One thing I know is that when I am a teacher, I want my students to read a lot. As a high school student, I read tons of books in my English classrooms and absolutely loved it, so much I often took initiative and read books by myself outside of class. Reading in English made me love English. I used to say that I was able to “read the authors’ true words”, not the translated ones. Reading an entire book in a language you are not completely familiar with is quite a challenge, especially when you are young, but it is a good way to learn quickly – and you are quite proud of yourself when you get through it.
That is why I think that using the website Goodreads in a classroom is a brilliant idea. Of course, it would be for a more advanced level – I don’t think it would suit elementary classes, but it is perfect for high school students. In short, Goodreads is a website where you can keep track of the books you’ve read, the books you want to read and the books you are reading. There are all the books in the world on this website – and you can put them in different lists, favorite them, and even review them. A lot of teachers have tried it out in their classrooms (http://pwillemse.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/using-goodreads-com-in-the-english-classroom/ and http://teachingcontext.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/goodreads-in-the-high-school-classroom/). For some it was a success, for others a failure, but I think that by using Goodreads in the good way, you can create some amazing activities for your students, and open their mind to the world of literature.
For example, why not ask the students, at the beginning of the school year, to create their “want-to-read” list of 4 or 5 books, and ask them to read them all by the end of the school year ? Of course, the books would have to be a certain length and to be approved by the teacher (and maybe make sure that the books are available at the school library or can be bought – or why not create a list of books and make the students choose in the list ?), but the students would have the opportunity to choose books they are interested in and will be motivated to read. As they read the books, they can update their status via the website. This is a good way for the teacher to see the students’ progress, so that you can encourage them and give them positive feedback if they do well. When they finish a book, they would need to write a short review, post in on Goodreads, and share them with the rest of the class.
The teacher could even ask for the books to be from different genres (fantasy, mystery, history, etc) so that the students could explore and find out what they like the most. It is also a good way to make them learn more (http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/511-kissner.aspx). On Goodreads, there is the possibility to create discussion groups, so the teacher could set one where the students could ask questions about the books, and maybe share their favorite quotes from what they read !
Why is reading important ? (http://inspirationboost.com/8-reasons-why-reading-is-so-important) It is an excellent way for students to learn new vocabulary. As a teacher, you can ask them to highlight or write down the words they don’t know when they come across them in a book, and create a list of new vocabulary. You can later ask them to define the new words and put them into context. Reading is also a good way to improve the students’ writing, because they are able to see real, meaningful sentences. It has been proven that reading has tons of positive effects on children (https://www.earlymoments.com/Promoting-Literacy-and-a-Love-of-Reading/Why-Reading-to-Children-is-Important/). Through reading, students acquire amazing experiences. As a teacher, it is important to open your students to things they might not be absolutely comfortable with, and push their limits to make them learn more. Setting, for example, a 5 book goal is a good way to do that. Create fun activities around the challenge, and it can become really meaningful for the students.
I believe Goodreads is a great tool for classrooms. By using it correctly, you will be able to make your students love reading and discovering new books, and also make them live a lot of adventures through the books they will read. Like the author George RR Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies ; the man who never reads lives only one”.