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Longley Middle School: Is Silent Sustained Reading Working?

In the following excerpt, a group of teachers from Longley Middle School discuss the effectiveness of a Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) initiative launched by the school in response to a decline in the school’s reading scores. The initiative requires teachers in all subject matters to devote 15 minutes each class period to having students read independently. Longley is located in a mid-size city. The school serves a student population that is 35% African-American, 15% Latino, and 50% White. Approximately 35% of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The teachers teach the same grade level. They meet twice each semester for one hour. These meetings occur during professional development days.

Paul and Linda are English teachers. Meg is a social studies teacher. Mike and Karen, who does not speak in this excerpt, are both math teachers.

As you read the scenario attend to the following questions:

  • What conflicts or disagreements arise in the discussion?
  • What conflicts or disagreements may be present but are not explicitly stated?
  • How do the teachers deal with the conflicts?
  • How do you think the teachers’ interactions affect their learning? What do you think they are learning about teaching, content and/or students? What do you think they are learning about their group members and what it means to create a learning community?
  • How could the teachers in this community deal with the conflicts in ways that could generate new insights, new ways of thinking and/or new practices?

Paul: Right now my kids are really looking forward to SSR.

Linda: I know, mine too.

Meg: Really? My kids hate it! Half of them can’t sit still. The other half doesn’t care what they are reading. I don’t think most of them are even reading. It’s a waste of time.

Linda: Well, different kids will respond to it differently.

Paul: Yeah, some classes just seem to get into it.

Meg: Maybe. But I don’t want to do it anymore in my classes.

Mike: Do you think the SSR is really helping the kids read better? I’m not sure it is.

Paul: I can tell. They are really enjoying it.

Linda: Yeah, I’ve seen kids who never read actually reading. It’s working.

Mike: That doesn’t mean it’s actually helping them to read better.

Meg: Well, I know it’s not working in my class. The kids aren’t doing it!

Paul: Like Linda said, it’s just the kids.