As a fifth grade teacher, I had two problems. My class average HAD to be 5.8 by the end of the school year. No ands, ifs, or buts about it. Because of my special education endorsement, I had a classroom full of students who struggled to read. Getting a vibe for my dilemma here?! Although each of my students were reading within their ZPD, the overall average ZPD of my class full of special education and low average students was low. Each week, I would receive a paper filled with red circles of students reading below grade level. It honestly infuriated me.
So, what's my second problem? My higher level students were extremely limited on the books that they were able to read. For example, I had one student who had a ZPD of 7.2-8.2. Do you know how many books actually have a ZPD within that range and are appropriate for fifth graders to read? This student was an amazing reader who had always enjoyed reading. Yet as she got older, she began to hate it. She was very limited on her choices. Why on earth would she look forward to reading?
After several teachers voiced the same or similar concerns, our principal decided that each grade level could develop an alternative plan for encouraging and rewarding students to read.
In our new system, we challenged our students to read ten books of their choice each nine weeks. We do not put restrictions on the books that they choose but do require them to be chapter books or books from our nonfiction section. All of the books in our classrooms are really considered acceptable books. At the end of the nine weeks, any students who were able to read all ten books are invited to a Technology Party.
You would be amazed at the level of excitement that our students have for READING! If I order new books from scholastic, they don't have to ask what the levels are. They don't have to ask if it's "ok" to read it. They don't have to read it, but not earn credit for it, which is sadly what many of our students did.