Franklin High School: Silent Sustained Reading (November 10, 2010)

Thanks to B Lippitt, I was able to make contact with some science faculty at Franklin High School.  This past Wednesday (11/10/2010), I was able to attend a couple of classes there, and sit in as ninth grade teachers of various subjects had their lunch break.  What follows are some observations from my visit.

It was a sunlit and cool fall morning as I drove south on Rainier Avenue to Franklin High School.  I parked on Mount Baker Avenue, beneath a maple that was adorning its surroundings with brown leaves. 

After registering in the office, I walked up to Richard Swarts’ Introductory Physical Science classroom.  There were about 28 students in the class, and it was quiet!  Wednesday is Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) day at Franklin high school, especially for the ninth graders who were in this course.  The focus on SSR one day per week is an attempt to remedy low reading scores on standardized tests.  They do an intake exam at the beginning of the year and hope to see improved scores by the end of the year.  The use of SSR to create a community of readers and reap resultant benefits on standardized tests is an evidence-based practice (Gardiner, 2007).  I don’t know how long Franklin has been doing SSR, nor any details in their implementation of the concept other than what I saw.

I observed the end of one class, and after lunch got to observe the beginning of another class.  Both classes were doing SSR.  The first class was very quiet, and there seemed to be a lot of reading going on.  Evidently students could read any book that they wanted to, and if they had forgotten to bring a book, there was a collection of other books at the back of the room for students to use during their time in class.  At the end of this class Richard dove into a new unit on matter and transitions.  He took the class through pages 60-64 of the Introduction Physical Science (IPS) textbook, and even pointed out an illustration that was erroneous.

The beginning of the second class was probably typically chaotic with students taking their places, finishing up conversations, and trying to select a book from the back of the room that they could use.  Eventually the class did settle down and  were busy reading as I left.

Between the first and second class some 9th grade teachers meet in the science room to share lunch together.  Topics around lunch were:

  • Why in the world do you want to switch careers from Microsoft to teaching?
  • I wish I had more time for grading.
  • I wish I had less students per class
  • I wish administration knew about our real challenge, X.
  • Student Y has been suspended.
  • Students U, V, W, are already back in school after that fight?

Although Richard regrets that my opportunity to observe a class was something so atypical as SSR, I did feel like lunchtime conversation was typical.  Of course, that does not mean that the topics over lunch were trivial, on the contrary, they are fundamental and central to teaching today.  Therefore, I am looking forward to a few more visits to FHS, and getting a feel for other classes that I might observe.


Gardiner, S. (2007). Librarians Provide Strongest Support for Sustained Silent Reading. Library Media Connection, 25(5), 16-18. Retrieved from ERIC database.

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