Today’s drop of brilliance comes from Jess, a fellow bookworm and middle school English teacher. With her permission, I’m sharing a tangible and beautiful way to motivate your kids to keep reading their SSR books. Each year, Jess runs a light-hearted reading competition among her class periods. Whenever a kid finishes a book (and in my world that’d include successfully completing a Book Talk), they write their name and book title on a slip that gets added to their class period’s paper chain. Each class is marked with a different color.

Here’s what Jess’ chains look like right now in the first month of school:


And here’s what they looked like at the end of last year:


Jess’ students read more than 1,300 books last year and enjoyed the visual reminder of their progress. “I try to dispel any competition between classes,” she said on her Instagram feed. “[This year’s] kids are already starting the ‘at the end the winners get to…’ I just keep saying we will definitely have a big celebration of reading at the end of the year. One of my favorite parts is that the students start cheering on each link and noticing when classmates are adding to it.”

Amen, Jess. The prize? It really doesn’t need to be anything at all. Reading great books and celebrating our collective process is what matters. Jess herself is a voracious reader and you should follow her/dig into the book recommendations on her IG feed, @reading_up_with_jones.

Teach on, everyone!

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Great post 😄


  2. Thanks! All credit goes to Jess. I’m just the messenger. 😉


  3. OH I’m SOOOOOO stealing this!!


  4. Go for it, mstee1220! 😉


  5. Looks great, but alas, our fire marshal will not allow us to hang them.


  6. Oh, bummer, Susan. Over on my Facebook feed, some teachers with similar regulations were chatting about marking miles on a map or a digital chain that’s projected every Friday before reading time. Not really the “wow” factor of the paper chains, but that still might work, eh?


  7. I have been struggling so much with getting my students to stay interested in SSR! My standard inclusion students are especially difficult in a general sense. I will definitely be taking this into the new semester! Any other ideas for increasing SSR engagement?


  8. Glad you found this post, kmsteelenc! For inclusion students and those with IEPs, I’d meet ahead of time with their case worker to set appropriate reading page goals that will likely be on a different page-count scale than the one I use with mainstream students. Also, many of my students with IEPs for reading and memory issues have benefitted from listening to an audiobook version of their novel while they hold and read the physical book at the same time. I’d check with my librarian to see what e-reader/audio resources your school can make available. If that’s something written into a student’s IEP, I’ve found administration will move quickly to make that small audio-file purchase. Hope this is helpful.


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bulletin board, fun stuff, high school English, middle school, reading, social media, Uncategorized


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