For the last three weeks I have been experimenting with reading for the first 10 minutes of every class. The results are encouraging and I am inclined to keep up the practice. It seems to clam down the chattiness and get kids focused and ready to learn. Those first few minutes of class are so important–prime learning time that needs to be spent wisely. I want them engaging with interesting content and acquiring language during that time because it is more likely to stick.

This reading time is starting to become a habit for all of us. It is getting to be automatic with most students. They are selecting books as they enter the classroom without being told as I stand in the hallway greeting their classmates with the password ritual. After a brief greeting, I tell them how long we will be reading. Most are engaging with it and the number of books they are completing is growing impressively.

Getting on a regular reading schedule is important, but there are other elements that are coming together to make it work:

Selection. My principal has generously allowed me to spend money on books every year for some time now and we are accumulating quite a classroom library. This year I have taken most of the children’s books away because they are not comprehensible–most children’s books were made for adults to read to children, not for early readers to read by themselves. My students have been exposed to high frequency vocabulary and the type of words that TPRS teachers are likely to use in class so they can read a lot more than one would surmise at this time in the year.

Reminders. “You need to pick a book that comprehensible and interesting to you.” These are the only factors in choosing a book in our classroom. They come from Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading and they work. I say this “comprehensible and interesting” line over and over in as many kid-friendly ways as I can think of. They need to hear it repeatedly because this is a completely different way of reading than most of what they do in shcool, which is too often incomprehensible and uninteresting. So I say: “Get a book that you can read rather easily and that will hold your interest.” “Choose a something to that does not have a lot of unknown words and that appeals to you in some way.” “You do not have to understand every single word, just most of them, and it does not have to be utterly fascinating to you, just something that catches your eye.” “If you don’t understand it, or if you can’t get into it, choose a different book during the next reading time.” “If you don’t get it or decide that you don’t want to read it, get something different next time.”

Enforcement. Reluctant and unconvinced readers need help. I help them select appropriate books and help them to keep reading by sitting near them or by occasionally making eye contact during reading time. I may have to do it one at a time, but eventually most of them begin to come around. I have observed that many teachers do not do this, but it is important to let them know that you are with them and that you will not give up on them.

A Rubric. I have developed a rubric for classroom reading time (to be posted soon) and I have them give themselves a grade every week or so with it. Most students are honest and realistic, but I retain the veto power, which is rarely used.

Modeling. I sit and read during reading time too. When I give in to the temptation of doing data entry (which seems to be much of my actual job), the kids gradually quit reading. Monkey see, monkey do.

A Goal. The goal is for true Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) to take place. I want to get them hooked on reading and I remind them of this often. I want to get them to read easily and eagerly in the Spanish. I want them to say that even if though they have been reluctant to read in English, they enjoy reading in Spanish. I want them to have confidence that they can understand Spanish and that comes only through a series of successful experiences. The goal is for them to enjoy it so much that they want to check out books and take them home to read on their own time. For no credit. For no points. For nothing but the enjoyment and pride and satisfaction of learning and growing. Not every student takes me up on this, but a few have.

What has been your experience with sustained silent reading? What is working/not working for you? Comment below and share your thoughts.