2011-Is SSR (silent sustained reading) at Wamogo effective?

Update to this study as of June 2012 for 9th grade can be found on this blog post

Wamogo High School Reading Survey Results March 2011

Grades 7-10

This was the most striking portion of the survey with well over 65% of students in each grade level claiming success in SSR (silent sustained reading). The most consistent rating across all grade levels was the percentage of students who “pretend to read” which was 6% or lower in Grades 7-10. This means that less than 10% of students do not participate in the SSR activity when offered in the classroom.


Student Rating

School wide

410 students





I can get right “into the book” or read the materials successfully 38% 59% 55% 54% 33%
I have difficulty getting started, but I can read successfully after that 38% 31% 37% 22% 32%
I am distracted by others and cannot read in a classroom successfully 16% 4% 3% 19% 29%
I pretend to read 8% 6% 5% 5% 6%

The percentages reflected in the chart above accurately reflect the anecdotal evidence (see below) provided by teachers at each grade level. There is a steady increase in the number of students who are “distracted by others” from 4% in Grade 7 to 29% in Grade 10.  The Wamogo English Department has been steadily increasing the amount of SSR for grades 9 and 10 during the 2010-2011 school year.  These percentages indicate that a little over 2/3rds of the students in these classes benefit from SSR. This data does not reflect the length of time spent in SSR in the classroom; cross-referencing the data for time-spent reading in class provides an more accurate picture. Grade 7’s data with the least amount of time spent with in class reading records 4% of student claiming they are distracted and cannot read successfully. Comparing this percentage to Grade 8’s data with the most amount of in class reading time and only 3% of students claiming they are distracted and cannot read successfully indicates that the length of time is not a factor in student success in SSR activities.  Consideration as to how to improve the classroom reading environment to minimize the “distractions” for students in Grades 9 and 10 should be the next step in making SSR an effective tool to improve reading.

Anecdotal Evidence- Grade 10

Reaction to the Tenth Grade Reading Survey

The results from the tenth grade reading survey track fairly well with what I have observed in class, especially in terms of reading fiction. During the past year, I have seen students struggle with reading assignments outside of class, if they were not engaged in the text. When given choices of reading material, however, the students beg me to give them reading time in class. We are currently working on an independent World Literature unit in all tenth grade classes. There were many books for the students to choose from; everyone was content with their choice by the third day of the unit. They were given large page amounts to read in the first two weeks – there were no quizzes to check on whether or not they were reading, but honestly, I didn’t need them – with the exception of two or three students, it was very clear how engaged they were with their books.

Another interesting aspect of the survey was the high interest in non-fiction, or informational reading in tenth grade. There are many students, boys in particular, who gravitate towards this type of material. This was also proven in their choice of summer reading last year – a high percentage of students chose the non-fiction option books. I feel strongly that we should continue to offer this type of reading in all classes, not just English.

Anecdotal Evidence-Grade 9

Comments on  Reading Survey Results – 9th Grade

Overall, the results tally with my in-class experiences.  Most students will get into and enjoy the right book.  Some have trouble settling down or finding the right book.  A few just will not engage.

I was surprised at students’ perception of required reading time in English, 63% responding that they have over 30 minutes assigned (p.6).   Even though the honors students may have more assigned pages, the majority of students in 9th grade should not have to spend more than 20 -30 minutes on any given reading assignment per night.  I wonder if they are they including catch-up or procrastinated reading.  Or, are they taking frequent breaks, allowing several distractions during their reading?   While I have noted that several students who consider themselves solid readers are quite slow, taking upwards of 2 minutes per page, most read at a respectable rate when focused.

The difficulties with students reading in the classroom environment are not surprising.  Social pressures and distractions abound.  If there is one student looking to distract others in order to avoid reading, the ripple effect is impressive.   They are easily distracted by others, and cheek by jowl seating does not help.  The ability to tune out others is not well-developed at this age.  This is why the majority of responders noted they were most successful reading in their own rooms (but remember my question about assigned reading – are they equating comfort with success?).   On the bright side, almost half of the 9th graders noted that they could get right into their reading in the classroom, and another quarter that once started, they can settle down to it.  While we did not ask directly, I suspect that the 18% of 9th graders who labeled themselves as reluctant or non-readers make up the majority of the quarter who has trouble reading in class.  It would be interesting to know if, as reluctant readers, they select material for length rather than interest, thereby confirming their experience of reading as boring chore rather than enjoyable and stimulating.

Reading strategies for fiction seem on target for pleasure reading.  Predicting, connecting, and summarizing are what stronger readers do at this stage.  However, sticky notes and underlining are great techniques for readers starting to deconstruct and analyze text.  I want to develop this sort of independent learning and thinking more, move students away from the teacher’s constant guidance and reassurance.

The non-fiction reading strategies are off, in my mind.  Reading informative texts requires a much more active approach.  I worry that students approach both fiction and non-fiction with the same set of tools.   In class, we must help students recognize that they have a variety of tools for a variety of purposes.

Anecdotal Evidence- Grade 8

In looking over these results, I am not that surprised that a) most kids are doing more reading in the classrooms/wit and b) most kids take notes/use stickies and summarize when reading.
This past year, we have done more reading of texts (class novels and independent novels) in the classroom.  This allows students to get into the text (get hooked) and hopefully finish reading at home.  In addition, it gives them time to read and ask questions before proceeding with the text.
I truly believe that one of the factors in students completing their reading is holding them accountable with daily comprehension QUIZZES.  Students write at the top of the quiz whether they read all, most, some, a little or none of their assignment and almost always their answers match the quiz grade.  When the answer doesn’t match, I can then sit with that student to review the plot or call home to discuss reading issues.  Although it is tedious to give these quizzes, it forces kids to do the reading!
As far as strategies, I have encouraged students who have low scores or say “I didn’t get it” to take notes or use stickies that they can review BEFORE our daily quiz.  This also lets me know who is motivated to improve their comprehension and who isn’t.
For the most part, I’ve heard many students talking about books they’ve read and recommending books to friends (without me saying anything).  It’s a cool event to see kids swapping books or asking to go to the library to get another book because they finished a book early.  Currently my Advanced class is reading Independent Novel # 20 and the other classes # 14; however, most students are beyond that number.  I try to stress that it doesn’t matter the length of the book–it’s that we want them to find something they like to read and READ it!  EVERY student has a book to read at any given time–and they really do take the books out when time allows (Ed-Ex, when work is complete, studyhall, etc.).
As a fan of NON-FICTION (especially memoirs/biographies), I would like to expose my students to more of this genre.  The results of the survey indicate what I already knew–kids don’t like this genre!  We have added many new texts to our class–and most of them are this genre or realistic fiction/historical fiction.
Almost all of the Class of 2015 basically enjoys reading…hopefully we can keep them feeling that way by providing them opportunities to strengthen their reading skills and have access to great books! :)
Anecdotal Evidence – Grade 7
The majority of 7th graders feel that they “get right into the book” when given SSR time or  they “have difficulty getting started, but I can read successfully after that”. This proves to me that the kids feel capable of reading and are able to make good use of SSR time given in class, WIT or Ed-Ex. My observations of the students during SSR time matches with the survey results. I see the majority of our students reading and really getting into the book as time goes on. There are some that need reminders to start working, but most of those read well after the room is quiet for a few minutes. Often the kids do not want to end SSR time and don’t stop reading until I tell them to (even if the allotted number of minutes have passed). There are still 6-10 that do not really read and spend their time looking around, staring at the same page, or checking the clock – but that is not the majority!
I was happy to see that very few of our students use web sources or information from other students as a substitute for actually doing the reading. I think they just don’t realize that web sources are available and they are genrally scared of getting caught “cheating” (which is good!). Also, they are held accountable for their reading because they have daily comprehension quizzes. I change the quiz questions for each class when we are doing a whole class novel to reduce the possibility for students to just share answers. For literature circles, obviously, the quizzes are different for each book and there are several different books, which helps prevent plagiarism.  
It looks like most of our students(51%) read silently to themselves as a reading strategy. 40%  make connections to text and 51% make predictions. It is good that they are doing this as these are 2 skills they will need for the CMT. 38% takes notes when reading non-fiction but only 7% takes notes when reading fiction. This doesn’t surprise me, as many people don’t like to interrupt their focus when reading a story. However I have noticed that notetaking, a handout (11%) or sticky notes (23%) help reluctant readers especially when it comes to recalling information later on for a quiz or activity. Some students need to write in order to remember what they read.

3 responses to 2011-Is SSR (silent sustained reading) at Wamogo effective?


    I researched this issue for my Action Research Project to meet requirements for my Master’s Degree. I utilzied a 10-12 minute yoga session as a pre-reading exercise and data showed an average 9% point increase in reading comprehension scores. Also, students expressed significant improvement in attention during SSR and their ability to filter out distractions. Contemporary students are uncomfortable with
    ‘silence’ and have a harder time filtering out distractions because of the multi-tasking world they live within. I would recommend ‘Yoga Calm’, a program that teaches teachers to use yoga in the classroom.


      Thank you for your suggestion. I looked up “yoga calm”…since we are going to a block schedule, that may be helpful to use with SSR. Thank you for taking the time to comment.


    Thank you

    for sharing your findings so freely.
    I stumbled upon it willy-nilly.

    Very revealing portrait of student’s activites.

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