Reading in Class – A Live Blog Experiment

This could be really interesting, or not. It is Friday afternoon and I am having my last period class of seniors – read. They had a choice of three books to read about contemporary China, so they are not all reading the same thing. I first thought I would model for them and read alongside them, but then I got this idea.

I am hoping that by watching them read, I can learn a bit more about them. So far, it is quiet and everyone seems to be focused. Nobody is sleeping and pages are turning. Most kids have found their way to the comfortable furniture, but that is not unique to today. A few kids are breaking their concentration and having a very quiet conversation. The only discernible phrase to me was “Tiananmen Square” so I think they were on topic. A few kids are listening to music but they are focused. It is actually hard for me to sit here and watch them read. A few eyes are getting heavy, but so far, fifteen minutes in, all are still awake. There is some fidgeting, but not too much. One student just shifted seats, perhaps an attempt to be less comfortable and less tempted to sleep. Nope, he is trying to get more comfortable.

One student came over to ask a question about what she was reading, and I discovered that she is almost to the point I set as a goal for next week – she is reading ahead. Every once in a while a see someone with an amused look. One student just took a very long drink of water and is visibly slumping. Another just tried to move his early dismissal for sports up by 25 minutes. That caused a bit of a break in the concentration, but we seem to have gotten it back. Wow – someone has given up a chair to lay down on the hard floor. After about 40 minutes, I am going to allow them to shift to working on their research projects for the last half hour. This is clearly a lot for some of them.

So, I think I am concluding that I need to devote class time to reading. There is nothing like spending classtime on an activity to show students you value it. There is also something about the structure of the class and the community of the group that is useful. I will be interested to see what their take on it is. Now that I have given kids the option to shift to research, about one third of them did. The rest are still reading. One student is taking a suspiciously long time to return a Kindle to the library. Just discovered him in the hall working with the two other students who shifted to research.

I left the room for a few minutes and came back to find the students still reading. After a brief interlude to point out to me a passage that she found interesting, it was back to the book for one girl. WIth seven minutes to go in a 70 minute class at the end of the day on Friday, there are more than half of the students still engaged in their books. I’ll take it.

PS After an end of class debrief, the kids appreciated the time to read but they disagreed about when the best timing would be. Next idea – flex time.


4 thoughts on “Reading in Class – A Live Blog Experiment

  1. The disagreement you mention at the end about timing… Does that mean how long, or what time of day?

    What about reading like this, and then writing, reflecting… Or discussing the content more?

    This sounds wonderful, and kinda like the feeling of a whole room writing in their journals on free writes with a loose prompt, which I did earlier today… They love the freedom of choosing chair, or floor, or table even, to sit, and that gathered sense of all of us working on similar tasks can be special.


    • It was the time of day they disagreed about, but all felt that around midday would be bad. Some liked the end of the day and others would have preferred morning. I am trying something new having them read different books. I really need for them to get some traction in the separate works, so I figured giving the structure would help. I can definitely see having them read for 30 minutes next time, then blog or discuss after that. I may try that next week.

      In part this was an experiment to see how they worked/read. Some of what I saw surprised me and some did not. I was surprised that so many kept reading even when I told them they could get computers and work on their self-selected projects.

      I think this is a model I will be tinkering with this year. Would love to have some conversations around it.

    • I am moving that way, but we need a different marketing strategy, I think. They love “free research days.” We need that angle, I think. I wonder why we believe that having kids write is more productive than having them read?

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