[NOTE: This entry has been cross-posted on my Adventures in Teaching Fourth blog.]

193 days ago, we, as the Wiley Elementary School community, set a lofty reading goal for the academic year: 1,000,000 minutes!

193 days ago, people said we were crazy. That it couldn’t be done. That it simple wouldn’t happen, because the goal was too lofty, too challenging.

193 days ago, we thumbed our noses at the naysayers and said, “You know what? You’re wrong. We can do it and we will do it!”

193 days ago, we decided that when we reached this goal, we would celebrate by doing something crazy: shaving Mr. Valencic’s head.

193 days ago, Mr. Valencic made a commitment to not cut his hair until we reached the goal. There were days when he started wavering, but he held strong. Of course, by the start of last week, I’d started pulling it back in a ponytail because there was nothing else I could do with it.


193 days ago, we started reading and logging our minutes. Today, 193 days after we started, we not only met our goal, we exceeded it!

1,247,277 minutes!

One million, two hundred forty-seven thousand, two hundred seventy-seven!


That is equivalent to 20,787.95 hours. 866.165 days. 123.738 weeks. 28.4578 months. 2.37148 years.

That’s a lot of reading!

And so today, we celebrated. We read as an entire school for fifteen minutes and then gathered in the gym for the Big Event. After some joking around, the teacher shaving my head got down to work. An hour later, the deed was done.


Mr. Valencic is as bald as can be! (Well, okay, there’s some very, very tiny stubble remaining, but he is going to try to keep it bald for the rest of the year.)

Thanks to everyone who helped out! Parents, teachers, members of the community, and especially the students! Now that we’ve met our goal, I’m not going to track our minutes, but I hope that everyone will continue to read every day! And tell me about what you’re reading! I plan on sharing some “reading stories” over the next seven weeks we have left of school!

So Close!

On September 28, 2012, we announced our Million Minutes goal. It has been 187 days.

Things were slow going at first. After six weeks, we were only at 27,99. By November 29 we had finally crossed the 100,000-minute mark with 125,098. Two weeks later, we were only at 171,067.  By the end of the first semester we had finally cleared 300,000 minutes, with a grand total of 302,673.

The next time I recorded a milestone was February 15, when we jumped all the way to 728,318 minutes. Now, less than a month later, we are so close to reaching our goal! Students, teachers, parents, and members of the community have been flooding my mailbox at school and in my email with reading logs and totals. We had a Coyote College on Monday afternoon and announced that we were at 955,072 minutes. By this morning, the total was up to 967,079. By the end of the day, we were already up to 980,194!

We are 98% of the way to our goal! The last 20,000 minutes are going to fly in, I’m sure! We are going to do a “reading blast” on Friday afternoon, where every student and staff member in the building is going to read for fifteen minutes, from 12:45 to 1:00 pm. Everyone is encouraged to drop everything and read with us on Friday! Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know if you’ve joined in our reading blast! If all goes according to plan, we should be reaching our goal by the beginning of next week!

And then I’ll finally get to get a haircut! Let’s keep the momentum going!


I was excited when I came up with the idea for the Million Minutes Challenge (or whatever it is we are calling it… I don’t think we’ve ever settled on an official name). I was really excited when a few of the teachers agreed it would be awesome. I was really, really excited when I pitched the idea to the whole staff and they all embraced it. I was really, really, really excited when we announced it to the whole school and the students got excited to read!

And then we waited.

And I started getting nervous.

And we got a few reading logs.

But not many.

And I got really nervous.

It took us almost an entire month to hit the first 100,000-minute mark. I didn’t some quick mental arithmetic and started to panic. At the rate we were going, we wouldn’t reach the goal until July, and we had an ultimate deadline of the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, which is currently set for May 24.

Fortunately, the pace seemed to pick up. I’ve done a terrible job updating, but we crossed the 300,000-minute mark by the end of the first semester! Then we finally got friends and family of our school community to start reporting their minutes and the numbers kept on going up! We are now at 728,318 minutes with just 271,682 minutes to go before we break out the clippers!

To put this in perspective, if every student reads just 20 minutes a day, we could potentially reach our goal just before the end of March! If every student reads for 30 minutes a day, we would reach the goal before Spring Break!

So keep on reading, keep on logging those minutes, and keep on sending them in! Every minute counts!

Reading at the Book Fair

Parents and teachers met on Thursday evening or Friday morning for conferences this week at Wiley. During the conferences, our PTA holds a Scholastic Book Fair, where parents and children can browse books and make discounted purchases. We decided to add an additional feature to the Book Fair this year: the reading corner.

The concept was simple: pull out some bean bags, drop in a nice pile, and make a giant reading log that student can fill out while their parents are meeting with their teachers. Some of the students were only there for five or ten minutes. Others were there for quite a bit longer, especially if they had the good fortune to have a parent who was volunteering at the Book Fair all day or had a parent who was also a teacher.  By the end of conferences today, the students had logged 731 minutes, or 12 hours and 11 minutes! Not too shabby!

A few of my fourth grade boys sharing books and an iPad.

A few of my fourth grade boys sharing books and an iPad.



A fifth grade student enjoying an information text on various pop culture icons.

But it gets better! Somebody realised that the students weren’t the only ones reading! Parents, teachers, and friends were reading as they browsed the books! It takes time to read the back cover of a book and to decide if a book should be purchased! After computing that time, we had a grand total of 1,481 minutes. That’s equal to 24 hours and 41 minutes, slightly more than one full day!


Just a quick update today to let you all know that we are know at 171,067 minutes! There is still a long way to go, but there seem to be more students turning in reading logs each week!

Remember, though, we need the help of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, and friends so we can reach our goal!

In case anyone is wondering, the fifth graders are currently in the lead with a combined total of 43,289 minutes, followed by the kindergarten classes with a total of 32,279 minutes!


We had a Coyote College assembly today (more generally known as a PBIS celebration) and revealed the first major milestone in our million minutes goal: We have surpassed the 100,000 minute mark! That means that the first chunk of “hair” on the giant chart in the gym has come down.

In fact, we have logged a grand total of 125,098 minutes in two months! We finally have every class reporting their minutes, so I hope the pace will pick up. We definitely need it to; if we keep going at the rate we are, we won’t make it to the 500,000 mark by the end of the school year.

But I am confident that we can do it! We need everyone to log their minutes: students, teachers, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours, parents’ coworkers, everyone! With the winter break quickly approaching, I’ve made some changes to the blog to help track minutes. There is a new page that has links to a full-page reading log with 19 spaces and a half-page log with 10 spaces. (The half-page log actually has two logs on one sheet that can be cut in half; I like to save paper when possible.) There is also a link where you can email Mr. Valencic to report your minutes. We are also inviting businesses to join partner with us and other schools or classes outside of Wiley to become sister schools for our initiative.

125,098 minutes logged, just 874,902 to go before I can get my hair cut!

Six Weeks In

I apologise for not updating as regularly as originally anticipated. We had parent-teacher conferences in the school last week, and the week before that things were just busy. We are back on track though, and glad to have some awesome news to share!

As you may recall, we announced our school’s academic excellence goal for the year on September 27: the school community, including students, faculty, staff, parents, and everyone else connected to our school, would log our independent reading and reach for the goal of logging 1,000,000 minutes before the end of the year.

I have no doubt that everyone is reading, Unfortunately, not everyone is regularly recording the minutes they read, and fewer are turning in reading logs. I’ve taken to going from classroom to classroom on a regular basis and reminding students to fill out logs and collecting any that have been turned in. A few of the teachers had already been using reading logs but were tracking pages instead of minutes. We are still working on finding a way to convert the number of pages into minutes.

All of that being said, we had an assembly today (what we call a Coyote College in our building) and we announced how many minutes we’ve read. Along with this, we unveiled the new way we will keep track of the minutes everyone has logged:

(Several students commented that my hair actually goes down behind my ears, rather than piled up in some kind of frightening B-52s-style beehive. In response, the teacher who did the hair just said, “Hey, I’m working with foam, glue, and other materials!”)

When we reach to first 100,000 minutes, a the top layer will be removed. Then we will remove layers every 300,000 minutes after that. Once a month, my tie on the poster will be updated to reflect the current minutes. When the assembly started, the total minutes logged were 27,367. Then I was given another reading log and finally got around to recording my own reading. As of today, the total minutes read and logged so far are 27,999!

Let’s keep reading so I can shave my head!

[NOTE: This has been cross-posted on the Adventures in Teaching Fourth blog.]

Week Three

It has now been slightly more than three weeks since we announced our One Millions Minutes of Reading Initiative. There was a slight delay in getting reading logs distributed to the students, due to an error at our print shop, but the students have their logs and have been doing their reading!

Unfortunately, we are still working out the best way to collect the reading logs. I’ve started a simple Google Drive spreadsheet to track the reading, but we’ve only had two reading logs turned in to record, and they have both come from my class. I may start lovingly pestering my coworkers over the next week to collect completed logs. As it is, we are officially at 920 minutes. However, I know of at least three first graders who have also completed logs, so I am certain the total number toward our goal is much, much higher!

Our building will be having its first Scholastic Book Fair in two weeks. In preparation for it, students throughout the school have been invited to write or record book reviews. I spoke with a few members of the PTA and we all agree that it would be wonderful to feature some of the book reviews here so others can see what books the students are talking about!

Reactions After One Week

Due to a printing delay, students at Wiley did not get their reading logs until Tuesday afternoon. However, that hasn’t stopped them from reading and stopping me in the hall to tell me about it!

I love that the younger students, who had never spoken to me before, now come up to me and excitedly tell me about their reading and their excitement to see me get my head shaved. One little girl asked me if I was going to shave my head. I responded, “Not until you read for one millions! By yourself!” She responded, “Okay!” (Don’t worry; no one student has to read for a million minutes!)

Older students are also catching me in the hall to give me updates. One student told me that he read nearly 200 minutes over the weekend! Another said that she has been tracking all of her reading and couldn’t wait to see me bald!

This reading goal is not just for students, though. Teachers, staff, and parents are encouraged to track their reading, too. One of our lunch supervisors settled in with her Kindle over the three-day weekend and logged 580 minutes!

I am looking forward to collecting the reading logs and seeing how much our  Wiley family has been reading! We have until the end of the school year to reach our goal, but I will not be at all surprised if they reach it before the end of the calendar year!

Keep up the reading!

Announcing the Million Minutes of Reading Goal

Day One!

The students and staff at Wiley Elementary School in Urbana, Illinois, gathered in the gymnasium this morning for a school-wide assembly, known in our building as a Coyote College. After discussing strategies for keeping lockers and desks clean and organised, it was time for the Big Reveal.

The Duct Tape Divas (three teachers in the building who are part of our PBIS Universal Team) talked to the students about reading and set a crazy goal for the year:

Let’s read for one million minutes! That’s right! 1,000,000 minutes. Almost 16,667 hours. Nearly 694 days. Just a little bit shy of two years worth of reading!

Of course, we needed to offer something to make this exciting. And it just so happens that we have a fourth grade teacher who is a good sport about his curly locks of brown hair. Such a good sport, in fact, that he offered to sacrifice them for the good of reading.

As soon as the Wiley Elementary family reaches its goal of 1 million minutes of reading, Mr. Valencic is going to get sheared like a sheep. Cut, cut, buzz, buzz. No more hair! (But don’t worry, it’ll grow back by the end of the summer!)

Students are going to track their reading outside of the classroom. Teachers, parents, members of the community are all encouraged to join in. If each student reads for just 20 minutes every day, we’ll reach our goal by the end of April. But I bet we can do it sooner. With everyone reading together, we might even do this by December!

So let’s get reading, Coyotes! Let’s shave Mr. Valencic’s head!