Artifact Analysis: Finished Book Lists 2017

Posted on June 16, 2017


“What happens when I make Independent Reading a high priority in my classroom?”

Now that I’ve considered the numbers of books my students have read, I’m wondering about what kinds of books they read. I get a second copy of the finished book lists and get out the highlighters. I brainstorm categories to look for and decide how to mark them:

Read-alouds: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 25; Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse 29] (BLUE)

In-Class Novels: Of Mice and Men and The House on Mango Street (GREEN)

Harry Potter (ORANGE)

From a Series (PINK)

Teacher Recommended (PURPLE)

From the Chalk Tray Display (YELLOW)

From Classroom library (✓)

In a couple of hours, nearly every title has some kind of mark. The outliers are the boy whose list has a number of comics from two universes, and the three girls who have long lists of YA books from the public libraries by authors whose names I don’t recognize. The titles seem to suggest romance, suspense/horror/supernatural, dystopian, and realistic fiction. From the titles I do recognize, I begin to see the patterns and preferences of my ninth grade readers.

Category # of appearances Thoughts
Read-Aloud 54 I was surprised that Hesse was mentioned only 4 more times than Woodson, because we just finished Hesse, and I read Woodson months ago. I wonder why some students list one but not the other?
Of Mice & Men-Steinbeck 25 This number is far fewer than the number who read this book. I wonder why so many didn’t list it?
The House on Mango Street-Cisneros 10 I was surprised that 10 people mentioned House, since far more read Mice, and, surprisingly, not everyone put these titles on their lists.
Harry Potter 25 A few (5) students read several HP books. 2 students read 1 or 2.
From A Series 95 ELA9 Readers like book series. I’ll be on the look-out for some new book series to add to the classroom library.
Teacher Recommended 46 This number makes me happy. Combined with the chalk tray books, the two read-aloud books, and the in-class novel, I can see that I’ve made a big impact on students’ book choices. It motivates me to continue to curate a good classroom library.
From the chalk tray display 48 These are books that I put 0n display, changing it every week or two, to feature an author (John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson; a genre: historical fiction, memoir, books in verse, “classics,” graphics; or a topic: Women’s History Month, MI Authors, etc.)
Checked out from Classroom Library 213 This is almost half of the total number of books (542) on the list. My students can check out books from the school library, the city library, or the county library–but half of all books they read came from my classroom. This suggests that I have a good library going. That said, there are lots of books available in the libraries that aren’t getting read. I’d like to see more books checked out from all of these libraries.

Reflection: I know that I will continue to think about the kinds of  data that the finished book lists provide, and how I can use what I learn to better understand how to increase my students’ reading stamina, fluency, range, and depth as readers. This analysis has increased my knowledge of my students’ reading choices a good deal. I’m interested to see what ideas appear as the information percolates in my brain with the other data.

“What happens when I make Independent Reading a high priority in my classroom?”

  1. Students gain access to high quality, age-appropriate texts in the classroom library which I have always maintained, but for the first year that my students would be REQUIRED to read self-chosen books, I purchased $1500 worth of high-quality YA titles that had been recommended by colleagues whose judgements I respect. I didn’t want my students to say they couldn’t find “good books.” I made sure they could.
  2. Students’ book choices are influenced by the teacher’s verbal recommendations (book talks to introduce students to new titles) as well as non-verbal recommendations made through a book display on the white board chalk tray.
  3. Many students get “hooked” on book series; a good series can motivate many readers to read more than the average number of books in a year.
  4. Students don’t seem to be using school or public libraries very much. I will be looking for ways to increase library use. I want to remember to participate and invite students to participate in the banned book reading event at the city library.
  5. Read-aloud selections and shared novel selections provide common ground in which to discuss literary and rhetorical elements. Asking students to look for the aspects we discuss in class in their “at-home” titles creates a bridge between literary study and reading for pleasure. No- or low-stakes quick writes that explore literary concepts in both books and/or explore other connections provide both supported and independent practice in the skills of rhetorical and literary analysis–which can then become tools for students to try in their own writing.
  6. Rather than the Reading Log, I opted for constant talk of my own independent reading, book talks, and occasional literary or reflective writing about Independent Reading selections. With a group of students who were unaccustomed to daily reading, I was afraid that asking them to keep records beyond their Finished and Someday lists could become burdensome and quash the efforts of some of the most reluctant readers. It was most important to me that I get the students READING, since most self-identified as non-readers on the survey at the beginning of Unit 2. (I wonder what that percentage is; I can look at those artifacts and find out.)
  7. I feel that my first year as a reading mentor was a success, as indicated by the numbers. Considering students’ willingness to take my suggestions and the number of books that were checked out of the classroom library, it seems that my students look to me for guidance as readers and trust my judgements about books I think they’ll like. I couldn’t make every reader happy, but I listened to my students’ interests, concerns, and qualms, showing them books and pointing out aspects they might enjoy until I found “the right book” for most.
  8. I’m remembering now that even at the end of the year, some parents seemed shocked to find that, contrary to what had been reported to them, their student DID have homework EVERY night: READING. I’m going to be proactive and communicate this expectation to parents from the beginning. I’ll take a page from my friend, Carrie Melnychenko’s “book” and invite parents to get a copy of a book their student has chosen and read it together. OH! IDEA!! What if a student selects a read-aloud for the family or reads aloud to a younger relative? Extra credit opportunity!
  9. The artifacts I will examine next are the documents in the students’ folders where students wrote about their books, set and reflected on goals, and which show students’ reading practices over time, etc.
  10. The artifacts I am most excited to explore are the students’ documents for the final unit, when I asked students to research 2 growth trends in their own reading practices (fluency, stamina, range, or depth). As soon as I saw some of the products that students had made to represent their growth, I got excited about looking at them with a researcher’s eyes. Analysis is one of my favorite parts of the research process.

This is the 4th post in a series on ELA9. The links to earlier posts in the series are below:

#1 Growing Readers–Through READING!

#2 Organizing the Archive for Research

#3 What’s here? What am noticing?