Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Books, books and more books

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first two weeks back with students.  For part of my day, I am lucky enough to loop with a group of now 8th graders to teach their core reading class in a small group setting (8 students).  I feel like last year we were only beginning to grow as readers and this year we jumped right in.

I am following Donalyn Miller's advice from The Book Whisperer and am encouraging my students to read 40 books this year.  Failure isn't an option so we don't discuss it.  In order to ask this of my students, I participated in the book-a-day challenge on Twitter this summer.  I read lots and lots of books from picture books to chapter books, and discussed these books with my PLN.  I came to school prepared to share books that, as I read, I had certain students in mind who may enjoy them!

We started out the year with book talks, book trailers and book tasting.   Book talks were nothing knew to the students, as they had heard me give these before and had prepared their own.  Book trailers were very new and were an exciting hook to get kids interested in reading.  Many students were writing down titles to their must-read lists and saying, "I have to get that one!"  The Taste of Books in our school library was a huge hit. All students in our Middle School had an opportunity to "taste" books and develop a list of books to add to their must-read lists.  Afterwards, our principal offered an apple for each student to really taste in which she had picked from her own apple trees. (She is new to our building and our staff and students couldn't be happier!)

So, the year is starting off right.  My students are finishing books and are using their must-read lists to find their next one.  They are confident in their ability to read 40 books as am I!

Happy reading,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

To Read Aloud or Not

Why read aloud?  I have been contemplating this idea as we move into the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.  Many teachers are rushing to lessons and content due to fear of not getting through the curriculum without taking the time to build relationships, so where does reading aloud fit it to this thought process?

I have always valued reading aloud and believe that every child K-12 should be read aloud to.  Research has proven that children who are read aloud to regularly build fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.  I have also seen an increase in a sense of community within classrooms whose teacher reads aloud on a daily basis.

The current issue of Reading Today was sharing my thoughts.  Mem Fox, talented author, contributed to this issue with her article, What Next in the Read-Aloud Battle?  Win or Lose?   In this article, Mem comments on the number of people on the anti-read-aloud brigade who are saying that, "In a crowded curriculum, time set aside for reading stories was a luxury that could not be afforded." Huh?  But in order to help those students who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, who have "no background" in literacy, why would we NOT increase their exposure to literacy by reading aloud?  Also, Mem goes on to say how much behaviors improve during the read aloud time and that classes bond in a way that becomes more like a family than a class.

So...I am going to continue in my practice of reading aloud to my students and I look forward to sharing the experience with them.

I was in the middle of planning for my middle school classes and I realized how lucky I am.  I get to read aloud 4 different texts daily!  The following are my choices to start the year...

6th Grade Enrichment
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

I had already read this story before I won a signed copy from Mr. Schu @MrSchuReads on Twitter.  How excited I was when I received my winnings in the mail, but then had to choose which group of students to share it with.  I did not teach this group last year and want to build a sense of community and empathy with them.  I believed that this book, in which I cried both sad and happy tears, will do just that.

7th Grade Enrichment
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

I had the pleasure of having this group of students last year and they LOVE to be read to.  We shared Wonder and Three Times Lucky together, among lots of picture books, and they became voracious readers themselves.  I look forward to "solving" the puzzle of escaping from the library with them, completing the extension activity in the back and also enjoying recognizing lots of titles of books they have read before or maybe will read in the future that are scattered throughout this text.

8th Grade Enrichment
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

This group, as 7th graders, were VERY reluctant readers.  A large proportion of these students are boys, who don't value reading.  I am anticipating that Jack and Early will be two characters who draw the students in to this text.  Our 8th Grade curriculum starts with studying narratives in the area of discrimination and I think this book will fit nicely into that due to Early's autism.  I also look forward to sharing the parallel narrative that is woven into this story surrounding the Story of Pi.

8th Grade Reading
The Lion's of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

I teach a supported section of 8th grade reading to eight students.  I had these students last year in supported reading (& enrichment) and was thrilled that I was able to loop up to 8th grade with them.  These group of students come from challenging home lives and have not had many positive school experiences.  In sticking with our theme of discrimination, I chose to read aloud this historical fiction book.  It takes place the year after "the nine" in Little Rock, Arkansas.  We will route for an unlikely friendship between two girls of different races as this town tries to move on and heal from a very difficult time of racial tension.

I am extremely excited to begin school on Tuesday and begin getting to know my students and sharing in these read aloud experiences.