100 Book Reading Challenge

Capitol Hill Books

This year I’m teaching an amazing class of 28 Year 3 & 4 students – aged 7-9 – 18 boys and 8 girls.

I noticed during term 1 that whenever we did silent reading (SSR/DEAR/personal reading) that many students wouldn’t read, or they would choose books with more pictures than words and then just flip through them.

As a reader myself this bothered me a little, but also as someone who has done things like daily 5 reading this was problematic. I had a range of reading abilities from an ESOL student who was still learning to read in English to a number of students who enjoyed gutsier books.

One day early in Term 2 I came up with an idea and shared it with my class. I would challenge them to collectively read 100 books over the term. If they managed to get 100 then they could plan an afternoon of fun activities. They thought this was a great idea – and given that the Hell Pizza reading challenge was starting at the same time they would get double rewards. I drew up a thermometer (along with an interesting discussion on that that was and how it was normally used!) and ambitiously put a top count of 500.

Term 2 started on April 30th. By May 24th – less than a month – they had read 100 books! Less than a month after that (June 22nd) they had read their 2nd 100 books – they were on a roll. By the end of term they had hit their 3rd hundred (July 6th).

We had a few rules:

  • They could read any book they liked but only fiction books would be marked off – on both my spreadsheet and the Hell Pizza wheel;
  • I allow graphic novels – but if they are reading a series of them and are capable readers I only record the first one;
  • They are allowed to choose their own books – I don’t look at a book and tell the student it’s too hard (or too easy) for them – I let them make that choice.

The results?

I have a class of readers. It is quite normal for some students to have several books on the go.

My students who just love reading – almost more than breathing – have permission to read whenever they can. I note down the titles of their books – my most prolific reader read 21 books in 10 weeks – he reminds me of my younger self.

And the parents are noticing. One parent waylaid me on my way to class to ask me what on earth I’d done to the children – they were all sitting at their desks reading while they waited for me to finish crossing duty and come back to start the day.

I was away sick for a week – when I got back I overheard one student say to another student – “Great – now we can get more reading done!” (Apparently the relieving teacher didn’t realise that the norm for them is to always have a book on their desks so they can read whenever they have finished a task.)

And the unexpected results?

Everyone’s reading improved – without me pushing them. I have 7-9 year olds who say to me – “don’t count that last book – it was too easy for me” or “I didn’t really get into that last book so I’ve swapped it for something else” or “I’m bored with the type of books I’ve been reading and am going to try a different type”. They are becoming discerning readers as well as readers who love to read. And my ESOL student – his reading has surpassed where I wanted it to be for the end of the year – not because I’ve done wonders but because he’s had choice of his own reading material – and reads.


It seems I stumbled upon something that others have written about. By giving students choice over their reading, they become motivated to read. There are many articles about this:

What about Term 3?

Guess what’s going to be happening in my class next term? Yep – we’re going to be reading again (and yes I read as well!). I wonder if we will hit 500 books this term?

Napp reflections

I’ve been on a leadership journey this year working alongside a bunch of fantastic teachers. The NAPP (National Aspiring Principals Programme) course has been challenging, exhausting, frustrating, enriching. Here is my leadership inquiry summary!

Using Sparkol Videoscribe

Over the past week Tara and I have been working on our research report – we decided to do it as a series of short videos – and have ended up getting a Sparkol Pro Videoscribe account to do this. While quite easy to use, it does take some time to create a finished product – especially if you’re wanting to do a voiceover as part of the video. We created the first two episodes in a trial account and iMovie, the third will be done entirely in the pro account (and iMovie for the voice over), and the fourth has been done in a mixture of trial, pro, and iMovie.

However, we have also seen the promise of using this as a classroom tool – not for the kids – but for us to create short snappy videos of concepts and ideas we want the kids to master. Here’s a short video about writing. All videos will be CC licensed for others to use.

Gagging teachers

Just a short post to ask a question – and hopefully get some answers!

What control do you think a school principal/management/BOT should have over whether a teacher is allowed to use twitter or blogger or other social networks to express their opinions on teaching, education etc.?

(This would be on well established personal accounts.)


Time Lapse Fun

Last week I tried my hand at some time lapse photography in my classroom. I did a little research (thanks to the sister of a colleague who attended Learning@School this year) and discovered some Mac software called gawker which runs on your computer taking photographs at whatever interval you specify. I showed my students how it worked then set my laptop up to run during 3 different blocks of time during the day: literacy time; maths time & lunch time (which was very interesting to watch). I’d like to get a whole day but that would mean a little more thought as I’d need to reposition things for power supply etc.

So here we go – a glimpse of Room 9 on St Paddy’s Day.

Digital Art

I am not an artist – at least I’m not a graphic artist (although I am a musician!). Sometimes as a teacher it’s hard to inspire your students in an area you are personally weak in – like art for me. How is it then that we are currently completing our 3rd major piece of art in 7 weeks? (Given my reputation for lack of art work – in previous years I’ve used the excellent art ability of my CRT teacher to produce art work!)

The answer is a session I attended at Ulearn09 presented by my friend Rachel Boyd. I really attended it in order to pick up some information to share back with our junior teachers but I’ve ended up using the ideas for my classroom. Her session was called “Juniors can do IT” – and if you get a chance to attend one of her workshops you must because it really should be STUDENTS can do IT (and teachers for that matter). I’ve embedded one version of her slideshow below:

Our first piece of art is demonstrated in slide #21 – photo symmetry. Here’s our result:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The second piece of art was a kind of blue screening effect (slide #22) where the students sketched a picture with them in it; then a buddy took a photo of them in the correct pose for the picture; printed the picture and cut themselves out; drew the background and stuck themselves into the picture. Here’s our results:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The third piece (and not all finished) was a take on Andy Warhol style pop art (slide #23). We did two versions – using 4 colours for each set of 4 pictures. Instead of paint or dye we used pastels or coloured pencils for our pictures. Some of the colour choices were quite inspired.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The best thing about art work like this is it draws on my strengths (technology) and incorporates creativity. Thanks to Rachel I’m exploring new avenues of expression (as is my class).

Wordle for classroom displays

I’ve been experimenting with creating some Wordle displays to use as posters in my classroom. Here are the four I’ve done so far. My aim is to have them photocopied up to A2 size for displaying in the classroom.









End of year posts

I’ve just made a final post to my class blog – next year I’m in a new classroom with a new number and and year level. The new teacher who will be in the new Room 10 probably won’t be taking over the blog – although she’ll take over the Room 10 wiki later in the year.

In the mean time I’ve created a new class wikiand class blog. Next years students are going to be using edublogs for their ePortfolios so I’ve changed the class blog to Blogger.

Saying goodbye to Room 10 hasn’t been as painful as I thought it would be.

They say a change is as good as a holiday …

I’m not really sure who they are but I suspect they are sort of right.

I guess it depends on what we do with the change or even how we approach it but if we do it right it’s great.

The change for me is moving into a new classroom (ex-library) and up a level – from teaching Year 3&4 (Grade 2&3) to Year 5 (Grade 4). Our “middle” part of the school will have 3 vertical teams each with 4 classes and each class teaching a separate year level – Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6. It’s the first time we’ve done something like this at our school but I think it’s exciting.

Because we are a full primary school (Y0-Y8) our Year 6 students are in a bit of a limbo – other primary schools that only go to Year 6 have leadership roles which the Year 5&6 students take up – but in our school those roles are given to the Year 7&8 students. By having vertical teams we should (theoretically) be able to see some of our Year 5/6 students being given opportunities to show leadership within our teams.

I was initially apprehensive of moving up to Year 5 – my previous experience teaching in that level wasn’t so great – but it was in our old format and I was job-sharing and once I realised that it was going to be different then I began to be quite excited by the prospect. Although I will only have 3 students moving with me (the rest being shared out among the other Year 4 & 5 classes) I will still have a core who’ve been through our fantastic year and who’ve done much of the eLearning experimenting/experiencing with me (including my fantastic student who featured in my Ulearn09 presentation). These 3 students will be my ‘experts’ for the first term.

My new classroom is going to be fantastic – we move in on Monday and when we visited the empty library today the kids started planning out where desks and “learning space” (not my term!) could be. We’ll have a week and a half in there before we break for our summer holidays. I shot a short video of the library before the books were packed; after they were packed and the shelves moved; I’ll shoot one on the weekend when my son and I move some of the gear over and then another short one with the desks and kids in there. Then I’ll merge them all and post here.

I’m looking forward to next year – it’s going to be another exciting, fast moving, thrilling eLearning journey for me and my class.

And my motto for next year?

I have two (which I am going to turn into posters for the classroom):

  • Learning is about taking a risk
  • Learning is about flying high
  • Both inspired by an old book (late 70’s publication) I have called “Skies Call 2” full of skydiving photos taken by Andy Keech that has some truly spectacular photo shots. (The one below features on the cover of the book.)

    My class will be the Room Nine High Divers. We’re going to dive into learning, take risks, enjoy new challenges and soar to new heights.

    Pondering Giftedness

    1. the quality or state of being gifted

    A conversation with a colleague several weeks ago has had me pondering giftedness and what it really entails.

    In school we have GATE programs for gifted and talented students – but that usually means those gifted in arts or music or maths or sports etc. But what about students who are gifted in other ways? Are there other types of giftedness?

    My colleague, Julie, and I are running a buddy class program – we split our classes and each work with 1/2 of the others class on Friday afternoons – that means I get 14 of my Year 3&4 students and 13 of her Y1 students (5-1/2 year olds).

    Julie is a talented/gifted artist – she’s had several exhibitions to show case her art over the years. I, on the other hand, struggle to draw stick figures!

    I have some talent in the area of music and singing – but am not what you’d call gifted in those areas. My area of gifting is to do with technology which is an area that Julie struggles in.

    Colleagues say to me “but how did you do that?” all the time – my response is that computers talk to me. And as strange as that may sound I believe that it is a type of giftedness – one that perhaps is overlooked – “he’s just a geek” or “she’s just a geek” being a common reaction to those of us who sit down at our computers to produce our masterpieces – whether they be webpages or wikis or whatever.

    I know that when I’m talking to other teachers about a program and we’re tossing ideas around as to what we can do, I come up with the techo stuff in the same way that the arty people, and the literary people come up with their ideas.

    I also don’t think it strange to be on my computer for hours on end – I get a lot of enjoyment tinkering away at different things – my wiki page; working on my wikieducator stuff; blogging; tweeting; chatting online etc. My computer is an extension of me – as I explained it to someone last week – some people take handbags with them whereever they go – I take some sort of computing device – I’m never far from being online – even if it’s only via my cell phone.

    What do you think? Is an affinity with computers, web2.0, cloud computing, technology to the extent that the machines are talking to us a form of giftedness?

    And … if it is – what are we doing for the students in our class who are gifted in this way?