Cruising to a Million Words

     "Million words?" "What?" "Are you kidding me?" "How am I going to read a million words?" These were the comments on the first day of school after the students saw the "Cruise Through Reading" marker from 0-1,000,000 on the wall of our classroom.

     We discussed the different ways they could earn a million words: eReads, paperback books, digital books, or listening to an audiobook. The comments started to change to, "Um, maybe", "I can at least try!", "Never thought about it.", "How many words are in a book anyway?", "Can you help me find a good book because I hate to read?", and so we began our reading quest! The each received their luggage tag, book marker, and set it at 0 to be ready for take-off.

     I gave book talks at the beginning of class, read parts aloud, of course stopping in one of the most exciting parts to hook their interests, and had small group book passes to start off the year. As soon as the students had taken the Reading Inventory and were on the software, quizzes could begin. The students encouraged one another to read, complete QuickWrites, book logs, finish a book, take a quiz, and move their book marker on the wall! The students were on the move!

     Every Friday, the students receive their word count and books read which I have pulled off of the HMH Dashboard. On the board, we calculate the class books read, word count, and class average words read. Naturally, each class started competing. They wanted their class to have the highest individual words read each Friday. I could hear the students talking to one another about their recorded individual books and words read. Words of encouragement and excitement when goals had been achieved could be heard throughout the classroom. I was thrilled! Students excitedly started moving their markers towards 5,000, 10,000, 100,000 words read!

 Making the time every Friday was key.

     Week after week passed. Some students’ markers were taking the lead, some were making gains, and yes, others were barely moving. After, talking with students in small group after their book read and word counts were calculated, some students shared comments that would lead one to believe they had a fixed mindset on reading. "I can't finish a book", "I hate reading!", "I never like any books.", "Why do I have to read anyway, it is so boring!", were often shared as a defense. So, the next day, I chose the high school graphic novel, The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown, only 77 pages, to read aloud for five minutes at the beginning of each period until the book was finished.

     Many students chose to continue reading the book in the independent reading rotation so they finished the book and took a quiz within the week. My reluctant readers were placed in a rotation so they could read the book together. For many of my students, this was their first book and quiz for the year. To continue on the road to success, I let them partner together to take the test. The students worked together to read the book and then encouraged each other during the quiz. When the score popped up on the screen, they quickly let me know their passing score and how they were ready to move their word marker on the wall! Many students in this group decided to choose another book together. They read independently and set individual goals as to when the book would be finished and ready for a quiz to be taken. The thrill of reading was taking off little by little.

 Now, the excitement was growing for these readers because they were having success. And, if that were not enough to make me smile, now they were asking to start their rotation in independent reading so they could read first. "What? You know you can read 1,000,000,000 words?"  One of these readers has completed his 46th book quiz. Another, just recorded their 694,640 words read! 

The District had a READ 180 reading contest and my 6/7 block came in first place. They had read an average of 70,766 words individually in the two week reading competition. Not too bad for students who grumbled at having to be in READ 180 that first day. My 3/4 block came in 7th out of every class across the district! This block has three boys that are in a competition amongst themselves to have the most books or words read each Friday.

 They are determined to be number one.

Every Friday, my students anxiously arrive to class to hear me say their new word and book count. Yes, they know their word and book counts because they see it on their HMH Dashboard, but they love to hear me say it. One class recorded its 3,198,000 words read with an average of 188,000 words each! In another class a student has read 605,345 words and another student has read 49 books and eReads!

One million sounds overwhelming at the beginning of the year to students, but by the first week in December a handful of READ 180 students were a quarter, to halfway, and even closer to one million words read! It's now January, and I'll keep you posted. But, don't shy away from starting this challenge in your READ 180 classrooms.

Share your million words story!

Stage C READ 180 Educator

Philosophy of Teaching All of my life, I have enjoyed working with children and have always desired to teach. It is my belief that no matter what socio-economic background, everyone deserves to achieve his/her educational goals. It is my ambition to facilitate this process.Growing up in the Houston area, I have always been aware of the Cypress-Fairbanks School District. The district's reputation of excellence is well known, not only in the Houston metroplex, but throughout the state of Texas. As a professional educator, it is important to be associated with a school district whose goals for its students are aligned with my philosophy of teaching.