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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflections on a 40 Books in 4 Months Challenge

What is it? Why would I do it?
A lot of my students are reluctant readers. They have struggled for a long time, don't always enjoy reading, and feel easily defeated when they pick up a book. I'm always trying to find ways to combat these feelings and get my students more motivated to read. 

This spring, I challenged my 4th grade students to a "40 Books in 4 Months" Challenge. Essentially, they would need to read 40 books in 4 months. Since many of them read primarily picture books, I felt that it was within reach for all of them.

I didn't want them to feel overwhelmed and I wanted them to be consistently motivated, so I decided to do the challenge with them. That way, we could all hold each other accountable. I hoped that it would provide an added sense of motivation for them to "compete" with me.

I chose to do this for three primary reasons:

  1. The more you read, the better you get. If my students are reading more, chances are they are going to improve in some aspect of their reading. 
  2. I wanted them to push themselves to read more books and be successful in a challenge. Since my students struggle academically, they sometimes feel as though they are failures. I wanted them to see that they could be successful with an academic challenge. 
  3. I wanted them to expand their reading horizons. With all of us completing the challenge together, I wanted students and myself to give each other recommendations and become exposed to books that we otherwise would not have read. 

How to:
I introduced the challenge in January by telling them I had a challenge for them to read 40 books by the end of the school year. A few looked at me like I was crazy and another told me there was no way he could do it. I reminded all of them of how I much I believed in them and knew they could complete this challenge. We officially began the challenge a few days later.

Since I was doing this in my resource classroom, I also made the general education teachers aware of the challenge so they could motivate the kids and support them.

I gave each student a square on my bulletin board, put their name up, and told them they could bring in a picture for the square if they wanted.

Once the challenge started, I initially counted books after they had completed an Accelerated Reader test. That way, they were also working on this school requirement. Once they met their AR goal, they would write down the book they read and the author for me. Every time they read a book, I would print out a picture of the book cover (found from google) and staple it in their square.

Once a week, they would count their covers and write their total on a sticky note. That way, they could see how they were progressing.

Once the four months was over, a good chunk of my students read 40 or more books (and I did too!). Those students were invited to my classroom for lunch for pizza and they also received a certificate. You can download the certificate for free here.

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Next Year:
Many of them asked me if we would be doing the challenge again because they really enjoyed it. My goal is to start a full year challenge in the beginning of the school year, but with some added components to make it more engaging, student-led, and get some family support as well.

I would suggest a reading challenge for you students, especially if they are a group of reluctant readers!

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