This year, I have really been pushing the students to read on their own. The traditional model of English class is to read class novels, use the text book, and stay very structured. I am fortunate enough to be at a school where this is not the model. My school models reading as an independent, unique practice. We use two things to ensure the kids are making progress in their reading: 1) independent novels and 2) reading conferences.
I have had HUGE success with reading conferences. It’s a way to personally find out what the kids are reading, who knows how to self-select books, who needs help, and who is reading books out of level. With three of my classes, most kids are able to self select books within their reading level. I have a few kids in my low level class that just do not understand how to self-select their books. We have tried to work with them. I tell them “Pick a book, if it’s not right, I pick the next one.” These kids usually have been picking for the cover of the book and have no idea what the actual content is about. For some reason, the kids keep picking this book called “The Book” and no one can get into it. That being said, it has a bleeding crow on the cover and is very “minimal”. I think it attracts the non-readers.
Some resources I have used to build up my knowledge of mini-lessons and just right books are ‘The Nerdy Book Club” blog and The Book Whisperer by Donalynn Miller . She actually recommended Nerdy Book Club to me, but whatever (: I have used this site to build knowledge of popular books and ideas for “book talking” them. Another great website for book talks is http://www.nancykeane.com The book talks on this site are ENDLESS. Some are written by critics and professionals, some are written by students. It’s a great way for me to helps students select novels for themselves that are within their realm of taste.
Have I had success with this model? Between read all-days, mini-lessons, and discussion, I have had great success. Some of my readers that were reading at a 7th grade level are now reading at an 11th grade or higher. Some of my lowest kids are actually excited about reading books, even if their reading level hasn’t increased dramatically. I have had a ton of book recommendations made for me, and students are even discussing books in class and recommending them to each other. A few of my students have already read 30+ books this year and it’s just past second semester. It’s really exciting to see this model is actually workable!!
Below is a free PDF of my Just Right Books poster. This is the model I use with students when they are self-selecting their books. My main emphasis is that they can discuss their books in a conference with me. I will post more about that later, and also take you into my classroom library that I have quickly developed this year!! Please comment with any questions or ideas!!
Just Right Books Poster (click here to download the PDF-uneditable)
So…today was a huge flop in way of 7th grade poetry writing. We have been working through reading poems and learning poetry terms that go along with them. This has been both a huge hit and success. The students aren’t griping about having to read the poems because I have tried to pick some decent ones. So far, we have done…
- Abandoned Farmhouse
- Deserted Farm (we compared and contrasted the two of these)
- One Inch Tall
- When It Snows (these poems taught us about imagery and rhyme scheme)
- Poison Tree
Today, we attempted writing poems in the same mood as Poison Tree. I picked some KEY words from them poem and asked students to write both a quatrain and a couplet using some of these words. They had to pick a rhyme scheme (either AABB or ABAB) and write about it. I got a variety of decent poems, from fighting a dragon in the middle of the night to waking up crying over a nightmare. However, some of the more interesting poems included a cat, Obama, a scuba diver, and the age old rhyme “I’m a Poet/And I didn’t even know it!” I guess I had a little more faith in the kids that they could channel their inner dark poet. After a week of snow days and True Blood, I’m really channeling mine. I think for the rest of my classes today, I may prompt them…write about a nightmare, a monster, vampires and werewolves, a dragon, etc. Hopefully this focuses things more so I don’t have to hear about “I can scuba, I moved to Cuba, because I didn’t like Obama”….whatttt?!?
Still working on incorporating writing into my daily lessons as reading is such a HUGE focus in my district. It’s all about reading here, and I love that! Happy to take any suggestions to incorporate more writing on a daily basis. If you’d like any of my poetry handouts/slides/or worksheets, please comment and I’d be happy to share! (:
Okay, so, I have determined one fact: Trying to keep up with a blog your first year teaching is really tough! I keep forgetting I even have it! Sorry to anyone (if there is anyone) who has been waiting around on my blog posts….I promise to do better this semester!
So….update on my year so far? It’s the second semester and I am finally feeling settled in. I feel like I have time to worry about my lessons, plan in advance, and really get everything “worked out”. Looking back, though, I feel like in getting settled in teaching I missed focusing on a lot of skills works, so I am trying to get caught up with that. Right now, I am focusing on a poetry unit. Students are looking at a condensed list of poetry vocabulary and we are working through poems to support those skills. I am also giving the kids writing assignments to support their “thinking about poetry” (poetry was something I focused on a lot in college). It’s been pretty successful!! I am still struggling with my low level kids. At this point, the struggle has been between multiple teachers vying for a spot as my permanent mentor for the year, and I feel like the kids have lost a lot skill work as a result.
Please comment if you have any questions! I am happy to share my poetry lessons and powerpoints with anyone who would like them! I am also working on getting my TeachersPayTeachers site up and running. I just discovered “MyCuteGraphics.com” where a lot of creators get their graphics for their teachers pay teachers signs. Very high quality and cute! (: