On the first day of school, students completed some sentences to tell me a little bit about themselves. I shared the sentence survey I use below. You are welcome to use it in your own classroom if you like.
On the first evening, after the first day of school, I respond to each child's sentences.
My goal is to begin building positive relationships and to make my first book recommendations. I ask the kids if they've read ___ (fill in the blank with a title or two connected to an interest they have expressed in their sentences).
I try to recommend books I know I have in my room and books that will soon arrive like the Florida Teen Reads titles or titles of books I've ordered from recent honor and award lists.Though I have many of them, I can't wait to get my hands on new copies of the Amelia Warden and Michael Printz titles. I used a place mat I made for English teachers in my department as I responded to the writers in my room--just to keep the titles handy as I responded.
These are not the only books I recommend, but I start there. Then I branch out to books about dragons or mysteries or miracles or baseball or beauty queens.
The high point of my teaching day happened on the porch--on the steps outside of my portable classroom before the start of class. I stand outside to help supervise students during passing times.
I'd left my responses on the kids' tables with direction to read them and answer any questions I'd asked for bell work. Two kids during two different passing times ran outside to tell me I'd NAILED the recommendations. One rushed out and said, "Miss Spillane, I am reading that book RIGHT NOW!!! I just got it."
She was so excited at the serendipity of my recommendation of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies coinciding with her choice just the day before.
I grinned and said I was tickled to have gotten it spot on, day one.
The second student is interested in myth and books that retell myths. Imagine what I recommended.
Recommending books to the children in my room does not mean that I take away the power of their own choices. It means that I am interested in what they are interested in and willing to support their growth. It means that I too am a reader. Real readers recommend.
You can already imagine the series I recommended to that student, Riordan's of course. He rushed out to the porch during our passing time to tell me that he'd read "all of the Lightning Thief series, all of the Hero series and ALL of the Red Pyramid series." But I'd also recommended Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli. Napoli was my introduction to myths recasted. We had a good conversation about her books. He has yet to meet her mythic characters on the page.
I can't wait until he does.
I hope you are having or will have a fantastic first week of school. I know I am.
Cheers to all!
Thank you to Stacey, Betsy, Dana, Tara, Beth, Anna, Kathleen & Deb for creating community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.
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