Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Engaged or unengaged????

I love to read.  I love to give book recommendations.  I love to reread a new picture book to any teacher that walks by my classroom just to have the opportunity to read the book again.  I visit the library.  I go back to the library.  I can't walk out of the local bookstore without buying a book...I am an avid reader.

My wish for the upcoming school year is that all of my students will be as passionate about reading as I am. I begin thinking back to last school year and ahead to the school year to come, I find my thoughts keep coming back to the "unengaged" reader.   The reader that has all of the skills and strategies to read but chooses not to.  The student that can find any way to avoid a book recommendation and appear to be reading.  After thinking about what I believe reading is, I find two main ideas that keep circling in my thoughts...inquiry and knowing yourself as a reader.  By coaching and modeling choice, questioning, purpose, and collaboration, I am supporting the "unengaged" reader.  Hopefully the reader will see these authentic reading experiences, multiple resources, and focus on student responsibility as a vehicle to begin caring about reading.  These inquiry approaches can be incorporated into content areas, book clubs, and open investigations.  Now the big question...what evidence will be in my classroom to support these approaches in the fall?  More pondering needed on that one!

Here is a link to a recent post at the blog "A Year of Reading" that supports my thoughts of putting inquiry first to support the "engaged" and "unengaged" reader:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I did more teaching of the book than teaching of the reader. ~ Jennifer Serravallo (page 3)

After diving into Chapter 1 of my school's professional summer read, I found myself rereading this quote/section of the chapter several times. I also found myself thinking back to last year's professional read, Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.  I kept wondering...if I believe that I am teaching the reader and not the book and want to provide authentic reading experiences for my students, where is the evidence of this going to be in my classroom?  Are the decisions that I am making in my reading workshop (about instruction and structure) happening for the right reasons?  Am I applying what I know about teaching reading, valuing my beliefs about how to teach reading, and using what I know about my students?  Am I putting all of that at the forefront of my instructional decisions?  That is a lot of wondering...especially during the first week of summer break!

Then came chapter thoughts started working on ways to have students jot/write about reading (reader's notebooks), how to track the quantity and types of books that the students are reading (book logs), and how to use conferring to get at the heart of each student's reading behaviors (reading interest inventories).  Together, all of these ways are approaches that will help me gain information on the readers in my classroom and to value the reader for what they are...a reader, not a level.  I feel pushed to find a way to manage all of this information so that it is all valued, purposeful, and not neglected when making instructional decisions.

Here are some "thinking stems" after reading chapters 1 and 2 (some come from the text itself and some are from me):

  • What was your reading life like as a child?  How would you describe your reading life now?
  • What do you believe about reading and teaching reading?  What structures do you use in the classroom as evidence of that belief?
  • Think about a predictable structure during reading that you used last year.  Is it a component of a reading workshop model?  Is there any part of a reading workshop model that you are frustrated with, overwhelmed by, passionate about, or comfortable with?
  • How does your building communicate information about readers?  Do you communicate more than a level?  
  • Consider ways that your students jot/write about their reading, keep track of their reading and goal set.  What are some approaches you will use to also gain information on fluency, comprehension, and conversational thinking?
And these are just initial thoughts! Looking forward to the conversations to come and reading about how to engage the "unengaged" reader in chapter three!

PS...Some teachers in the group are reading Jennifer Serravallo's other text titled, Conferring with Readers: Supporting each student's growth and independence.  The questions above are my attempt at marrying the two books for the participants.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

One of my personal reading goals this year was to make a conscious effort to stay current with the novels that my fourth and fifth graders were reading.  I was able to do this by alternating my book choices between my personal “next stack” and my “school next stack”. I am happy to announce…I met my goal! Here are my four favorites from the year…

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman is a combination of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Survivor in a toy factory.  No oompaloompas in this book!  Each team member brings a talent to the competition and then it is every person for themselves! This book is full of puzzles and riddles that the students will enjoy solving.  
 I have always been inspired by Ralph Fletcher's books on writer's notebooks, craft lessons, and picture books.  I decided to venture into one of his novels about a boy who has moved to a new school and how his love for his pet spider helps him to connect with his teachers, a new friend, old friends, and maybe even the class bully.
The summer lemonade stand war is on!  Brother vs. is word smart, the other is number smart.  Each sibling brings a particular strength to their approach in winning the lemonade war!  Great way to start or end the year by focusing on the different multiple intelligences that each one of us has a slice of  inside!

First of all, a secret, a submarine and a frog on the cover...who would not start wondering?  The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester is written in a style that keeps students wondering and predicting throughout the entire book.  This book would be great for holding on to those big questions you have prior to reading that you want to monitor as you continue through the novel.