Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sustained Silent Reading On-line

Every day during first hour at my school we have sustained silent reading except we call it GRAB for Go Read A Book. Each teacher with a first hour has a box of thirty books that students can choose from or students can bring in their own materials including books, magazines, or comics. As research shows (so I have heard, I don't have a source. It is one of those things that I have heard repeated so many times that it must be true:) reading ability will improve by this daily practice and it does not matter what is being read as long as it is at a student's level.

by Lessio
This year I am trying something new. I am allowing students in my class to read on the computer. I have put up a link to my Delicious bookmarks to free on-line books but I do not think most of them are reading from it. My rules are no games, music, or videos, but everything else is fair game. What I have observed students reading so far are comics and sites such as MTV or ESPN. 

I have also created a class diigo account so that students can bookmark and share their reading with each other. They have not used them too much so far but it has only been a few days.

I know that there has been some research lately about the effects of on-line activities and attention spans and some posts in other blogs (like here). 

I would appreciate any feedback positive or negative about what you think about this approach. I am pretty sure there is no research on this specific practice and am trying it out because it "feels" like the right thing to me, but I am interested constructive criticism.

So my question for readers is this: Do you think this is an effective way to increase reading fluency? 

PS: A quick survey of my class this morning and I have 4 students reading traditional books or magazines, 7 reading on-line books and comics through Google books, and 3 reading on-line news such as sports or entertainment. I think that is sweet!


  1. 1. Why only 30 books?

    2. What age/grade students?

    Without knowing those answers, I can only say that I would be inclined to try to develop a much larger classroom library (including books, e-books, websites, magazines, etc.) so that I could point students to something in their area of interest without having to resort to allowing things like MTV's site to become their SSR material.

  2. I personally like the idea of using the computer as one of the resources for GRAB (which sounds like a better acronym than SSR). It also gave me the idea of compiling my own bookmarks of sites that are of student interest, though sites like MTV are blocked at our school site.

    I know there are websites that cater to the teen interest, I support:

    And, engaging the students by allowing them to bookmark sites encourages interactive learning. I'd also use this as an assessment tool to measure their reading interests.

    I support this idea. Perhaps, if you want to further assess what they are learning, maybe they can bookmark these sites and answer a few general questions the sites on scraps of paper (I recycle paper by printing on the blank sides of used paper).

    Or, before bookmarking them the students will have to complete a form that will allow you to look at the sites for classroom appropriate material.

    This really did trigger an idea and I commend you for it. G'job!

  3. @Mark
    I teach 7th grade first hour and I am not limited to 30 books but that is manageable to me. I have to check them out of the library and keep track of them. I can go back and exchange them at any time for different books also. The students also go weekly to the library in their English class and pick out their own books. My 30 books are supposed to be back up for if they forget to bring their own book.

    As far as MTV, it does not bother me as long as they are READING. I believe that any reading is profitable and will not become the "book police" for content.

  4. @Melody Thanks for the feedback and support. I like your idea of using the bookmarks to find out their interests.

    As far as assessment goes there is none. We debated this as a staff when implementing this program a couple of years ago and I believe we made the correct decision. We want students to ENJOY reading and not feel as if it is an assignment. So we require silent reading of students' choice of materials with not strings attached.

  5. One thing we authentically do as readers is share what we're reading. While I am not in favor of "assessing" SSR through written summaries or filling in logs, I like using the last 5-10 minutes of SSR time for open sharing. It is one way to at least get an idea of which students are "fake reading" which I worry about with my students whether they are reading a book, magazine, or computer. Not all students will want to share right away but you can build a culture where they share so that they can find new material and suggest materials they think their friends will like.

  6. @LeeAnn Sharing is a good point. I am going to try to encourage, but not require, students to share through Diigo and its tools.

  7. Hello, My name is Ellie Irish-Jones and I have come to your blog as part of an assignment for my EDM310 class taught by Dr. Strange at the University of South Alabama. I enjoyed reading your blog. I think every teacher should have GRAB time in their classroom. It is so important for students to read, and to enjoy it at that. Many students lose interest in reading which is upsetting because reading is beneficial. I liked your idea of trying to reach a paperless classroom and allowing students to read from the computer. By doing this they are at liberty to read what they want, but like you said, they are reading! Maybe reading MTV isn't the most mentally stimulating but if it keeps them reading then that says something. Perhaps if they spend their reading time online you could allow them a certain amount of time to read from their choice of website and the other time from websites approved by you? You can check out my blog and write back if you get a chance!

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  9. Hi, My name is Amelia Platt and I am in EDM 310 at the University Of South Alabama. I am a junior and I was given your blog to read . I think the GRAB idea is great. When I was in middle school they did this during our homeroom and we could read whatever we wanted as well. I think it helps when the kids get to read things they want too. I know I am one of those students that hates being forced to read things I do not want to. That is why I hated summer reading when I was in school. I think letting them read from the inter net is a good idea. I would say one day a week though they should read What I have picked out for them. I enjoyed your blog and look forward to reading it again. I will summarize the two post I have made on my own blog in two weeks. My Blog is . I look forward to hearing from you.

  10. Hi, my name is Crystal Raper and I am currently in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I was assigned to follow your blog. I think it is great what you are doing for your student's. Giving them the ability to approach reading in a new way, and will maybe make it more exciting for them to read and learn, especially since they get to use the web. I truly enjoyed reading your blog, and I cannot wait to see more.

  11. Hi. My name is Kathryn Buchanan from Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. You can visit his blog at I will be summarizing my comments on your blogs by October 10th on my blog at I think what you're doing is an interesting idea. I have been a huge fan of reading my whole life and remember pleasure reading time in school being something I looked forward to. I think the idea of allowing students to read online is a great way to keep them reading and learning as well as introducing them to a new way to stay up to date with technology. In a way, you are giving them a better knowledge of how to use the internet. It is a way for them to learn and also to have fun doing it. Be sure to keep them reading because I have found that a love for reading can be a real treasure. Thank you for letting me comment on your posts!
    Kathryn Buchanan

  12. Hello! My name is Brooke Broadus and I am in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I will be reading your blog and summarizing my comments on my blog at

    I love this idea of you allowing students' to read online. Growing up I remember always having to read books my teachers selected for me. Most of the books I did not enjoy at all. I like how you are giving your class the opportunity to read something on the internet that interest them. Not only are you giving them options to what they read, but you are also allowing them to become familiar with the internet. This keeps the students online which is good because learning how to use technology is very important for students today. I think you are giving the students a great opportunity!

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  14. Hello I am Edward Hughes and I'm in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I have read through your article and I think your on to something. When I was in middle school I didn't care much for sustained silent reading because none of the book interested me. What you are doing is giving the students something they enjoy reading which I think helps build the foundation for their speed while reading. I think your doing a great thing skeep up the good work.

  15. Thanks to all of the commenters from Dr. Strange's class. I hope you can continue to find useful or thought-provoking ideas here and on other excellent blogs. I recommend that you follow your favorite blogs with an RSS feed reader. Good luck as you prepare to teach!

  16. Hi, my name is Abby Smith. I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am reading your blog for an assignment for my EDM 310 class. I think that having the students read on the computer is a good thing. I think that as long as they are still reading, it is a good thing. Also, the computer is what this generation knows and is what they are more comfortable with. Great idea! I hope it works out for the best!