all: “ I’m sorry, Darling! We don’t have that one.”

When those conversations happened, my students would would have to wait forever to get the book they wanted. And when that happens, when you can’t put a book that a kid requested in their hands, that is just heartbreaking. But Kindles mean they can read any book they want, when they want, how they want. (Like Hulu, but for books! And completely free for my kiddos! Free Hulu for everyone!)


It’s absolutely awesome. When a student like Starr, who has received almost more referrals than any other freshman but loves Reading Lab because she has a Kindle, that is awesome. When a student like Damaria, an 11th grader who loves reading so so much but lives far from the nearest library gets to have a Kindle and read to his heart’s content, that is awesome. When a student like Elaine, who always showed up to First Period late starts coming to First Period on time (and even early) so she can maximize the SSR time on her Kindle, that is awesome.

In simple terms, Kindles make reading easy and limitless. There are no hurdles, no hoops to jump through. And for students who have experienced reading in their lives as something filled with countless hurdles and hoops, a hurdle-free experience is just what they deserve and just what they need to find their inner-reader. The Kindle says: “We want you to be able to read any book you want, free of hassle.” favicon

Ed. note: Marni Spitz teaches U.S. History and Reading Lab at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. Donate to Marni’s classroom!

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Another easy way to promote reading: Make public a list of who’s reading what

favicon Here’s another quick and easy idea to promote reading from the classroom of English teacher extraordinaire Tess Lantos at Impact Academy in Hayward.

Post what students are reading. Make it public. Make it big and put it up on a wall. Like this:

Status of the Class

Tess tracks what her students are reading in a Google spreadsheet. Then, she gets huge paper and prints it out. Simple — and very effective!

With this tracker, students can check out what they’ve read, what their peers have read, and which books are most popular. It also helps Tess recommend books to students and push them to new reading levels.

The tracker also highlights how students tend to read “the biggies,” particularly at the beginning of the year. If you’re a ninth grader, you’re reading John Green, Coe Booth, Allison van Diepen, James Dashner, Luis Rodriguez, Suzanne Collins, and Stanley Tookie Williams.

It’s always better to have more copies of popular titles than a classroom library with wide selection but little depth! favicon

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Let’s make reading public. Here’s one way.

favicon There are many teachers out there building independent reading programs, encouraging their students to read, raising money to buy books, and recommending good books to their students.

With all that going on, there’s not very much time left for teachers to invest in one crucial step: making reading public.

Too often, all that reading goodness is cooped up in classrooms. Students talk about their books to their classmates but keep things quiet with their friends. Teachers glow when Danny reads his 10th book of the year but dare not share that accomplishment with colleagues.

This reading bashfulness needs to change. It’s time for a reading revolution. The public needs to know that teenagers like to read. Let’s make this happen!

Take a look at what Math teacher Brandon Barrette is doing with his advisees at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. Here’s what’s outside his classroom:

Sure, this takes dedication and effort, even with Mr. Barrette’s snappy template. But over time, book reviews will line the hallway, and students will take notice, get ideas about what to read next, and see their friends taking on academic identities.

In schools, what’s public is what matters. That’s why I’m happy to see Mr. Barrette taking part in his school’s reading revolution. favicon

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Way to start school: Get students to read The Maze Runner, then go to the movie

favicon We know that reluctant readers like book-movies — that is to say, books that are also movies. Even better are book-movies-to-be. Students can read the book, then go see the movie, and everyone is happy.

Back in the day (a few years ago), Hollywood didn’t entirely understand the widespread appeal of young adult books and their ability to amass large box office returns. Sure, there was Harry Potter, but for the most part, there weren’t too many books turned into films.

That has changed dramatically. Since The Hunger Games, things have picked up. Divergent was big, and The Fault in Our Stars was huge this summer.

And now, coming September 19, is The Maze Runner. Here’s the trailer:

Published in 2009 and written by James Dashner, the book has been medium-popular among students the past couple years. But my prediction is that marketing for the movie will make reading the book much more desirable right at the beginning of school.

So, teachers, here’s an idea: Encourage your students (especially boys) to read The Maze Runner, and tell them if they finish it before the film comes out, you’ll take them on a field trip to see the movie, followed by a discussion comparing the book with the movie.

(On a related note: Book-movie clubs are another great way to promote reading.)

No, sorry, I don’t have ideas about how to fund the field trip, besides asking families to pay for their kid’s movie ticket. It’s possible, I suppose, to do a DonorsChoose project, but it would be considered a special event and perhaps use up too many of your DonorsChoose points. (If you have ideas about how to raise money for the field trip, leave them in the comments.)

Loyal Iserotope readers and Kindle Classroom Project donors: You’ll be happy to note that the entire Maze Runner series is already in the Kindle Library. But I’d like to make sure that there is also one physical copy of The Maze Runner in each of the five Kindle classrooms. (This is also to promote my long-term project of library classroom mirroring.)

Want to help? If you’d like to buy one (or all five, for $32.45, before tax and shipping), click on the cover below. It should take you directly to Amazon to buy the book. When you continue through your cart, you should be able to send it directly to my “gift registry address.”


I can’t wait to tell Tess and Marni and Abby and the other KCP teachers about my idea. My hunch is that they’re going to be interested. We’ll see if the students are, too. If they are, I’ll keep everyone posted, and maybe you can come see the movie, too!

Let me know what you think by leaving a brilliant insight. favicon

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Promote reading with March Madness

favicon Here’s a great way to promote reading in your classroom: Do a March Madness tournament of your students’ favorite books!

This idea comes from Megan Everitt in Central Ohio. Take a look at her bracket.

Reading March Madness

I got to tweet back and forth with Ms. Everitt. This is what she does: (1) Select her students’ favorite books from the year, (2) Put them in a bracket, (3) Have students vote, round by round.

Here’s a modification I would do: (1) Create the bracket based on popularity. A #1 seed is the most popular book of the year, for instance, (2) Have students pair off and read both books and then determine the winner, (3) Continue this process until there is a class winner.

My March Madness is a little involved and would take longer than just one month. But students could begin in January and finish by the end of the March, especially if they’re reading one book a week.

One big negative about my choice is that it decreases choice. Students have to read the books in the bracket. On the other hand, for reluctant readers, or students coming back to reading, this approach could bolster reading momentum and encourage students to read outside of school.

What are your thoughts about March Madness? favicon