How I did it: Sustained Silent Reading

I have been looking forward to starting Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) all year and am very excited to begin! My students were super excited to hear they could finally use the couch they’ve been forbidden to sit in all year.

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I was able to explain it without students moaning and groaning too much, which was kind of a shocker, so let me try to walk you through how I did it.

Step One: Getting Reading Materials

Free Materials: THANK GOD FOR MARTINA BEX!!! I was super excited to use the E-Zine Literal by Martina Bex. I printed off all of the versions of it, stapled them together, and put each one in a page protector to help keep them together. I also printed off a couple copies of the “Correcaca” and “Sir Whines A Lot” ~ the kids get a kick out of poop stories and who can resist a thieving cat?! Last year I had printed off some copies of the “Héroes del terremoto” to use in class and kept them after all the effort.

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Shout-Out to Katrina Ryan Burchfield and the CI Non-Fiction Library! I was able to use some of their work to fill up some more spaces, and I also wrote a few of my own. Feel free to use them (but please excuse any errors, be gentle, I’m not a native speaker, I do my best)

Last year during Mascota Especial miércoles (inspired by PBL in the TL) I kept the pictures and the stories so I printed them off. The students LOVE  them, and some of the students were excited to see their own pets inside! #YoungerSiblingProblems.

Not-Free Materials: I was able to set up a Donor’s Choose to acquire reading materials for my classroom. I am so grateful for the donors who made this possible and am looking forward to being able to pay it forward one day however I can. I used the amazing list put together by John Sifert, Mike Peto, Martina Bex, and The CI Reading Blog. I also referred to the list assembled by Mr. Bryce Hedstrom. I am so grateful for the work they put in to organize these. I also used materials from Señor Jordan El Zombi Feo, Juan Cena, and Al mono le gustan los plátanos.

Step Two: Organize Materials

A friend who was moving gave me the magazine holders I’m using as organizers for everything I printed off, and I am so grateful!! Otherwise I was just going to use old shoe boxes covered in duct tape so they looked “pretty”. The bookshelves were in the school, and some of the bins came from my Donor’s Choose. I organized everything in alphabetical order (ignoring el/la/los/las) to make it easier for students to put materials away and find them again. Also, as a former library page, it brought me happiness.

Step Three: Tell the students

I watched this video from Tina Hargaden and CI LIftoff about four times, and added my own flair. I have a “chant” in my room where I say “Clase, ¿Profe es normal” and the students reply “NO” and I say “Clase, ¿las actividades de Profe son actividades normales?” and they reply “NO” generally with some kind of commentary that I will sometimes engage in because let’s be honest, I’m a bit ridiculous. What was convenient though was we had just finished finals, which I took La Maestra Loca’s advice on and ALL of my kiddos showed they had progressed and gained knowledge of some kind. So I added to my “chant” and asked “Pero, los estudiantes tienen más español que en septiembre” and they said “¡sí!” So we carried on in English. I talked about how “I spent time over the summer researching second language acquisition and how to learn language the fastest and there is an activity that research says is the best, and we are going to try it out! If you have comments/reactions, keep it to yourself”. Then I walked over to my books and started pulling up some – I never called them books. I called them stories. Kids love stories, books have such a negative connotation unfortunately. So I pulled them out and talked about how “this one was written by our student teacher’s teacher and is kinda sorta like the TV show lost”. Then would pause and look around for another book, amp up the excitement and say “This one, the author is from Des Moines and I went to college with him!” and amp up the excitement again “this one is my favorite one so far – it’s so intense it’s like a movie!” Then I divided up the bins and let students dig through them and look at the books, flip through them, read the back, and pick out three to five they didn’t think would be “too bad” and we started reading! At the end of our three and a half minutes, we put names on our bookmarks as inspired by Señora Chase to use as bookmarks and put them in the book that was a best fit for them!

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I do give students a grade for reading, using this rubric inspired by Ms. Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic and it is worth 10% of their final grade. Every day before we begin reading, I say (in L1) “I know some of you think I’m trying to torture you, but I’m not. I’m trying to help you acquire as much Spanish as I possibly can in a short amount of time. Here – look at what people who study how to learn language say!” and I display one of the slides here. Then we discuss the rules as listed out by Mr. Bryce Hedstrom. And we read! I read with them – and glance around the room from time to time – and have conversations with students as needed!

Step Four: Let students shine!

When students finish a story, they get to write the name of it on a sticky note and put the sticky note on my door. When the door is full, I will bake cookies and bring them in for the class. (they are SO food motivated) That isn’t working out so well, they keep falling off. So I’ll need a new system for that one, anyone have any ideas?

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Hope this helps somebody! We’re all in this together! Keep shining!

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4 thoughts on “How I did it: Sustained Silent Reading

  1. OH MY GOODNESS! Congratulations! I have to figure out how to do this in my “life on a cart.” I’ve been trying to get my kids pumped up but they’re so blaaaah about reading and honestly, I know a lot of it has to do with me and how I presented it the first time I tried. hashtagfirstyearteacherfails

    I’m thinking about asking admin to carve out a space in our multipurpose room to use as a “Spanish Reading Zone” and I love that idea of bringing in a couch that kids can ONLY ENJOY if they are READING IN SPANISH! I’m thinking about scouring for some fun foldy chairs, maybe videogame rocker chairs, stuff that’s cheaper and easier for me to transport to school, lol!

    ALSO THOSE BOOKMARKS! OMIGOOODNESS! What a SPLENDID idea! It’s like social media reading! I wonder if maybe encouraging the kids to leave post-its in the book with new words they encountered or reactions to the story…. hmm….. now my teacher brain is on a roll!

    Thank you for the inspiration. Your presentation just gave me the uuuumpf to try and make a reading space happen even given my space restrictions!

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    • When I student taught we were on a cart/between two buildings so I know how difficult/frustrating it is to not have a home! The couch I have is an old couch from my house when we updated furniture, but if you check Facebook Marketplace there are always tons for relatively cheap. Or if you drive by apartments during turnover (I live in a college town so July 31st we hop in the car and drive around to see what people have thrown away that they didn’t want to bring home)

      I LOVE teacher brains on a roll! I love the idea of “social media” and leaving little notes in the books!! They could leave notes on if they liked it or not, or its “genre” (romantic, spooky, intense, etc) oh dear so many options!

      Even on a cart, language acquisition can still happen! I’ve found that my attitude can totally be the kids’ attitude. There are always a few stinkers in the bunch, but as T-Swift said, “haters gonna hate”, and she makes millions of dollars off their hate so we got this! Thanks for the feedback! Let me know how it goes! Keep me updated! If you need to bounce ideas off someone let me know!

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