The Silent Sustained Reading Conversation

posted Apr 1, 2013, 3:49 PM by Dawn Gernhardt

I get it. Not all of my students love to read like I do. But, how many times have you seen your students just walk over to the in-class bookshelf and (without looking) pick any book to read for the Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) portion of your class—every time?

I created a new silent sustained reading (SSR) activity for our English 10 honors class and it was a huge success. The students were engaged, it’s easy to model and demonstrate, the students worked in collaborative pairs of their choice, and passionately discussed the book (of their choice) they are reading during SSR in class! Over the last few months, student only read their choice of text for part of the class and then we moved on to the next part of the lesson. My CT and I were feeling with the other SSR accountability measures other teachers and she has tried in the past, such as reading then filling in a reading worksheet or response. I created this activity after reading some of Burke’s ideas in The English Teacher’s Companion, Third Edition.

SSR Poster timing: once a week or once every two weeks.

Duration: 20 minutes.

Step One: Students pick up the SSR Poster activity information half sheets on the way into the classroom.

Step Two: Students have SSR for 10 to 20 minutes (depending upon the agenda for the day/week)

Step Three: Co-teachers model the processes using metacognition. One co-teacher uses the doc camera or projector to follow the directions and think-aloud.

Step Four: The other co-teacher acts as the partner and models using metacognition. The other co-teacher uses the doc camera or projector to follow the directions and think-aloud.

Step Five: The co-teachers model working in partners and having a discussion about their books.

Step Six: The students work in pairs to create an SSR poster where they find the commonalities between their two books.

Note: we worked with pairs who found commonalities between fiction and nonfiction books, and characters that were wildly disparate, such as a divorced middle-aged American woman (The Boys of My Youth) and a 15-year old boy in India (Life of Pi). If the big ideas are broad enough (for example love or hate, fear or safety, hope or despair, experience or innocence), it’s possible to find commonality.

Below are the instructions for students to follow and some student examples.

The Silent Sustained Reading Conversation

Step 1: On one piece of paper, draw a large circle in the middle. Then on either side, write the titles and authors of your books.

Step2: Reflect on your reading and jot down one to two-word answers to the following questions on either side of the paper.

Guide questions:

1.      What kinds of situations are the characters in?

2.      What are the personality traits of the characters?

3.      What conflicts do the characters face?

4.      What major themes are presented in the book (for example, love, friendship, loss, perseverance, etc.)?

Step 3: One at a time, each student discusses his or her responses. While your partner is talking, you should be listening for commonalities in plot, theme, character, conflict, etc.

Step 4. In each half of the circle, list at least three common topics and a key word for each that relates to your book.