One way I differentiate is to use book contracts. Students set reading goals with me at the beginning of each marking period. They can choose between reading a number of books, or they can read a certain number of points for Accelerated Reading. The number of points they need is determined by their Z.P.D. Their Z.P.D. was determined on the STAR Reading test, which is given as Pre-test, mid-year, and as a post test.
Some students will set a goal of 10 points because they struggle to comprehend lengthy text. Most of their A.R. books will be half point values. Many students will choose a goal of twenty points because they read at grade level. Others have a lofty goal of fifty points or more. I usually don’t publicize point totals often, but the students will discuss their totals as a way to compete with their friends.
Students sometimes choose to read a specific number of books. This allows students to read books that are not Accelerated Reading, or because they are reading a few very lengthy books or they do not take tests well and are afraid they will not earn the points necessary to complete another goal.
In addition to the points or books, all students must either complete a book talk (oral book report), a written book report, or a “Lunch Bunch.” The “Lunch Bunch” is a group discussion of a book all members have read. Students eat lunch with me and we talk about the book. Students enjoy the relaxed setting and the opportunity to eat in the classroom. The problem with this option is finding a group of four or more to read the same book you like. Last year, I had a group of girls that read well beyond their requirements because they loved to do “lunch bunches” with me. This option also works well for the quiet/shy student that may be hesitant to talk in from of the class. I love it because it gives me the chance to get to know students on a more personal level.
I have one other option that we trying this year. Two pairs are doing a talk show format. I’ve adapted an idea that Mary Blow shared on the Scholastic’s Teacher Blog last year. One student is asking questions about the book, while the other is sharing the book information. We are going to video tape these with our Flip Camera to post online.