Practice makes perfect. It's an adage every student and teacher has heard hundreds of times; yet, even after the eye rolls, we cannot deny that it is true. You'll never get better at something if you don’t practice. Part of the reason that practice is a tough sell is that, by its nature, practice can be dull and repetitive.
In their book, The Power of A Moment, Chip and Dan Heath argue that schools and classrooms should be run more like sports teams. No one would show up to sports practices or join a sports team if there never was a game. They argue that in schools, we offer students a near-flat line of experiences--a whole lot of practice and not much in terms of game time excitement or reward.
Think about this in terms of your READ 180 classroom. How much of a student's day is spent practicing? How much excitement is there?
Part of my job is designing and delivering staff development. Each summer as I prep for a mandatory five-day professional development workshop for teachers, I start thinking about those one or two experiences that will be memorable, that will break up the learning for teachers. When I have some down time in the summer, it's easier to be creative and to let my mind wander over the possibilities. Brainstorming the possibilities is the fun before game time pressure builds. Then by the time my contract begins, I am ready to create some peak experiences.
You may be asking, "What's a peak experience?" The Brothers Heath define them as experiences that are both memorable and require more planning as well as preparation. Peak moments are naturally exciting and make you feel good.
Peak experiences are as much fun for the planners as they are for the participants because they are rewarding. For example, we've created a book tasting event for our teachers to introduce them to the READ 180 Universal libraries. Our teachers then took this idea and customized and elevated the experience for their students. My team has tailored a few escape room experiences, which are hit with teachers and students alike. A Twitter challenge that involved tweeting a picture of teachers' ideal bookshelves created lots of engaging dialogue about books and readers and helped us get to know our teachers. Permutations of this experience abounded for students that fall. Our team also hosted a student engagement party that ended in an engagement proposal involving ring-shaped lollipops and a solemn pledge by teachers to engage students both cognitively and socio-emotionally.
Plan for Peak Experiences Now
Late July and early August are a good time to dwell on how you will create peak experiences in your reading classroom. Think of these as ways to connect with the students in your classroom, to continue to brand your reading community, and to persuade more students to become active participants.
To get the best results with READ 180, you need to teach the program with fidelity to the model within your district and/or school. This is true of any reading intervention. At first, you think, "Boring! Why do I have to stick to these best practices? Why can't I do it this way?" Having fidelity to a program does not mean you are stifled as a masterful, creative teacher. It means redefining your role and planning for key moments. It means knowing that growth will happen, but it will be so much more fun turning things around by planning peak experiences. Investing some energy into creating peak experiences throughout the year will make READ 180 more memorable for students, potentially grow the number of students who read more often, and break the monotony of the school experience.
You'll have to decide what experiences you wish to heighten for your students. Think about the things that excite students and in particular, some of your most reluctant customers. Sometimes all a reluctant learner needs is one experience to help them become fully invested in the learning. Then, there really is no stopping him or her.
The Possibilities are Infinite
A few things that have created peak experiences for some of the readers in our classrooms involve the independent reading rotation. Try to sneak one or two of these into your classroom to create peaks during the year.
Peak Experiences for Independent Reading
Share some things that have worked for your readers in the comment section. The possibilities are infinite. I'd love to hear what you are doing to pique students’ interest and generate excitement about reading.
You can change a student's whole perception about reading, and possibly school, just by planning some memorable moments. Sometimes these moments happen authentically during the course of the year, but it's definitely worth planning a few because students want a chance to play in the game, not just practice.
Heath, Chip. The Power of Moments Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Thorndike Press, 2017.
Charmion Mohning is the Secondary Reading Coordinator and lead reader in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences about growing a love of reading, word study, and implementing READ 180 with fidelity. She is passionate about ensuring that every student can read. Before becoming an administrator, Charmion taught English as a Second Language in Grades 4-6 and was a curriculum coach for the district’s structured English immersion program. She has degrees from Upper Iowa University and Sam Houston State University.