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The Making of a Reader: Helping Students to Become Lifelong Readers

Subject:English, Reading, Literacy, ESL

Grade Level: 6-12

Description: Getting students to read is not an easy task. Some teachers try providing students with a wide range of books as well as time to read during school. What is too often overlooked is the groundwork that needs to be laid to enable young adults to become lifelong readers. This project outlines the essential steps needed to begin the process of developing successful, independent readers. The focus is placed on helping students to establish reading habits while learning strategies to improve their reading comprehension and fluency.

How it Works: This unit works best if implemented over a period of a few months. Review steps 1-5 and map out a preliminary unit plan based on the number of times a week you can dedicate to this reading workshop model. Students need time to practice, discuss, develop, and internalize the reading habits and strategies described in this unit. Guide them through the process, as each step leads into the next. Students’ reading journals and reading logs, as well as your class notes, will help to inform your decision about when to move on to the next step.

Students begin the workshop by examining themselves as readers: personal reading inventories, action research on when and where independent reading occurs in their lives, and reading journal entries help the students define themselves as readers and identify their reading habits.

Students are asked to commit to reading outside of the classroom by pledging to read during a designated time and place each day. Students keep track of this information and use this data to help them make decisions about their reading routine and habits.

Problems do arise that prevent students from becoming proficient readers. Students share their responses to the question "What makes reading a challenge?" and work together to devise remedies to these problems. Students try different solutions to cure their problems and report back to the class on the success of their treatment plans.

Once you have gotten your students to the point where their confidence as readers has been established, the final step is to get them to begin thinking and speaking about their books with one another. Getting students to chat online about their reading and books is a creative way to use their interest in chatting online and making it more academic.

Final Project/Product: Students design an ad for a favorite book read during their time in the reading workshop to present at a school book fair (see: Attachment: Book Ad). They use Microsoft Photoshop and Front Page Editor to create an original ad that includes: title, author, cover photo, genre, theme, plot summary, book critic’s comment, and readability. Invite students from outside the class to a book fair where they will rotate among booksellers (ad designers) and cast their vote with reading dollars for the book they would most likely purchase. The top-three booksellers receive a prize (bookstore gift certificate). We conduct the fairs with 25 sellers and 25 buyers in the room. Each seller has five minutes to make his/her pitch. It is a wonderful way to get kids talking about books, not to mention an amazing experience to see fifty young people gathered together in one room speaking to one another about books.

Overall Value: This independent reading program puts the emphasis on the word "independent." Students are given the tools and strategies needed to build their confidence and ability to read while providing them with time and choice in what they read. Students of all reading and English fluency levels can participate in the program since students set their own pace and monitor their own progress. The teacher’s role is to support each student where s/he is at as a reader and try to improve students reading interest and ability through facilitating book discussions, recommending titles, and speaking one-on-one with students about their reading. This role allows teachers to connect with each student and come to know the student as an individual. The books kids choose are often windows into their lives.

In addition, the program is designed to get students reading by tapping into the interests and needs of adolescents. For instance, students are given autonomy over their book choice and reading schedules (within set guidelines) recognizing their need to assert their independence. Also, the program describes choosing and reading a book in terms of dating and maintaining a relationship. Capitalizing on kids’ interest in chatting, an important aspect of the program is the use of an online discussion group for students to share their reading reflections.

English Language Learners: • Give kids time to collect their thoughts. For example, if having a discussion, have them write a response before asking for answers. • Use visuals, model strategies, and review assignments with frequency.

• Consider the language needed to complete an assignment. For example, if students are writing a plot description of a book, familiarize students with transitional words and their uses.

• Provide students with books from a wide variety of genres and reading levels. Companies to contact for high-interest, beginner-level English titles include Capstone Press, Landmark, Recorded Books LLC, Perfection Learning, Miller Educational Materials- Heinemann ESL Guided Readers, Cinco Puentes Press.

• Host a mini-expo to exhibit and talk about titles in kids’ native languages.

• Assign a reading buddy to struggling or reluctant readers.

Tips for the Teacher: • Time – try to negotiate more time for independent reading or reading workshop in school. Twice a week works well. Students have reported how reading in class was key to getting them into their books. Beware: relegating reading to Fridays only can make it seem unimportant (Casual Fridays).

• Begin by giving students 20 minutes to read silently in class. Add time with each class. After a few classes, students will be able to do sustained silent reading for 45-60 minutes.

• Use the beginning of class to lead mini-lessons on reading or to model strategies. Ask students to focus on topic of lesson while reading. Leave 10 minutes at the end of class to check-in with class.

• Keep a running record of who is reading what, their progress, and observations. Conference with half the class each time you meet. Have a sign-up list for kids who want to conference on an alternate day. I found In the Middle: New Understanding About Writing, Reading, and Learning by Nancie Atwell to be essential reading and full of practical ideas for my classroom.

• If funds for books are limited or restrictive, inquire about your school’s library funds or write a grant. The Michael Jordan Foundation has provided funds for classroom libraries: http://www.nike.com/jumpman23/features/fundamentals/overview.html

• In the beginning, the emphasis is on getting kids into the habit of reading. Purchase books that reflect your students’ lives and be open to authors and titles they might suggest. Remember you want them reading. As they become better readers and trust and respect is established, you can suggest titles to them.


 Standards Addressed
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for information and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment, and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students ead, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students read, write, listen, and speak for social interaction.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts

Day 1: If the Book Fits, Wear It! Finding the book that fits your reading level and interest
Students review and become familiar with book genres.
Students learn how to scan a book for interest and independent reading level.
Students select titles for independent reading.
genre bins: plastic bins, genre labels (science fiction, romance, humor, self-help, fantasy, historical fiction, teen real-life fiction, graphic novel, mystery, diaries, plays)
young adult literature: 10 books per genre (see attachment: Recommended Books)
index cards to write down book selection
bag of beauty accessories
genre, blurb, book review
Procedure 1
Match.com…students look through book selection to identify books of interest
a. Begin by telling students that they are going to fall in love today. Tell them their prospective partners are waiting right outside the classroom door. Explain that each one is going to have the chance to meet someone special. Pass around a few mirrors, lipstick, combs, cologne, and mints and encourage students to get ready to meet that someone special. (You need to be entertaining.)
b. Open the door and roll the guests in: the book cart with book bins and announce that today they will fall in love with a book!
c. Inform students that each will be given an index card on which they will write in the titles and authors of three books that pique their interest. Review genres before beginning.
d. Review genre categories with students, a good schema exercise (i.e., match book title to genre, students’ generated list, top-ten list) and the five-finger assessment method – open to any page in book, if the student doesn’t understand five words on that page, have them put book aside for the time being or add to list of titles to be read in the future.
Procedure 2
Cruising: finding your book match
a. Place genre book bins at viewing stations on desks or tables around the room.
b. Have students rotate around the genre stations taking time to scan books and identify possible selections (approximately 10 minutes at each station).
c. Students submit index card with title and author of top-three book choices.
Procedure 3
Teacher prep: prior to the next class, review students’ choices and match one book per student. Place student’s book selection card in her/his respective new book to use as a bookmark.
All students will have a book at the beginning of the next class. Students who have a book at home or want to look at other titles at a bookstore or library are instructed to bring their choice book to following class.

Day 2: The Match-Up!
Students practice scanning a book for appropriate reading independent reading level and interest
Students write and present a sound-bite advertisement about their book identifying title, author, genre, brief description of topic/plot and why they chose the book
one book of choice per student, plus a few extra titles for students who opt for another title
Procedure 1
Shoe = Book: What do they have in common?
a. Hold up a shoe and a book. Ask kids to consider what the two items have in common. Have students work in groups to write gather responses.
b. Poll students’ for their answers. You can have them call out their ideas or post newsprint. Look for or guide the class to the response “They both have to fit” and explain how both books and shoes need to feel comfortable in order for you to use them.
c. Put the shoe in a prominent place and instruct students to keep the shoe/book analogy in mind when they receive their selected book. Let students know they can trade-in their books at any time.
d. Distribute books to students and give them time to get to try on their books through silent reading for about 20 minutes.
Procedure 2
Introducing Your Partner: students describe their books to one another.
a. Give students time to complete an introduction card for their books. It is important to give ELL students a template to follow and time to complete task, especially for beginners.
b. Have students introduce their books to one another in small groups.
Procedure 3
The Commitment: each student decides on a reading goal.
a. Distribute post-its. Have kids mark how many pages they think they can read until the next class.
b. Suggest to students that it is generally recommended to stop at the end of a chapter instead of the middle. Ask if this makes sense and why.
Students try to meet their reading page goals by spending time reading outside the class.
Students self-assess by reflecting on the time they spent reading outside the class when they return. Did they reach their goal? The post-it measures their success.

Day 3: Reading as a Habit
Students will identify a place and time in their daily schedule when they will read for pleasure.
Students will keep a weekly chart of time spent reading for pleasure.
Reading journal
Weekly reading chart or schedule
Reading folder with reading log (see attachment: Students' Booklist)
habit, routine, daily, pledge, commitment
Procedure 1
My Day: students map out their daily activities over a typical week.
a. Have students circle the number of times the word “reading” appears on their daily maps. Tally on newsprint for the class to see and keep tally for future reference.
b. Discuss and write class definition of the word “habit” and lead into idea of reading as a habit.
c. Have students return to their daily maps and schedule in reading for 20 minutes a day. Students need to consider their reading needs like place, comfort, noise, and time of day.
Procedure 2
The Pledge: students commit to dedicating their free time to reading.
a. Students write in their reading journal the time and place they have committed to reading. Students circulate around room and share their pledge with one another, “I pledge to read __ minutes a day on (in) ______ before(after) ____.”
b. Distribute reading chart. Students write in the days of the week and will keep track of their pledge -simply write in time and place each day.
Procedure 3
Shhhhhh! Reading!
a. It is important to kick-off the pledge with silent reading in class to generate excitement about reading and get students involved in their books.
Students keep track of their reading habits each day of the week and dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to pleasure reading.
Students bring their reading journals to class and reflect on their habits. Encourage students to rearrange reading time as needed. Have students use their reading charts to identify patterns in order to choose the best place and time to fit independent reading into their lives. As students establish a reading routine, spend time in reading workshop class on problems that arise for readers. Keep a reading log for yourself to track student progress and interest (see attachment: Teacher’s Booklist).

Day 4: The Reading Doctor Makes a Classroom Call
Students identify problems they incur as independent readers.
Students share their reading strategies.
Students try a variety of strategies to improve their reading.
doctor accessories: white jacket, stethoscope, etc.
Procedure 1
What makes reading a challenge? Thinking it out together
a. While students review their reading entries and charts in their journals, ask them to reflect on what prevents them from reading. Do freewrite and share aloud in small groups.
b. Students work in small group to draft a list of reading challenges.
c. Students post list on board and the class as a whole review lists noting similarities and differences among the responses. It is a good opportunity for students to realize that reading poses challenges for everyone.
d. Students, along with teacher, group the reading challenges and list categories, i.e., Difficult Vocabulary, Reading Speed, Distractions. Post categories separately around room. Give students post-its and ask them to write their own remedies (suggestions) to help classmates overcome these problems. Teacher collects each challenge with attached remedies and complies into list for next session. See attachment: What Makes Reading a Challenge?
Remedy, cure, obstacle, ailment, strategy
Procedure 2
What ails your reading? The reading doctor makes a visit.
a. Begin class with a visit from the reading doctor. The teacher or a student enters in medical garb and informs students that for the next few weeks the class will be focusing on improving their reading through identifying personal ailments that impede their reading and by experimenting with variety of cures.
b. With the reading challenges and remedy list generated by class, students will play the role of reading doctors by listening to a classmate’s problem and prescribing a remedy.
Procedure 3
Doctor Visits: Follow-Up Care on Reading Remedies
a. Students work together alternating between doctor and patient. Together they discuss effectiveness of remedies.
b. Student’s journal will document his treatment plan and success.
c. Students should try to remedy 1-2 reading problems over a course of a month.
Students keep detailed notes in their reading journals on the progress of their treatment plans. Students can be asked to write two entries per week: one entry about the book they are reading and the other entry about their reading experiment.
Students write a letter to a classmate reflecting on their reading experiment: including their consultations with the reading doctor, remedies chosen and success, and revelations about the reading process and themselves as readers (see attachment: Reading Experiment/Doctor Reflection). Letters get response from classmates. Now that students have overcome some reading challenges and honed their skills, have them meet with a colleague’s class to prescribe remedies…the reading doctors go on tour!

Day 5: Let’s Talk! Book Chats
Students participate in online discussions about their books.
Students respond to one another’s analysis of literature.
Students use technology to communicate with one another.
computers with Internet access
video projector for computer
online, archive, moderate, feedback, provocative
Procedure 1
Let’s Get Talking: students register and become familiar with online discussion group.
a. Survey students on how much time they spend chatting.
b. Write “U wanna talk bout bks? (Do you want to talk about books) in chat code on the board. Ask kids to decipher code.
c. Introduce the idea of chatting online by projecting discussion board and displaying all its components (Do prep work in advance to make students’ registration as seamless as possible.) We use Nicenet.org, a free Internet discussion site because it does not have ads, is student friendly, needs a password to enter, and archives discussions.
d. Help kids register and click around: send, delete, edit, reply, respond to one group member, and locate archives
Nicenet – Internet bulletin board, free site for teachers http://www.nicenet.org
Procedure 2
Let’s Meet Online: posting the first question
a. Using computer projector, post a question about reading to the whole class, i.e., which book did you choose and what your choice say about you?
b. Have student volunteer get on site using password, compose response, and send.
c. Direct all students to respond, send, and reply (feedback) to another classmate.
d. Troubleshoot any technical difficulties.
Students write a response to a question about their reading and reply to two others once a week. We have asked the kids to use the discussion board to write their weekly journal entry as well. After a few weeks, students review weekly discussions from archives and choose one discussion they feel was the most provocative and explain why in class presentations.
Teachers can access archives to credit and give feedback to students for number of and breath and depth of responses and replies online.

Carol Tureski


International High School at LaGuardia Community College
31-10 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101

Carol Tureski began her teaching career as a Peace Corps Fellow in the New York Public School system in 1992. She taught ESL and Spanish at two comprehensive high schools in Brooklyn before moving to her present school, International H.S. @ LaGuardia C.C., an alternative school for immigrant students.

Carol has developed an interest in literacy and coordinates a literacy program for academically struggling English language learners at International. She also established an independent reading program at her school to get kids reading and does workshops on these two programs where she provides teachers with ideas and resources on how to implement similar programs at their schools. Carol is an honorary Teachers Network Fellow.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

Carol_reading challenges list.doc
student log.jpg
teacher log .jpg
bookchat 001.jpg
bookchat 002.jpg
bookchat 003.jpg
reading doc reflect.jpg
reading doc reflect 2.jpg


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