Is SSR Possible?

Recently I read The Book Whisperer by Donnalyn Miller.  She is able to get her kids to read twenty-plus books each year, much more than I have ever hoped for. She gives excellent advice on how to avoid reading logs, books reports and the other traps that Language Arts teachers easily fall into. (Admittedly, I just gave up reading logs last year. I ashamed to admit that I used them so long)

And she gives her kids at least thirty minutes in class to read each day.

Thirty minutes each day. EACH DAY!

So here’s my issue. I have 45 minutes in my class. If I were to give my kids twenty minutes a day (and everything that I’ve read says that’s the minimum you need to make a difference), that leaves me 25 minutes for writing, reading instruction, grammar, media literacy and (if Florida’s new standards are passed) technology. Yeah, ain’t gonna happen.

I do use independent reading. Every Friday is Kicked-back Friday and students read their novels for almost the entire period. I have a fairly large class library, but since I have had kids, I haven’t had the money to spend on it. (Sorry, reading with my own two kids is just soooo much more fun.)

 I value SSR or IR or whatever the new term for it may be this month. I just wonder, is one day a week worth it? If not, where do I get more time?



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8 responses to “Is SSR Possible?

  1. Tami Thompson

    I know that the secondary world is much different than the elementary world. I’m a 4th grade teacher. I have some kids doing SSR while I meet w/others for small group instruction, then we switch. Kids blog about books they’re reading instead of book reports (this could count for your tech work). Most of my students easily meet or beat 20 books/year.

  2. If your kids are bringing their books on Friday and actually using the time to read, I would definitely say it’s worth it. My students read every day, but we have a ninety minute block. The other possibility I can think of is to designate every other day as a Reader’s Workshop, so that students know to have their books and then you could do reading mini-lessons and then give them time to read and apply the skill you just taught and/or modeled. Sometimes you might have them read something other than their chosen book, but if you set up the every-other-day schedule, they would know to have their book that day regardless.

  3. Donalyn Miller

    Daily reading, even if only for 15 minutes a day, is preferable to every other day, or every Friday reading events. What will happen is that students develop the daily habit and read more at home on their own. This will help make up the shortfall in your schedule.
    A great book for secondary teachers, that explores many of the same concepts I do in The Book Whisperer, is Kelly Gallagher’s new book, Readicide. Kelly is a high school teacher in California, so he lives the ideas he promotes in his book.
    If you can set aside Fridays, why not add a lesson to Fridays, and shorten the instruction other days, so that you can spread out the reading time?

    • hrmason

      Wow, I’m honored that you relplied to my posting! I will tell you that I have purged my class library of trash books that had just in case. My library looks much smaller, but it will be easier for the kids to find good books. I also reorganized it by genre. Both are ideas I got from your book. Thank you so much!!!!!

      I am still unsure if 30 minutes is enough to cover everything. But if you think it would make a big difference, maybe I could start to implement it informally this year (school starts in a few days so I am running out of time to redo things) and see how it goes. I may have more time than I think. Thank you again.

  4. Hi,

    You haven’t mentioned homework. Up to Gr. 9, my only homework is Independent Reading. Alfie Kohn’s book on homework is quite liberating.


  5. hrmason

    Homework for me is to read 20 minutes a night, but that alone isn’t enough for many kids because they don’t do it. I want to make sure they get some reading in everyday, but don’t have a lot of time to do it. Doing 15 minutes everyday actually made more homework for kids since we have a larger writing curriculum in 8th grade. They had time to read, but then had to take essays home or finish practice assignments at home. I haven’t read Alfie Kohn’s book, but am familiar with his work.

    So this year, we are still doing SSR on Fridays, but I’m trying to conference with them on that day as well about reading and writing. Plus, the standing assignment after they finish any work is read. I know the five minutes they get waiting for someone else to finish a test isn’t a lot, but I’m trying to set the tone that this is reading centered class. I’m also choosing the class reading to lead into writing so that less time is wasted moving from lit texts to model texts.

  6. hrmason

    Out of curiosity, what do you have your students do after 9th? Is independant reading still a priority or do you move towards getting kids to read key texts?

    • I don’t teach Gr. 10 this year, but when I did I had to compromise a bit on the homework. They still needed to do Independent Reading, but on top of that they had to spend some time reading the texts we studied together, as well. And in Gr. 10 the Ind Rdg is a bit more directed toward building up their literary background. Gr. 10 is their last chance to do Independent Reading because in Grs. 11-12 all of their time is needed to keep up with the assigned work (I teach in an IB school).

      The Homework Myth:


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