Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Reading - a little late

My students asked me to create a fun reading activity at the end of the year.  I thought I could get it finished in time, but alas, the school year ended and it was only half finished!  Now it's finished, and if you think your own children would enjoy it, or if you are still in a classroom, stop by my TpT store and take a look!  The cool thing is it can work for any age.

There are 40 different things that students can do to read.  You decide how long they read to earn a beach ball based on what's age appropriate, and when they finish reading according to the direction on the ball, have them cut it out and glue it onto the beach towel.  When they've collected whatever number you've set for them, treat them for reading over the summer.  I'm thinking a favorite ice cream cone or sundae sounds perfect!

Keep them from that reading slump over the summer.  Heck, I might even do this myself if there's ice cream on the other side!  :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Dedicate Time to Read

A bunch of amazing bloggers and thoughtful teachers are linking up to study this book this summer, and I've decided to get on the bandwagon.  I'm so excited that Catherine at The Brown Bag Teacher decided to launch this!  Donalyn Miller is my hero, and it's because of The Book Whisperer that I set reading and genre goals with my students this past year.  And boy oh boy, did they knock my socks off!  At the end of the year, kids had read an average of 32.5 books!  My goal for them was 25.

Now, to be fair, some of the credit needs to go to the new Literacy person in our district.  She was insistent that kids read for half an hour a day in our sixth grade classrooms.  That took some shifting around.  We switched to the CAFE and a modified Daily 5 (more like Daily3) model mid-year, which was more stressful for teachers than kids.  The kids LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the freedom to choose when they worked on things.
And I loved watching a kid stand in front of my bookcases looking for a book.  Often, another kid would walk up and say something like, "Do you need help finding a good book?"  And then they'd go off talking about what they'd read and what they thought was good.  It was such good stuff!

In her intro, Donalyn (do you like how I call her by her first name like she's my new best friend?!) worries that having kids fall in love with reading in her class didn't necessarily turn them into lifelong readers.  Especially if they read less in middle school.  Maybe I'm an eternal optimist.  I think the happy memories they had of reading in her room (and yours and mine) will come back to them at some point, and they'll turn back to books again.

Now, here's the rub.  In order to get kids to fall in love with books, they really, really need to read every day.  For a while.  And I know that's really hard in some classrooms, and even harder to convince some administrators.  But how do you make a kid want to take his/her book home?  By getting them so immersed in what they're reading that they don't want to put it down!

Charts don't do it.  Reading logs don't do it.  Pure and simple:  reading a good book makes you want to read more!  One thing I need to do better is encourage kids to take books with them when they're waiting for something, waiting in line, waiting for a speaker at an assembly, whatever.  And that why I'm going to post this quote by Sherri Chasin Calvo somewhere in my room!

                      If you have never said, "Excuse me" to a parking meter or
              bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting
              too much valuable reading time.

Keep reading!  And link up to this wonderful book study!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Some good reads

I've been switching back and forth this summer (all eight days of it so far!) between "adult" books and my stack of middle school books.  Here's what I've read so far. 

On the "adult" side:
This book was recommended by my 24-year old daughter, and I have to admit, it was a fun read on a lot of levels.  The story is told from many different voices, and in different ways - emails, FBI documents, hospital bills, and conversations, past and present.  It has a couple of interesting threads in it that I liked, and one that I wasn't as crazy about, but all in all, it was a creative, fun read.

Then, I read this one.  This is the story of a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers.  The story is told entirely from her point of view as she grapples with what's happening to her.  How she denies, then accepts her diagnosis, how it impacts her family, her work, her friends....this is one heartbreaking, tender story written with an insight that is profound. 

Another excellent read, very different from the first one!

And then, in between these, I've been reading books to stay ahead of my sixth graders for next year. 

So far, I've finished this book which was recommended by another teacher, who'd heard good things about it.  It was a great read and I found it hard to put down.  Until I got to the end.  And then I was totally confused.  And then angry.  But it did suck me in!  Still, it's definitely NOT for sixth graders.  So that one's not going on my shelves.  Unless someone out there talks me into it!

This was a beautiful story of a young girl making peace with who she is, how she feels about her best friend,  why she doesn't care about school work anymore, and what to do with a girl who bullies her from the first day of school.  But more importantly, it's about uncovering some parts of her past which help her understand who she is.  A very nice book!

I read this one in an afternoon.  Although spooky books aren't really my thing, I've found each year, that I have a group of readers who get excited by spooky, ghost-filled books.  So this year, I expanded my mystery section and created a "Spooky" section.  This books fits on that shelf.  It feels like an easy read for many sixth graders, and it has just the right amount of suspense around a cemetery that I think kids will enjoy it.

And now I've started this one, which is just filled with good humor and makes me chuckle a couple of times a page.  Recommended by a student, it's the first in a trilogy about all of the princes who have been lumped together under one name Prince "Charming."  But none of them are actually named that - they're Frederic, Liam, Duncan, and Gustav.  And they rescued Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.  Looks like a fun read!

How about you?  What are you reading this summer?  What recommendations do you want to pass along?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sometimes it's the little things

I think it's only hit me this week, really, that tomorrow is the last day of school.  I have so enjoyed my students this year, and I've wanted to use every precious minute to explore reading with them.  I just wasn't ready to acknowledge that our time together was almost over.

I've had so much fun watching them grow in their love of books and my hope was for them to realize that the love of books they'd nurtured this year didn't have to stop on June 10th, when school ended.    We tallied up the number of books all 75 students had read last Thursday. 

DRUMROLL PLEASE.....2,435 books!

That's 32 and a half books per kid!

Rest assured, there were some kids who only read 10 or 12, but that was countered by a half dozen who read between 50 and 70, one who read 93 (her goal was to get to 100!) and one who read 124.  But I was blown away by the number of kids who challenged themselves to reach that goal of 25.

Here are some comments a couple of students wrote to me last week.

This student wrote: "At the beginning of the year I thought I could only read 7 books (at the beginning of the year.)  Now there's 4.5 days left and I read 30 books...I also liked how you set a goal for me to read to before you met with me again." 

And this one wrote:  "Over the past summers I haven't read a book, but I think this year when I walk out of these doors on the 10th, I think I will read one or more books.  You really got me interested in reading."

Sometimes it's the little things like this that make me happy I chose to become a teacher.

For those of you who are still teaching, enjoy your last few days or weeks!  And for those of you already enjoying some rest away from the classroom, I can't wait to join you!