It's Wednesday morning, and I am taking a break from reading Student Self-Evaluations of the Fall Benchmark and sharing Google Classroom folders with parents as digital portfolios (more on that in future blog posts).

Yes, I am taking a break to talk about lovely Wednesdays where students Drop Everything And Read, also known as Sustained Silent Reading and Million Minutes. 

We began reading The Circuit as a class at the beginning of the year. As a department, my colleagues and I wanted to have a school-wide novel, but we were only provided with a class set of books. I couldn't send a class set of books home with a junior high 6-period day. We had to Drop Everything And Read. Therefore, my class did not turn on our tech on Wednesdays; instead we read for 25-30 minutes.

But I did not want to lose instructional time. My students need to bloom into writers. How could I combine DEAR, writing, and student discussion? The answer - Google Classroom Daily Warm-Up.

With little introduction, I set a 25-minute timer (30-minutes if I am lucky). Students read at their desks, on the carpet, bean bags, or bungee chairs. 

I join them, of course, either by listening to the students read (when they ask me), reading my own book, or engaging individual students in conversations about the book.

At the beginning of the school year, our district purchased boxes of young adult fiction novels. First we read the class novel, but now students get to choose a novel of their choice.

Is Almost-No-Tech-Wednesday easy? No, some of my junior high students are squirrelly. Getting students to read silently for an extended is difficult but valuable. I take interest in what students are reading. Some former non-readers will come up to me to share what they have read. "Mrs. Scott, I read to page 42!" Students are required to have a book with them at all times. Some students will try to pass off their friend's book as their own, but most are genuinely happy to read for enjoyment.

So how does DEAR become Almost-No-Tech-Wednesday? Simple - a Google Form posted in Google Classroom. Once upon a time, I think it was August of this year, I had to add a Google Form as a link to the About section. Those times have long past! Now I can add a Google Form directly to About, or even better, Stream! Then once a week, I move the Announcement with valuable resources to the top of the Stream.

The first quarter we focused on Explanatory Writing using a 2-question Google Form. Question 1 was always the same: Give a quote from the text that demonstrates a central idea. Question 2 required students to expand, elaborate, explain that central idea. As the first students finished their writing, I would give verbal feedback while viewing their responses on the SMARTBoard. 

Now that we are in the second quarter, I am upping the ante. I love when students choose their own books. The only homework every assigned by an English teacher should be to read. 

Our writing task this quarter is to write argumentative essays. Students must read to find arguments and evidence for those arguments. When identifying a theme, students must be able to "argue" that they are correct. For this reason, the Reading Requirement Google Form has expanded to scaffold the writing process for analysis (argument). 

Students are excellent at writing summaries. In fact, many times students are too excellent and spend the majority of the essay summarizing someone else's words instead of adding their own voice and commentary. I want students to take those summaries and go deeper into an analysis. This will take time and direct instruction, but I know the results will be worth it.

Almost-No-Tech-Wednesdays are days to practice reading skills, enjoy reading for the sake of reading, and to practice applying that knowledge via a writing activity. Almost-No-Tech-Wednesdays are also #ShelfieWednesdays.

I urge you to read and write with your students. DEAR, Almost-No-Tech, & #ShelfieWednesdays are a much break from daily lessons and just as valuable. We must remind our students of the joy of reading! Drop Everything And Read today! You and your students will be glad you did.


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