Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lean In

Did you see Fran McVeigh's post today about books she will read? If you haven't, jump over there. Go now.

I'll wait.



I love so much about what Fran wrote today about reading and record keeping. I love how she gets to the heart of what's really going on with her own reading and how that translates into classroom practice.

I love how she uses a question and answer structure to reveal her own thinking and debunk some practices that fly in the face of what real readers actually do. And I love the honesty of her voice. Don't you?

I'm talking about reading on Friday at the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (#SoMIRAC). Fran reminds me to make room for all kinds of readers and reading and reading practice. Her post reminds me that it's not about the record keeping--even in my classroom--it's about how do I get kids EXCITED about books. It's about how do I get kids to, ask Dr. Ernest Morrell says, "lean in to their learning."



On Friday, we will no doubt talk about how to get to know the readers in a classroom. We will talk about ways to monitor progress, ways to listen to kids and certainly record keeping will creep in to our conversation. But the best part is going to be sharing the excitement. Sharing the stories from my classroom that capture the incandescence of readers talking books and sharing joy. This time of year, in my room reading magic happens.

Just today, I was sitting in the "journal U"- it's seven desks arranged in a U shape on one side of the room. I meet with five to seven readers each day in that space in our classroom. During independent reading time, I confer with students over a piece of writing or their current independent reading book. We are just back from spring break, so this week's conferences are check ins and check ups. We follow a schedule so that I see everyone once a week (at least).



I love how meeting in our U is working. I love rolling around in the you, desk to desk (I sit in a wheeled "teacher-chair" in the center of the students). I love the leaning in and the conversation. I love LISTENING to kids to talk about their reading lives.

Did you read over spring break?
Where are you in the story since we last talked?
What'd you think of the ending?
What made you chose this book next?

Those are few questions I posed to start our conversations about books and reading this week. And I have to ask...

Did you read over spring break? 

Some kids did. I did. Some kids didn't. Isn't that how it always is? 

My job remains: get them excited about books and reading. I can't spend our time together chastising or punishing or lecturing kids about why they should be reading. Instead I can be honest. I can meet them where they are. I can tell them about a great book I recently read and I can share something I've noticed about them and say how it reminds me of this book  (or books) they may like. And I can keep on surrounding them with books and stories. I can keep on connecting them to other readers in the room and online. 

Just today, when I asked one of my readers why she chose the book she did, her answer made me cheer inside. I knew she had a different book "up next" because I'd written in my notes. When I said, "What made you choose this book instead?"

She said, "Oh, I chose it yesterday because on our Padlet of book recommendations someone wrote about it and it caught my interest."   

Made my day. 

Thanks, Fran, for inspiring me today and for bringing my attention back to those moments in our reading lives that grab us. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Community Circles

 
It's the last school day before spring break. Teachers have a work day tomorrow to finalize quarter three grades. I want to keep our community connected and send kids off to break with positive thoughts. So,  today we celebrated with a compliment circle and donuts! 

  1. Circle the desks.
  2. Give each person a blank pice of paper.
  3. Write names at the top of the page.
  4. Pass the paper to the right (or left as suits you).
  5. Set a ine minute timer.
  6. Write a specific compliment for the person on the page.
  7. At the timer, pass and repeat.
I am always impressed with what kids write to me and to one another. During one class period I saw a lot of students write vague notes along the lines of " I don't really know you, but you seem pretty chill." I asked one of the kids about it after class and he helped me see that the kids in that class period really didn't know each other. As members of our magnet program they've traveled as a pack for a year, but as I realized today, being in a program together doesn't equate with making friendships or building connections with everyone.

Next time maybe I need to do a questions circle, I thought aloud with my son after school. Same concept but each person takes a line and writes a question. The. Then each person gets a day to briefly answer questions before sharing via a gallery pass around the circle the next day. I think we'd learn a lot about each other. I wonder what kinds of questions kids would ask? 

 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Language Shakespeare, Language


Picture this: twenty-eight students sitting in the semi-darkness of a high school classroom,  midday. Some sit on the rug, some in the U-shape made by desks, some at tall tables. All look to the screen and watch the second half of the first act of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is about to tell her husband to man up, but what do tenth graders hear?

"I have given su..."



"Language Shakespeare!" someone calls as if calling out a curse or a bad word.

The room explodes in laughter. Kids turn to see my reaction and miss the next few lines.

Did I mention I teach tenth grade?

Even when I prepare kids for the scene many are still caught off guard and distracted by Lady Macbeth's language.

We laughed. And the moment? It worked  as a sequeway to a quick assessment of what kids actually understood. To borrow from Carol Jago, I had kids do a quick four-square to record their  thinking about the scenes we watched, so that I could assess their understanding.
 
Lots of them thought they didn't understand anything, but in reality many understood more than they thought they did. Loved that.