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Lesson Plan

A Daily DEAR Program: Drop Everything, and Read!

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A Daily DEAR Program: Drop Everything, and Read!

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time One 30-minute session daily
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Daily Sessions

PAL Orientation Session

Teacher Conference Session

PAL Book Talk Session

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • work in a community of readers and learners, including other class members, family members, their teacher, and other school volunteers.

  • focus on lifelong learning strategies by providing experiences, formats, frameworks, and attitudes for study in the present and future.

  • participate in student-centered learning.

  • explore their ideas, reflect on their writing, and revise their work.

  • read and discuss texts in guided and independent practice, using literacy as a way to think, as a tool for understanding.

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Daily Sessions

  1. Relying on in-class reading collections or materials from the library, have each student select a book to read in class. Students may also bring books from home.

  2. With students who have not done silent readings before, start slowly, about 10 minutes a day. Gradually inch them up to 20 to 30 minutes. This is what Foertsch calls DEAR—drop everything, and read-reading because otherwise the class never seems to get their reading time in at the same time every day. This is a specific, structured time for reading.

  3. Allow an additional 5 to 15 minutes for students to write in their literature logs (or you may call them "reader-response logs"). Students may continue reading during this log time if they choose. The logs do not have to be written in each day, but they must reflect the students' thinking about literature as they read. Log entries must include the date, the book title and author, and the student's response to the text read. Early in the year, model log entries and provide an outline of the format as well as some prompting questions as a handout or poster in the classroom (see the Resources section for some examples).

  4. Once the silent reading period is over, students may continue reading in their spare time in the classroom as well as at home.

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PAL Orientation Session

PAL stands for "Partners Assisting Literacy"—these are the adult volunteers (parents, grandparents, older siblings, extended family members, and other community members) who assist in the DEAR program by holding Book Chats with students after they have finished reading their books and have had conferences with the teacher.

To ensure that your PAL volunteers are comfortable with their job, have a special session that goes through how book chats work:

  1. Thank the volunteers for being part of the program.

  2. Overview the entire DEAR program for the volunteers.

  3. Explore the volunteers' role in the program. Some volunteers feel inadequate about what to say with the students, and some are a little too eager to "teach those reading skills" or assess students' progress. Explain that the purpose of the Book Chats is to lend an ear to the students' voices when they speak of a book they've been part of.

  4. Emphasize that the point of the Book Chats is to encourage further reading explorations.

  5. Once the volunteers understand the purpose of the Book Chats, go over the Questions to Use in Book Chats. Explain that the questions are starting places, not a script for the discussion. Urge volunteers to choose one or two from the list as as guide to discussing the book in more depth.

  6. With a volunteer, go through a mock Book Chat, demonstrating what the conference looks like.

  7. Caution volunteers that they may have to "cut students off" (gently, but firmly) from retelling the entire book with every detail.

  8. Share samples of all handouts that students will have as well as any examples you have of students' Literature Logs responses and PAL letters to students.

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Teacher Conference Session

These sessions take place whenever a student finishes reading a book. The frequency of these sessions is based on the students' progress. As the teacher, you will likely be engaged in these sessions most weeks, but individual students may not be involved as frequently.

  1. When students finish a book, ask them to bring the book and the literature log to you for a short conference.

  2. Discuss the book with the student, focusing on his or her progress and success.

  3. Record the student's progress, noting the type of book read and reading behaviors and attitudes observed.

  4. Ask the student to record the title of the book on a list of completed books in his or her Reading Portfolio Form.

  5. Have the student sign up for a book talk with an adult volunteer.

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PAL Book Talk Session

  1. Have the PAL volunteer set up in the hallway.

  2. The PAL volunteer checks the sign-up sheet and quietly takes a student, with his or her literature log and book, to the hall for a book chat.

  3. The volunteer asks questions, working from the Questions to Use in Book Chats handout. Conferences should always begin by asking the student to share something from the book, a particular passage that they will discuss further. Discussions should be no more than 8 minutes, and should focus on positive, encouraging comments.

  4. The student returns to the classroom.

  5. The PAL volunteer writes a short, encouraging note to the student, places it in the classroom mailbox for distribution, and proceeds to the next student on the sign-up sheet.

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Assessment takes place several times for each book that students read:

  • Students reflect upon and assess their own reading and thinking as they discuss the books in the literature logs and in conferences.

  • Students record their completion of each book in their reading portfolios.

  • Teachers record student strengths and needs, as well as what might be done differently and what to watch for in order to encourage and support students' reading efforts.

  • PALs volunteers assess and react to students in conference and in the note that they deliver to the mailbox for each student.

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