The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.


Today is Saturday, which means, obviously, I hope, that I haven’t done any teaching today. But I wanted to make a quick post because I have had a note sitting on my desk for a few weeks that I wanted to share.

Several weeks ago, I was teaching in a 5th grade classroom during the students’ independent reading period. Years and years ago, this time was referred to as Silent Sustained Reading, or SSR. My brother Adam always joked that it was really the Sit down, Shut up, and Read period. There may have been quite a bit of truth to this. Now it is often just independent reading, and, as a teacher, I usually find myself reminding students that independent reading is also silent reading. And, as they are required to read for an extended period of time (usually 30 minutes), it is also sustained reading. So, really, it is still the same thing.

While the 5th graders were reading, I walked around the room to see what everyone was reading. I was somewhat surprised to discover that roughly 70% of the class members were reading any one of the many volumes of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. I read the first volume and, I admit, they are fun to read. I was just surprised to see so many of the students reading, essentially, the same thing.

What really struck me was the following week, as I was teaching 6th grade reading, and the class was doing independent reading in the library. Just a year older, these students were reading a vast array of literature. Some of the titles that I jotted down in my note were “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Diamond Willow” by Helen Frost. Other students were reading sports anthologies, magazines, and nature books. I am still working on figuring out why there was such a difference in diversity between the two classes. I have looked in on other 5th grade classes and found that, by and large, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is hugely popular across the district. Yet students a year older have such wide variety in reading interests. Is this a common phenomenon, or am I just reading too much into it? I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a definitive answer.


2 responses

  1. Hmm…I should probably tell my younger brother to get with the program. He was also reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but he was in sixth grade.

    One thing you want to look into is whether the sixth grade class was in an honors program/gifted and talented program/etc., Now, I don’t know what new literature counts as classic (since I am aware that yes, books written recently can also become classic)…but it seems to me that if you see a class of people reading F451, Fellowship of the Ring, etc, then those students are a notch above.

    October 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  2. It isn’t just fifth graders who read the “Diary” series. In fact, it is being read quite widely. What I found surprising wasn’t that 70% of the class was reading the books–it was that 70% of the class was reading the same books!

    Incidentally, the 6th grade classes (there were three of them I was teaching) were all the general reading classes. The honors reading program is sometime in the afternoon, and I’ve only subbed for this particular teacher in the morning. Also, note that in addition to the more mature reading, there were the typical sports-related books (a Sports Illustrated biography of LeBron James, for example), books about animals, teen magazines, and even a couple of “I Spy” books. So the question isn’t “Why are sixth graders reading books that are considerably more advanced than fifth graders?” it is “Why are sixth graders reading a wider variety of books than fifth graders?”

    October 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

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