Goodreads in the high school classroom

Since my last post I have been going full blast with setting up my four classes with accounts on Goodreads. Briefly goodreads is a social network for readers and I knew It was going to be a success with students when one of my sophomores came to see after school one day and said “I hate you for making me do goodreads.”  I was concerned and asked him what was wrong and he continued, “I was on it for like three hours last night reading reviews of books and now I have like 20 books that I want to read!”
He was one of the more tech-savvy students who had no trouble following my instructions that I put in a PowerPoint that was available for download from our Edmodo site.
It took a full week and I’ve got about 50 of my 74 students up and running. Those who have smartphones have downloaded the goodreads app and have been updating their summer reads, rating books they’ve read and writing reviews. Their enthusiasm for it already makes me feel good about my choice.
The ones who haven’t gotten on yet are a bit of a mystery as of now. Some students have come to me for help during J block but others are keeping silent and that worries me. My gut tells me that they are just a bit green and do not feel completely comfortable coming up to me to admit that they need help. I’m still entering in all their email address into my gmail address book, so I can proactively reach out to the ones who are absent in the goodreads group.  But the key there is that they have to check their email.  There are a few students who are not in the habit of checking email frequently.  My three groups on goodreads are: Soph MGC D/E blocks , Junior English SAM C block ,  and Junior English B block.  I welcome parents to take a look at their student’s group and follow their progress and how they interact with other members of the group.  I won’t let you join the group, but I’d love to “friend” you so that you can follow my updates!
You might be wondering how I will be using goodreads this year. As of term one, we are going to use it to track progress in reading outside reading books. In the Newton South English Department, we are committed to encouraging kids to read broadly and deeply. We try to offer a breadth of texts for required reading and we also push kids to read other books throughout the year. This gets tricky because we end up having to assess students on their outside reading and those assessments are often tedious for students. Thus students come to loathe outside reading. A similar thing happens with summer reading among our students who don’t enjoy to read, and we’ve come up with a pretty clever way to encourage these and all students to read over the summer so they can fully participate in the One School, One Book event that will take place next Friday.
Here are my guidelines for how students are to use goodreads this term:

1. Add books truthfully to your “currently reading,” “read,” and “want to read” shelves.
2. Update your progress immediately after reading a session.
3. Include at least one quote and a brief comment for every progress update.
4. Be respectful of your classmates. Treat this as an extension of class.

What I hope to achieve by using this service is to encourage kids to explore their curiosity and read widely and deeply, while having a better way to assess students on their completion of the reading.  Each time they update their progress and include a comment, there is a time and date stamp.  It’s possible that students might fudge this, but because goodreads is a social network and their progress can be viewed by members of our class group, they are essentially reporting to their class.  I hope that this level of accountability pushes kids to post with integrity.

Another way I hope to encourage accountability among students is to invite parents to join and use goodreads.  I think it will offer families a fun way to share thoughts on current reads and favorites, as well as give parents insight into what their children are reading for English class.  To effect this, I plan on sending a welcome letter to parents via email and inviting them to follow me on Twitter (@JoeSco77) to engage in discussions around learning with technology.  I’m sure some parents will be thrilled to join the discussion while others might be intimidated by the pace and volume of Twitter.  I hope these folks will visit my blog weekly (or subscribe to follow) to keep abreast of how their students are learning with mobile devices and web 2.0 tools.

If you are a parent of one of my students, or if you are a fan of Goodreads, please reply with a comment! I would love to hear your voice!


7 thoughts on “Goodreads in the high school classroom

  1. Mr. Todd

    Mr. Scozzaro,
    Congratulations on your good work. Are you familiar with the works of Alan November? Seems to me a great resource in technological uses and ideas in education.

  2. Pingback: Blog Assignment #3 | mariannepaquin

  3. Molly Raabe

    Thank you for sharing this information. I am a teacher and librarian and this Goodreads would be a great way for teachers to encourage reading! When you set up your accounts, were there any problems with verifying your account? I have a teacher who is having issues with this?
    Thanks and I hope to hear from you!

  4. Dear Mr. Scozzaro,

    I’m considering using Goodreads in my English class (I teach English at high school in the Netherlands). I was wondering if you have ever used the “book club” function or only the reviewing section? And did all kids register eventually? Do you only use Goodreads to motivate them or also to grade them?

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment! It’s heartening to know that my post was useful to you!
      I required my students to have a goodreads Account, but I asked them to create username that would not have their complete names. Just maybe their first name and a class identifier.
      I also would give them a participation grade for having completed the posts along with reading and replying to posts of their classmates.
      I would use this to check the progress of independent reading, not required reading.
      Let me know how you’re thinking of using it!

      1. Hi Joe,

        Apologies for the late reply! Hectic start of the school year is my excuse 😉 I’m definitely going to use it! I think I would have to use it for required reading though because I don’t think many of my students tend to read in English for fun, but I will ask them to also add Dutch books that they have read for fun to their account. I’m very excited about this! I’ll let you know if it was a success (if school likes it, I will start with this in spring :)).

        Kind regards,

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