Building a Classroom Culture

In her blog post from August 31, 2015, Tricia Ebarvia writes about gearing up for the new school year and making independent reading a core component of her classroom.  One quote in particular from that entry resonated with me:

“I am the one responsible for building a reading culture in my classroom.”

This is the first time I have started with independent reading from day one.  Last year’s implementation was messy.  Okay – if I’m being honest, it was messy and ugly.  It happened half-way through the year, there were boxes and books everywhere, and I was trying to plan as the lessons were happening.  Both the students and I had to make the leap from what we had been doing for the past sixteen weeks to what we needed to do for the remaining semester.  It was a day-to-day survival for us all, I think.

However, independent reading has been one of the best pedagogical decisions that I have ever made, and this year I need to step up my game.

My colleagues and I have been talking through the summer about creating a culture of reading in our classrooms and starting tomorrow, almost everything about the start of school year will be different.  If I want to foster students who are readers, who encourage their peers to pick up a book, and who inspire their family members to turn a page, I must create both a physical space and a philosophy that generates such actions.  In my ideal world, this culture of reading will extend beyond my classroom walls and infiltrate the school and greater community.

How will I do this? Will it work? Well, that remains to be seen.  However, I do know where I am starting:

  • My classroom now has books displayed prominently and purposefully instead of wherever they fit, making them a welcoming focal point.
  • Student desks are in groups of 4-5.  My hope is that this will not only facilitate discussion, but that students will be able to easily view the books their classmates are holding and be inspired to ask about the title and even read it.
  • By the end of the first week, I want every one of my students to have a book in hand that they are going to start reading.
  • I am going to include more Book Talks so that students will continually be adding to their “To Be Read Next” lists.
  • I am making a conscious effort to conduct more book conferences to better keep in touch with my readers.

So, how do I go beyond my classroom walls? As a group, my colleagues and I are seeking to further the Reading (R)evolution in our building.  We are:

  • picking up where our summer reading initiative (#thssummershelfie) left off. We have created a Twitter handle @THSReadRev and are encouraging students to mention us on social media when they post “shelfies” this year using the hashtag #ireadTHS.
  • giving each teacher and staff member a laminated “I am currently reading” sign to put up outside their classroom, office, or work space to encourage discussion of books and ideas.

It might not seem like much, but I believe these building blocks are a solid foundation for creating a culture of reading.  As Ebarvia so simply and yet so profoundly writes, “I am the one responsible” and I am taking the call to action seriously.

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