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

One Million Minutes

There’s something awesome about the number one million. Maybe it is all the zeros. I mean, come on. Six zeros! 1,000,000. Maybe it is because it is such a large number. Or maybe it just because it is one of those numbers that we can think of, we can represent, we can even count (using computers), but it is still almost unreachable. If you were sit there and count out loud, saying, “1, 2, 3, …” until you reach 1,000,000, the best guess is that it would take you about 11 1/2 days without stopping. That’s a long time.

But when you have a whole lot of people working together, one million isn’t such an unreachable goal. Which is why an idea that popped into my head over the summer is now going to become a reality.

The Wiley Elementary School family in Urbana, Illinois, is going to read for 1,000,000 minutes this year. At least, that is our goal. Honestly, I think we might even reach 5,000,000. Because students, teachers, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, custodians… you name them, they are going to read. And keep track of their reading. And share their reading. And when we reach the lofty goal of one million minutes, I, Mr. Valencic, fourth grade teacher at Wiley, am going to do something I have never done before:

I’m going to shave my head.

Not just get my hair cut short. Not just buzz it. Nope, I’m going to shave it all off. Because as much as I love my curly brown and silver locks of hair, I love reading even more. And if sacrificing my hair is what it takes, then sacrifice my hair I shall.

If every student in the building reads for just 20 minutes a day outside of school (including weekends), and nobody else joins in, it will take about 4 or 5 months to reach our goal. If everyone who is a part of our Wiley family reads together, though, it will happen much, much sooner. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that the last thing we do in the building before the winter break in December is to have a school-wide celebration of reading that culminates in, as one teacher has taken to putting it, shearing me like a sheep.

And you know what? I’d be totally okay with that.

Of course, I’d also be totally okay with this taking longer. After all, I do quite like my hair. And once I go bald, I’m going to stay bald for the rest of the school year. (But don’t worry; I’m going to let my hair grow back over the summer, and my curly locks will be back before you know it!)

To help keep track of this awesome academic goal, I have started a new blog that will be updated each week on Friday. It is I will update with our total number minutes read, book reviews, reading stories, and any media attention we get. (One of our teachers will be contacting local media outlets to tell them about our goal.)

Students will receive a packet of information explaining this program in detail on Monday, but they can start reading today! Every minute of reading outside the classroom counts! Chapter books, picture books, comic books, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks–if you can read it, you can count it! So let’s start reading!


4 responses

  1. This is such a great idea! You’re right about the big number. I did a 1,000,000 word challenge one year, but yours is both more ambitious and easier to keep track of.

    I’d love to know more about how you’re going to track the reading time spent, the checkpoints and rewards along the way, and your students’ thoughts about the challenge. Great work!

    September 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm

  2. Mark – We have a packet of information we are giving every student to help them help their parents know what we are doing. Part of the packet includes a simple reading log for students to record the date, what they are reading, and how many minutes they’ve read each time they read. When they have filled out the form, their parents will initial it and then it will get turned in to their teacher. A few of us are taking on the responsibility of tabulating the numbers each week so that most of the teachers won’t have any extra responsibilities. (Most of the kids already do reading logs, anyway.)

    We haven’t talked about checkpoints and rewards along the way. I will talk to my colleague who is helping spearhead this and see what we can come up with!

    September 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

  3. Pingback: Million Minutes Update «

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