Q&A: SSR Follow-Up

After last week’s video about Sustained Silent Reading, here are answers to some specific questions that popped up:

Last week’s SSR overview video that you should watch before viewing this one:

A free set of my SSR handouts:

Teach on, everyone!

20 thoughts on “Q&A: SSR Follow-Up

  1. Lena Thompson says:

    Laura, I love your videos and materials! I have a question about the 10 points. Are those 9 individual entries in the grade book or do they add up to 900 by the due date and count as one grade. How do you weight your courses? I am a SPED Resource teacher with high hopes for my kiddos. Some of them have never read a book and I don’t want them to graduate without a love of reading. I can’t wait to start this. Unfortunately I just got rid of a bunch of Palahniuk’s books, but hopefully they are in the school library. Thank you so much!

  2. Thanks so much, Lena! The weekly 10 points that students earn usually add up to 90 points – 9 weeks X one 10-pt. session per week in a perfect world where nothing happens to mess with the schedule and we both know there’s no such thing so it actually ends up being more like 80 points for 8 sessions in most 9-week grading periods. On top of that and as a separate grade, I enter a major project score of up to 100 points for the quarter Book Talk.

    I used to weight grades but now use a straight-forward points system which is easier to manage with the grade book program. Roughly, though, the categories work out to the following:
    15% reading
    35% writing
    10% speaking/listening
    20% homework
    20% quizzes/exams

    I do hope you’re able to find a way to make SSR work for your kids. Many of my kids who qualify for resource services have found success with the audio book/physical book combo and I’m thinking that might be a good path for you to pursue, too. Go for it! 🙂

  3. Danielle Vorkapich says:

    I am confused about the finishing a book before the deadline. I your original sheet you say it’s not about the number of books but the number of pages. Yet here it sounds like you are saying you require them to finish a book each 9 weeks, so then it is about the number of books. I’m thinking of the like “The Goldfinch” – it’s super long and it might take the whole semester to finish it. Then at the first 9 weeks, what is their book talk on?

  4. Hi Danielle,
    Sorry about any confusion. Certainly, you are welcome to run your program however best fits your kids and your classroom community, but I require students to finish a book before they participate in a Book Talk with me and they’d need to be sure to fulfill that assignment before the first-quarter deadline. If a student showed up with The Goldfinch, a challenging work for sure, I’d remind that student that he/she would need to finish it before our first nine-week marking period deadline. Any extra pages would roll-over into the second quarter, but the book would need to be finished by the first quarter deadline in order to him to earn a grade for the first-quarter marking period. That’s a way to help ensure students don’t bite off more than they can chew, as the cliche goes, when they choose that first book. If they have a healthy Book Talk page balance later in the year and want to tackle a long book for their fourth quarter score, that’s fine. They get to manage their books, but they do need to make sure they’ve completed enough Book Talks each quarter to secure the score they desire.

    When I say it’s not about the books, I mean that it might take one, two, or even three (very small) books to hit the quarter total. As long as the books are age-appropriate, they can read and report as many as needed to read the quarter deadline total. For most kids, that’s just one book, but other will present more than one completed book for a Book Talk each quarter and that’s fine with me, too. Hope this makes sense and helps clarify things. 🙂

  5. Drew Sullivan says:

    Hello Laura,
    I’m currently student teaching and am getting SO much inspiration for taking on my own English class next fall. I have a question about your SSR fridays. Do you get pushback from your parents/admin about that? There is a huge push from our school to raise rigor and, though I would LOOOVE SSR Friday, I don’t know how I can make them see the benefits. Any tips?

    PS you’re an inspiration. Thanks for all the advice!

  6. Congratulations, Drew, on joining our ranks! Get ready to have a delightfully exhausting adventure. Happily, no one on my campus has called the value of SSR into question (it’s a very common strategy), but if they did I would rest easy knowing that research is on our side: https://tinyurl.com/SSRvalue Happy reading! Maybe this’ll be one of your research paper topics? 😉

  7. Chris Reed says:


    I just started watching your videos and I am in awe! After 20 years of teaching I have different issues today than I did when I first started teaching. I think you may have solved a problem for me that I have had for the last 10 years. I do have one question though. If a student finishes their page quota for the semester or year, what do you have them do during SSR? Do you award extra points for additional reading or is it just expected that they read without the possibility of points? If the later is true, do you have success with them remaining motivated to read? For most of the kids who enjoy reading this would most likely not be a problem, but I am just curious how you keep them chugging along.

  8. Thanks so much, Chris. Glad you like the materials. Okay, so I face this same situation with every class. There are always a handful of kids – my super-readers – who burn through the entire 1,000-page requirement for the full year (250-pages per quarter) well before the deadline date/s. To keep those kids reading, they still need to have an SSR book with them and read every Friday to earn their 10 weekly points; they just don’t need to worry about Book Talking with me after they’ve successfully logged/earned those first 1,000 pages in their book page “bank account.” I tell kids that we all should be lifelong readers, so they need to keep on reading with the rest of the class every Friday until the end of the year. They also need to earn their weekly reading points. I don’t offer those super-readers extra credit or anything like that. They just keep on keepin’ on. Also, these tend to be the types of kids who read for fun, so they don’t have any problem at all with this approach. Hope this helps clarify how I run the show. 🙂

  9. jenny klass says:

    I found your channel this summer and am I ever glad! You have inspired me to make some necessary changes in my sophomore English class, which actually begins tomorrow! I am planning on implementing SSR Fridays–thank you; however, I am not sure how to work it out with the two novels we read (one each semester). Do you use your curriculum novel during SSR reading time or is the novel all outside work in addition to the four books they read for SSR? Thank you so much!

  10. Hey, Jenny, welcome to the party! 🙂 No, I don’t let kids use our core literature as SSR material. SSR books are above and beyond our set curriculum. Hope this helps and that you have a great Day 1 tomorrow.

  11. Angela Castro says:

    Laura, how do you handle graphic novels or manga in regards to page totals?

  12. Great question, Angela! While I appreciate the validity of graphic novels and manga, they really don’t work for the page-count system, so they don’t quality as SSR books for the Book Talk tally. Once kids have their yearly goal met, they are welcomed and encouraged to bring in graphic novels if they wish to fill any remaining Fridays to earn their 10 weekly points. It’s definitely a flaw in the system, but I haven’t been able to figure out a fair alternative. Books with pictures, obviously, have to count as fewer total pages. Hope this helps. 🙂

  13. Robert Burnham says:

    Hello Laura,
    Now that I have a bit more free time (because of COVID-19 and schools closing), I’ve just been trying to overhaul my own SSR program for next year, using your program as inspiration.
    1. I was wondering about that 25-to-50-page loophole on the SSR guidelines. If a student abandons a book, could he then come back and top off the page count (or, in other words, use that same book again to increase the page count for the book)?
    2. Also, how do you calculate page counts for manga, graphic novels, and poetry books? Are they allowed in your class? If not, how do you keep this “ban” from discouraging students who really want to read these types of books (since a few of these students may also be reluctant readers)?
    3. Finally, if a student wanted to, let’s say, read a 300-page book to exceed the 250-page-per-quarter requirement, would he need to finish the book before being able to complete a book talk? If so, how do you keep this from discouraging ambitious students who might want to read longer, meatier books?
    Thanks and stay safe out there!

  14. Hi Robert,
    Hope all is well with you. As always, I encourage folks to adapt my plans in whatever way will make the process the best fit for you and your kids. Happy to also share my approach to your three scenarios, of course:
    1. No, I don’t let students “abandon” the same book twice. If it’s coming up on the end of a quarter deadline and a student wants to top off his/her Book Talk page count, he can report 25-to-50 pages of any other book we haven’t yet discussed. Once a book is abandoned, it clearly didn’t hold the kid’s interest so he should move on to fresh terrain.
    2. In those cases, I work with kids individually ahead of time to determine a fair number of pages based on the amount of text included in the book. I’m also mindful of IEPs and work with students and their case managers to determine appropriate SSR page goals. Use your best judgment here.
    3. Yes, he’d need to finish the 300-page book by the next Book Talk deadline for it to count. The good news is that the extra 50 pages roll over into the next quarter’s tally. This happens all the time. Most kids don’t have any trouble getting through a 300-page novel they’re enjoying within the grading period. Sometimes, though, a kid will bring in a 600-page tome and I’ll remind him that the deadline won’t be extended. Sometimes, bookworm kids stick with their choice and are able to make the deadline; other times, a kid will decide to, instead, quickly read a 250-page book to meet the deadline way early and then enjoy extended time with the 600-page book before the next deadline comes along. It’s really about the individual and that kid’s ability to manage his time. Communication and planning are key in those cases.
    Staying healthy and hopeful over here. Take care of yourself!
    🙂 Laura

  15. Robert Burnham says:

    Hello Laura,
    1. So even if a student was started reading a book *only* to top off his quarterly 250-page balance, but ended up reading the rest of the book and liking it, would you still allow a book talk on the book?
    2. Do you ever adjust page count requirements if students choose to read challenging books (so that they’re encouraged to read more challenging books and grow as readers instead of merely sticking with novels they’re comfortable with because they’re “easy”)?
    3. I saw on one of your older posts a list of approved titles for SSR in an American Lit. class. It includes some Malcolm Gladwell non-fiction books, some of which are *non-narrative* non-fiction (e.g. Blink). How would you handle book talks on books like Gladwell’s (as opposed to handling a fiction book)?
    Thanks and take care! 😀

  16. Hey Robert,
    1. This hasn’t come up with any of my students, but I guess we could decide that on a case-by-case basis. Usually, once kids decide to abandon a book, they move on to something new. Again, do whatever seems right to you.
    2. Sure. I’ve had cases with dense type, too, and I adjust accordingly. A good rule I follow is to be reasonable and treat kids how I would want a teacher to treat my own kid.
    3. Again, case-by-case basis. Gladwell tends to use a conversational storytelling voice as he presents cases to support this thesis, which makes his books easier to Book Talk than traditional non-fiction which can be drier.
    🙂 Laura

  17. Robert Burnham says:

    Thanks for the responses! Final question, how you derive the grading scale for SSR? In other words, how did you determine that 470-500 pages equals an A, 448-469 equals an A–, 432-447 equals a B+, etc.? It would be good to know how these grades came about in case I choose to adjust my page counts and grading scales for certain classes or if my students ask me why they got the grade they got.
    Thanks again and stay safe out there! 😀

  18. Oh sure, Robert. I followed my school’s grading scale and used a rough page-to-letter grade percentage to determine those ranges. For example, 448/500 pages is the same as an 89.6 (which rounds up to an A-) and 469/500 is a 93.8 (a solid A starts at 94 percent around here). When necessary to make the scale work, I tilted the page ranges a bit in the students’ favor. I’m guessing you could use similar math to make your page counts fit your school grade scale. TGIF!

  19. Robert Burnham says:

    Hello Laura,
    I was just wondering – do you have students go up to you to have their books approved, or do you just find out what they’re reading during book talks and during in-class reading time?
    Robert Burnham

  20. Hi Robert,
    No, I don’t approve the books ahead of time. For the first book selected in the first week of the school year, we usually visit our school library as an on-campus field trip of sorts and almost all kids choose something from the stacks. Any novel/memoir in our library is fair game for the SSR assignment. Thanks! Laura

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