Reading is the core of every successful facet of education. There is then, small wonder, why so many schools have moved towards incorporating SSR into their curriculum. Unfortunately, there are still pockets of educators who do not completely understand SSR or what it is supposed to be used for. Let’s begin by explaining what SSR is. SSR means, silent, sustained, reading. The importance of an SSR program is that, many struggling readers read less than 10 pages of text per day, according to D. Hartness, 2006. An SSR program allows students to choose their own books, and gives them silent time to actually read the text. Still, reading alone is not enough. Students need time to chunk and chew the information that they have just read. This is where my holiday projects come in.
It does not matter what grade level that you teach; educators everywhere, can benefit from these Holiday project ideas. The ideas are quite simple. Go to your local Wal-Mart, Walgreens or Michael’s store, and buy coloring books. Some of you are wondering, what in the world I could be talking about. Well, the arts are an excellent way to tie together reading with core skills and tasks, that students need to practice.
For example, read the following ideas below for Thanksgiving as a basis for your next Holiday project.
1. Buy a Pilgrims, pumpkins, cornucopia or other Thanksgiving coloring book from your local store.
2. Copy between 1 to 5 pictures that would allow open space for writing both student thoughts and text evidence.
3. Buy yarn, construction paper, card stock (colored or plain) and gift or curling ribbons.
4. Buy crayons, marker, colored pencils, pastels (oil and acrylic) and/or paint.
5. Buy a package of note cards. 3X5 note cards work best for this project.
6. Look at your student’s low skills- Main idea, inference, cause and effect, or otherwise.
On day one, explain to students that you all will decorate the classroom or the hall, with their holiday creations. You may want to make this project a completely inside of the classroom ordeal, or allow students to take their creations home, and finish them there.
Let them choose 5 core reading skills, which they will work on to create a holiday book of Reading. You may want to list the skills that you found as low, reading objectives, for students. Regardless to how skills are assigned, make sure that students will benefit from the practice of those skills.
Allow for about 20 minutes of reading for the next 5 days, and 10 minutes “creative” time to complete their projects. Instruct students to answer the following information about their reading. (This is just a sample.)
Inference Skill: (On a note card.)
1. Write the title of your story.
2. Write a brief synopsis of what is happening (1- 3 sentences ONLY.)
3. Write a one sentence inference, supported by text evidence.
4. Choose a picture to be the first picture of your book.
5. Design this picture and attach your note card.
You will want to continue this project for the next 5 days.
Simple! Easy! Fast! Effective! Believe me, when I began using this project with middle and high school students, I thought I would face a lot of objections. I thought the students would view this project as too baby-ish and too beneath them. The response I got was the exact opposite. Several students commended me for giving them “a break” in their studies. They had fun reading and writing. They had fun, designing and coloring. Little did they know they were learning throughout this process! Students had to understand the concepts that they were working on, and they continually sought answers, proved answers and argued their points in succinct, grammatically correct, writing.
I, as the educator, saw low reading, objective skills increase by 5 and 10 percentage points. Many of my struggling readers began to love reading because they could also be artists once they finished this process. SSR is necessary. Believe me; you want to try this project. It is a great learning tool, it is awesome for displaying student work, and your kids will thank you for it! If you try this for Thanksgiving, go back and buy all of the holiday coloring books that you can find.
Personal note: Valentine’s Day is the best!
If you would like to read up on SSR, see some of these references below:
D. Hartness. (2006). Sustained Silent Reading Program.
SSR Powerpoint. Miami- Dade County Schools.
EM Garan. (2008). The Benefits of Silent Sustained Reading.