The Work of Inspiring Readers

I grabbed one more title off the cluttered clearance shelves of my local used bookstore.  My classes this year are fascinated by horror and thriller books.  Last year it was mysteries, and the year before it was all things fantasy.

I find myself browsing the clearance shelves at least once a month for new additions to our burgeoning classroom library.  Sure, the kids could check out books from the school library (and they do), but there is something more intimate and connected about our classroom library.

It takes personal time and my own money to do this, but I don't mind.  I know it takes a lot of work to inspire readers.  It makes me a better teacher.

I wish I had more conversations about this side of reading from admins and other teachers.  Instead it's mostly about data, spreadsheets, data, test scores, and more data.  So many important things in education don't fit nicely into line graphs.

A student told me on the first week of school how much she didn't like to read.  It took some serious work, but now she can't wait for reader's workshop and enjoys reading to me.  Tell me, how do I plot that on an .xls sheet?

Maybe if we put more effort into igniting a passion for books, we wouldn't have to worry so much about bubble sheets and test scores.

I Know What Books My Students Are Reading

No one ever asks me what books my students are reading.  Admins want to know about test scores or grades.  I understand.  Kind of.  Maybe that's why I'd make a terrible principal.  I don't usually know that stuff off the top of my head.  I also probably put less stock in it than I should.

Students are people.  I try to treat them as people instead of numbers and plot points.  When I'm at the library or bookstore, I see books that remind me of students.  I don't see books that remind of .xls files and report cards.  Books remind me of students because I think they would like to read them, not because books will help their screen time in front of our reading intervention app.

Do you know what books your students are reading?  Maybe I need to start asking more of that.

A New Year's REVolution

My students and I came up with New Year's REVolutions to celebrate the start of 2012.  We started by going through this Prezi I made titled Resolution vs. Revolution.

Most of my 4th graders had heard of resolutions.  They had seen their parents try to lose weight or quit smoking.  If parents only knew half of the things their children say about them at school...  We dicussed how a revolution is different.  It's not just a solution to a problem.  A revolution is a fundamental change in thinking.

We began listing problems, issues, or unsatisfactory things in our lives.  One of these would turn into our goal.  For example, one irritation I have is that I read too many books concurrently.  I get started, but rarely finish.  I'm emabarrased to say, but I rounded up all the books I started, but didn't finish in 2011.  It was close to 30.  Whoops.  My goal is to only read one book at time.

The revolution comes in my change of thinking about this problem.  I'm not just going to solve this problem (resolution), I'm going to change my thinking about it.  This happens by outlining a few process steps.

Next, my classes and I wrote three action steps that we could take to make sure this goal was reached.  These steps are critical.  I told them each step needed to be do-able and start with a verb.  Here are my three:

1. Commit to only reading one book at a time
I promised myself I would keep this up.  I actually modified it a bit to include two books- one novel and one non-fiction.  I figured those are different enough.

2. Make a list of books to read later
This will keep me from panicking that I'll forget a title I want to get.  I'm going to keep this as an Amazon wish list so I can get to it easily from my phone while I'm out.

3.  Write a review on Goodreads when I finish a book
This is a little treat for completing something.  I only get to write a review on my Goodreads page when I finish a book.

So far, so good.  My current novel (that I started in October, by the way. Yikes.) is Catching Fire, and my current non-fiction is Notebook Know-How.

Be sure to check out all my students' revolutions on The Bloggers' Guild.  Wish us well!

My Latest Bookstore Haul

[Cross posted from my Posterous- Background Vox]

On Writing- A Memoir of the Craft Stephen King
I've been wanting this one for a long time.  $7.48 was a great deal.  It's on my summer reading list and I can't wait to start on it.

Choose Your Own Adventure #76: The Mona Lisa is Missing Ramsey Montgomery
I loved these as a kid.  I remember doing a book report in 5th grade on a CYOA about a space ship.  This one was the only one they had at the bookstore, so I snagged it for $1.25.  My 4th graders like them too, but I always have to explain how they work.  They're usually a big hit with the boys.

Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury
I had no idea this one even existed.  The first few pages were great.  For $3.50, it was a no-brainer.

The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
This was actually from a previous trip, but I forgot it in my car and found it recently.  I'd heard some good things about it.  It was an easy grab at 50 on the clearance shelf.  I'm almost finished with it.  It's well written and Catcher in the Rye-esque at times, but I think I would have liked it better when I was 16.

Number the Stars Lois Lowry
I was so excited to pick up another copy for $2.  I do a big, whole class literature circle with this book at the beginning of the year.  I can never seem to get enough copies.  It also happens to be one of my favorite books ever.