being a teacher, Literacy, Reading, student choice, Student dreams, student voice

The One Thing that Made the Biggest Difference (According to My Students)

I asked my students what made the biggest difference. I  asked them what I should tell other educators as I ready myself for speaking this summer, honored to be invited to so many great states.  I asked them what they wished every teacher would do, if they had to pick one thing, what would it be?  Answer after answer, paper upon paper, they told me their one thing.  And while I wasn’t surprised, I had not expected it to be so frequent.  I had not expected it to show up on so many independently answered surveys.  I had not expected it to be the ONE thing so many times.

Please tell them to give us time to read.  Please allow us at least 10 minutes.  Please tell us to read.  Tell us to read only great books.  Give us the time so we can fall back in love.

The time; that was the most important.

I have started almost every single day with a sacred 10 minutes of reading.  Not enough, I know, but when I only get 45 minutes to teach English, it is more than 1/5 of our time.  Every day I have expected all students to read and to read a good book.  Every day I have expected students to fall into the pages that they chose and only come back up when the timer sounds and the rest of our class begins.  I was scared of what we would lose in our curriculum by giving them so many minutes.  I was scared that I would not be enough of a teacher by telling them that for those 10 minutes I would only interrupt a few of them every day, but mostly they would be left to read.  I have read the research, of course, that speaks of the power of 10 minutes.  As a teacher I believe in it, but to have it come straight from the very students it effects?  That is powerful.  That is something worth sharing.

When we hope for a reading miracle, when we hope for the one thing that will make a child a reader, it seems like this is it.  That independent reading of self-chosen books is truly what will help all of our readers, whether dormant, resistant, or already in love, develop into readers who will leave our classrooms knowing that books have a place in their life.

So as we teach the older students, those students that might not have the luxury of longer literacy blocks.  Who may not have the luxury of reading work shop.  Who may not have the luxury of choice. I implore you to please take my students’ advice to heart; give them time to read, even if only for 10 minutes.  Give them time to read a book they choose.  Make it the expectation and not just once in a while, but every single day. I promise it will make the biggest difference.  At least it will, according to my students.

If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

10 thoughts on “The One Thing that Made the Biggest Difference (According to My Students)”

  1. this reminds me of the daily 5 read to self practice, have you tried the idea of tracking their stamina for reading to self?

  2. Pernille, I believe in the message you’ve written in this post; I believe in it passionately. But when I broached the topic of starting class next year with independent reading time (I proposed 8 min, from my 40 minute block) with my direct supevisor she didn’t outright say no, but seemed reluctant to have the students starting class with something that was 1)not directly related to the day’s lesson 2)not “active”.

    I’m a fairly new kid on the block, (this was my second year teaching and my first in this school), and she has taught me a tremendous amount in a kind, incrimental, and constructive fashion, so I’m worried about coming across as if I think I know better than her.

    I think I’m going to try to leave the topic alone until the summer, but then I’d like to come to her with a well-thought out plan for how to make this work. Any suggestions?

  3. You and I have spoken about this before and this is the one thing students appreciate most about my class as well. They come back in subsequent years and say how much they miss their ten minutes of time each day. I, like you, only have 45 minutes, but I believe every minute we spend reading is paid back in their emotional and skill development. I am happy that your students appreciate how much of a gift this time is. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on dyslexiaruleslondon and commented:
    yes, i agree: it is a challenge to start & keep going, but continuing to read can (incrementally) give us the hugest pleasure, to master and start relishing stories, ideas, visions and get lost in other worlds – we may be dyslexic / neurodivergent readers, but if we can read things we want to know about, enjoy and can relate to, emotionally as well as intellectually, what powers of imagination and creativity may be released – along with the most important development of self-confidence and raised self-esteem. its not easy, though, but what is easy, that we really value? relationships? learning to ride a bike or drive? travelling across continents? in my case not dropping my lunch / drink down my front / keyboard or forgetting the book in the first place… just low-level skills that get in the way sometimes, i swat them away like a fly these days, and concentrate on the things i value, whilst learning or re-learning new things and skills. for example, i got back on my bike last weekend after a lengthy absence due to having broken my wrist & other mishaps – scary, exhilarating and back-aching, but i am so happy with myself for doing it, for ‘feeling that fear and doing it anyway’, and the enjoyment of it – life is good for the moment, then 🙂 Lots of challenges coming my way now, as for everyone else, i’m sure (but these are things that previously I had seen as ‘threats’ / worries / and too scared to take them on)… oh the uneven nature of life, learning & doing (laughed at that: it almost sounds intelligent – time to stop, then!) 🙂

  5. I’ve been trying to argue for 15 minutes at the start of my double block schedule for the past few weeks, but I’m coming against some opposition since “they can read in work time” . I feel stuck because I know that the 15 minutes to JUST read and enjoy reading can make a huge difference, but I’m not sure how to present or what to present to convince the powers that be. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  6. I’ve had kids personally thank me at the end of the year for “letting” them read and giving them the time to do so. It makes a huge difference!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s