Highly recommended!

In addition to buying over 75 titles myself, I asked for donations of used books (appropriate for my 6th-8th graders) at the beginning of the year in a letter to my new parents...amazingly, I now have two book-carts full of novelsthat my students can directly check out from the back of my classroom.  They can also put holds on books that I have limited copies of.  I thought--for sure--The Hunger Games would be the most sought after title on the hold lists, but it has become Neil Shusterman's Unwind; perhaps the fact that I have been talking about it almost daily in most of my classes, telling my students what a great summer read it was for me (to provide a model of how you talk about a book if trying to persuade others) probably helped.  I am determined to host a "Community of Readers" among my students this year, teaching them how to convince each other to read books they've really enjoyed.

Two weeks in to the new school year, and I have been establishing regular routines that will contribute to my writer's and reader's workshop.  I am pretty close to being ready to explain how these two types of workshops will work to my students and their parents.  I never like to announce how our in-class workshops work too early in the year--not before I've established and we've practiced some of the foundational practices.

I humbly think I am an old-pro at the Writer's Workshop.  The Reading Workshop is new to me this year.  I have officially decided that Accelerated Reader is not a program I can support anymore; dangling points in front of students as incentive to read no longer fits my project-based teaching style.

I am going to be expecting my students to find an independent novel they like once a month and have it read in three weeks.  During the fourth week of each month, they will be expected to complete a project that does two things:
  1. Prove to me they've read the book (without taking an AR quiz);
  2. Convince another student to read the book through an effort they take related to the book.
By the end of the year, I want to have 20-30 project options available to my students; at present, I have created six ideas that I really like.  I like them because they are all designed to be seen by a larger audience than just me--their teacher--and most push persuasive writing skills.

Here are my first six project ideas: 
  • Persuasive book review: (not a book report--I hate reading those!) type a 300-word, thoughtful write-up that shares both the strengths and any criticisms of the novel without giving away the book’s entire plot to someone who hasn't read it yet.   The goal of a review is to convince another student to read (or not read) the book.  Students who do A-work on this task may also submit these reviews to their writing portfolios, provided they are willing to conference with their teacher about it and create one more revision of the review based on their teacher’s feedback.
  • Compose a thoughtful letter to the author: research how to contact a living author of the book you’ve read and write a polished, one-page letter to him/her, both praising the work and asking an intelligent question about the author’s writing process.  Any student who receives an actual letter back from the author (not the publisher or an agent) will be excused from one future reading workshop project provided they allow Mr. Harrison to publish both correspondences at his website.  (This one is inspired by this page at my wife's website.
  • Create/post a webpage-tribute to the book or to its main character:  contribute to our class’s online collection of tributes to books we have read during reading workshop with a thoughtful webpage.  These online tributes can be story-based, setting-based, or based on a main character (like a fictional character’s imaginary Facebook page).  Because these tributes will potentially be seen by thousands of educators and students, final products must be thoughtful and error-free. 
  • Novel-inspired board game: design board game or strategy game based on the novel’s plot; if another student were to play this game, they would completely understand the premise of the novel and be interested in actually reading it.  All of the game’s required “pieces” will be designed by the student, and how-to-instructions for playing the game must accompany this project.  Students will be required to supervise 2-4 other students as they play the game during lunchtime or after school in Mr. Harrison’s classroom.
  • Pamphlet campaign: obtain permission from a librarian/teacher (not Mr. Harrison) to begin a “You-should-really-check-out-this-book” campaign.  After designing a tri-fold pamphlet, students will publish 25+ copies of it and design a distribution method that puts their pamphlet into the hands of students genuinely interested in reading the book they have chosen.  Sending the pamphlet to the author/publisher and receiving a favorable response will excuse the student from a future Reading Workshop Project.
  • Create/Cast/Market a live or video performance inspired by the novel:  write play or other type of performance that would inspire fellow students to check out the book after watching it.  The performance will be scheduled in Mr. Harrison’s classroom at lunchtime or after school, and students must “market” their performance successfully so that 10+ fellow students come and watch it.   This project can be completed together by 2-5 students who have all recently read the same novel.

I am working on a teacher model now for each project suggestion; I will post my teacher models as soon as they are completed.  If you have any feedback or ideas for additional projects, I'd love to hear from you! 



  1. Awesome ideas have already adapted the idea of letters for mt class this week, though with the rugby world cup on here we are writing to the all blacks in relation to sport, but love the novel library idea imensely and have done somethin similar for a couple of years.,

  1. Corbett, I really don't think AR has ever been a good idea. I love your ideas for writing and am excited to see you enter into the Reader's Workshop arena. If you haven't read Donalyn Miller's book THE BOOK WHISPERER, I highly recommend it. She's a middle school teacher but her ideas are applicable to upper elementary as well.

  1. Corbett,
    I am so excited to find your site! Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas. I wanted to add another idea for authentic projects. Along the lines of a persuasive book review, show the kids "" and have them post their reviews here. Real world audience, really simple!

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