Ever wonder how to complete a Book Talk with a student when you haven’t actually read the book? Today’s video is all about how I run Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) and manage Book Talks:

SSR handouts and forms:

Listen & Learn podcast-based lesson:

Billions in Change documentary:

Billions in Change lesson materials:

Have questions about SSR or Book Talks that I didn’t address in the video? Leave ‘em below and I’ll try to answer everyone’s questions in a follow-up video. Teach on, everyone!

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. Hi Laura,
    Thank you-thank you-thank you! I have been using your SSR plan over the past couple of years, and I always have a guilty feeling when I would give a book talk over something I had not read. You’ve taken away my teacher guilt. You’re so right; English teachers can’t keep up with all the books kids want to read.


  2. For sure, Kelly, this is a guilt-free zone. Even the best-read English teachers couldn’t possibly keep up with every title our kids bring in. Glad this was a useful topic! 🙂


  3. I love you! You are funny, bright, inspiring, AND generous with your knowledge. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Until next time, have fun with your kids!!!!


  4. Hi Laura,

    I have used SSR for many years. I have worked at several schools that included SSR time in the daily schedule for the whole school. I currently do SSR with my students for 15 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday. They can take Reading Counts quizzes during that time and work on their reading logs. I really like how you do book talks with your students and I think I will give them time during SSR. School has begun and we are off to the races. How is your sister doing after her knee surgery? I hope she is doing well.


  5. Aw…love the love, L. Marie! 🙂


  6. Thanks for remembering her, Kendall! It’s been a couple of weeks now and she’s already up and taking charge of life again. She’s a trooper, for sure, and has healed much faster than I would’ve imagined. Such a relief! 🙂


  7. My book talks were successful last year, but it did get complicated when we did a whole class novel. My reluctant readers didn’t handle doing both the in-class book and their independent novel. How do you handle it?


  8. Good question, Leah. No perfect solution for this, but I do encourage those kids who need it to take notes and use them on their Book Talk time. I’m also more likely to suggest audiobook support for those kids. In recent years, I’ve moved away from using a lot novels and full plays because I needed to make more room in the schedule for writing instruction and our spring 20Time project. Instead, I usually have just one major literary unit per semester, a move that would be helpful for kids who struggle with the SSR situation you described. Hope this helps!


  9. Laura- I am using your SSR for the first time this year with my 10th and 11th graders. I read somewhere that you require juniors to do 500 pages (even if non-honors). Is that across the board or do you sometimes allow the struggling readers to do fewer pages? Also, in the “carry-over” for next quarter, does this simply mean that a student only has to read what’s left for that quarter and is able to read a shorter book at that time?


  10. Hi Rachel,
    Glad you checked in with me! For struggling readers, I will alter the page scale depending on an individual student’s IEP. I usually work that out with the student and his/her case manager at the beginning of the year. As for the carry-over, yes, a student with a nearly full book page “bank account” could Book Talk a shorter book in the following quarter and still reach the maximum score. Once the full page count for the entire year has been reached, he doesn’t need to Book Talk with me anymore (even if that’s done long before the deadline), but he does always need to have a book with him to read on our SSR Fridays in order to earn the 10 weekly reading points. Hope this helps clarify things! 🙂


  11. Laura, I am absolutely LOVING reading Fridays with my students. You have helped keep me sane. I am able to grade papers, prepare lessons for the following week, and overall feel relief at the end of the week instead of being overwhelmed. THANK YOU so much for all the lessons and videos you have shared. It really has revived my energy as a teacher. (I’ve been doing this for – GASP – 26 years.)

    If a student daydreams during reading, I’m curious how much you might deduct of the 10 points for that day’s reading. I have my own idea, but I wonder your thoughts and rationale for deducting points.

    Thanks again.


  12. Oh, Darby, I’m so glad to hear the SSR routine is giving you some breathing room at the end of the week. Very necessary! For a daydreaming kid, I’m usually pretty gracious if it’s only a once-in-a-while thing. I, too, sometimes stop to think about something I’ve just read or a passage will trigger a memory and I’m sure I have that same faraway look on my face in that moment. When I notice a daydreamer, I might walk past her desk and tap on her tabletop to refocus her or I might silently catch the kid’s eye and make a motion toward her book; that’s usually all it takes to get the kid back on track and I don’t take away a point for that momentary loss of focus. If, though, I have a kid who is pretending to read but really just staring out the window, that’s a different issue. That kid may need a more interesting book, may need audiobook support, or may just need to go get a quick drink of water. For me, it’s less about deducting points and more about figuring out what that kid needs in that moment to get back on track. I usually deduct points for things like falling asleep, trying to sneak a phone, pretending to read while working on homework for another class, or making noise/being goofy with friends. As always, use your best judgment and treat kids the way you’d want your own kids (or maybe even grandkids, eh?) to be treated. Hope this helps. TGIF!


  13. I tried SSR last Friday for the first time with some very rowdy 9th graders, and it was surprisingly silent. They all seemed to enjoy the peace and tranquility, especially me! I read with them, and although I have nearly 175 students in the day, I only needed 7 re-directions because a few got sleepy. I was wondering… since you give 10 points for bringing their book and being engaged, what do you do if a student is absent on an SSR day? How do they make up points?


  14. Behold the power of SSR! 🙂 Seriously, though, I’m so glad to hear this is working for you, Kelly. Make-ups for absent students are super-easy. I just require that students read on their own at home for 45 minutes and bring me a signed note from a parent/guardian stating that they did so. When I receive the note (school policy says it has to be within five days of the excused absence), I change the 0/10 to a 10/10 in the grade book. Simple.


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