In my fourth year of teaching at the middle school, all the English teachers were given a ninety-minute block of teaching instead of the normal forty-five, so I began incorporating silent reading. It was a failure.
None of my students were avid readers, so they were not interested in sitting for ten to fifteen minutes without causing a disruption. Instead, they snuck their phones behind their books or read the same couple of pages again and again. They would lose their focus quickly and trouble would ensue.
I had to come up with a better way to make this work. I was finally able to turn silent reading time into something that was meaningful and beneficial to my students. This is how I did it.
I began reading at the same time the students were. This models the appropriate behavior for them by showing that reading can be an enjoyable choice for adults also. Yes, I know you have a thousand things to get done, but try to read when they do when you can.
Use some of the reading time for student conferences. Meet with a different student each day to discuss what they have been reading about. Make it a casual conversation instead of like a test.
Recommend books to the students on occasion. Tell them a little about books you have been reading to get them interested. You could take it a step further and have the students recommend books to their peers as well.
Show students that reading is its own reward. You don’t need to hire Milwaukee Limos to take the kids out for a spin when they have read their goal. Show them the relaxation and enjoyment of a good book and give them time to enjoy it.
There are many other things you can do to the environment to make it reader friendly as well. You want the entire classroom to be reader friendly.
The main thing is to keep trying. If one thing doesn’t work for your class, set it aside and try something different.