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3 Ways to Keep Your Sanity for March is Reading Month




Every February, I begin to brace myself. The "March is Reading Month" committee begins meeting to plan the month for our school. I get a tension headache just thinking about it. It's not that I don't love the reading activities and the intent behind the month-long focus.  I love reading. I love helping my kids learn to love reading. But, I've noticed a trend in the planned celebrations over the last few years.  The teachers are working hard, and the students are not. The whole month feels like a never-ending circus, and I feel like a demented clown.

Don't get me wrong. The celebrations and special events are great entertainment. Some common March happenings are that every teacher decorates his or her door according to a favorite book. Some of the doors are Pinterest-worthy works of art. Prizes are bought and given out for meeting reading goals. Volunteers dress up as book characters and visit classrooms. Other community volunteers visit classrooms to read books to students. Sometimes, local celebrities come to read.  It's fantastic fun! Over 26 years of teaching in different school districts, the most I've seen students do during the month of March is to read across a reading calendar. 

Again, let me say it: There's nothing wrong with celebrating reading in these ways. But I have to ask...
One of the ways I've coped with the upheaval of March Is Reading Month is to make my students and their learning the center of the celebrations. If we have to decorate our door, my students decorate it, using it as a reader response activity.  It doesn't look like a Pinterest-inspired door, but my kids learned something. 

That reading calendar? I turned it into a Reading Genre Book Challenge.  We discuss how we want our reading to be as balanced as our diets.  It's normal for readers (adults included) to focus on a couple of their favorite genres when selecting reading materials. This challenge helps students break away from their reading trends to try something new. They use the month to earn a total of ten brag tags, one for each genre. They chart their success in their data notebooks, and spend time reflecting on their preferences and how they change over the course of the challenge. 



Another thing that really stresses me out about reading month is that when all of the special stuff is added into our schedule, I have a hard time keeping my instructional oars in the water. So over the years, I've learned to find ways to incorporate our day-to-day learning goals like persuasive writing, literature critique, using direct quotations as evidence, and comparing and contrasting texts.

Every year, my students and I hold an election. We review the major mentor texts that we read over the entire school year. We discuss them. We share our opinions about our favorites and our least favorites.  Then, we vote to elect our Book-of-the-Year for room 13. In doing this my students revisit mentor texts, write persuasive essays about the book they think should get
the award, practice reading their essays publicly, and discuss the merits of each book with their peers. We end with a red carpet event. Think of it as the Oscars for books. I've written about his idea extensively. You can read more about it HERE. It's a FAVORITE project in my classroom.


In March, we also research our favorite authors. I began this practice after seeing how over-the-moon excited my kids became when Avi answered our letters. We had finished reading Perloo the Bold as part of our character study unit. I asked my students to write a letter to him, and I used their letters as an assessment piece. After he responded, they found his website and read everything they could find about him. They were fascinated with his blog and his photographs. They talked about him as if he was a personal friend. And of course, there was a run on Avi books in our school media center. 

So in March, I ask students to identify their favorite authors. I have a list of author websites I've compiled that includes the biggies. They research their authors, take notes, and then create a pennant flag about him or her. They LOVE this assignment, and I love how it gets them talking about authors, books, and author's craft.

The best part about all of these activities is that my students are doing most of the work. I'm still teaching to our learning standards, but students are engaged and having a blast...and there's not a circus clown in sight.

You can find some of these student-centered ideas for March Is Reading Month or Read Across America week below. Just click on the pictures.  




Be sure to listen to the We Teach So Hard podcast this week. We're talking about even more reading ideas! Click our logo below. 




Be sure to visit Kathie, Retta and Deann at their blogs. They're chocked full of fantastic student-centered reading ideas!


From top left, clockwise:
3 Ways to Keep Your Sanity During March is Reading Month




1 comment

  1. Love, love, love the Red Carpet award idea! I'm totally going to do this with my kids!!

    ReplyDelete