This last week I was teaching in a 6th-grade classroom. We are at the beginning of the school year and teachers are working on creating a community of learners. I believe deep literacy learning happens best in a community where readers and writers feel connected to others and not always immersed in an isolating task.
I believe in the power of a Readerdom!
I wanted to get the students to connect with their reading identities as well as those of their peers. Together we engaged in 4 Activities.
“I am the kind of reader who___” We discussed what identity meant- with the students defining it as “It’s who we are.” I added, “Yes, it’s all those things about you that make you uniquely you!” I shared some of my own characteristics that are woven into the fabric of my reading identity and then asked them to share some of theirs. Most students wrote so much they had to use the back of their papers. Their teacher later expressed surprise at how much they wrote and how they reflected on who they are as readers.
“Who is_____ as a reader?” I then asked for volunteers to share what they had written. To encourage active listening and connections I had the other students make a list of those who shared. Next to their name they were asked to write something about that person as a reader. They could choose anything that resonated with them, or a summary. I heard lots of, “Oh yeah, me too!” as students shared.
“Who else likes_______?” On a separate sheet of paper I asked students to choose ONE genre that they really like. For many it was hard to narrow it down. I told them I would have a hard time selecting one but it didn’t have to be a singular favorite, just one that they truly enjoy. Then they had 10 minutes to circulate around the room to see who else really enjoyed reading books in that genre and collect their names. Afterward I told them, “Now you know who you can ask for recommendations. These students will be a good source for you to get ideas and discuss books with.”
“Stranded on an island.” The last task was asking students to imagine they were stranded on a deserted island and they could only have THREE books there with them. Which books would they choose? Many students knew right away, but others struggled with thinking up titles or narrowing their choices. This information told me which books they had either read recently, loved deeply, or were important enough to remember. The kids were fascinated by the choices of their peers. Expressions of “OH YEAH!” “REALLY?” and “OH, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT ONE!” permeated the room.
As you can imagine, it’s not just the responses that enlightened me about their sense of self as readers, but when I observed them thinking, reacting, struggling, or debating I could see them connecting with a part of their identity they hadn’t been in touch with much. They clearly are more aware of their reading traits and a greater connection to the reading community of their classroom
We were taking our first steps in creating a Readerdom where readers rule and books are the queen! Long live the queen!
What’s On My Book Radar?
WISH by Barbara O’Connor
Speaking of queens, Barbara O’Connor is the queen of empathy! She creates characters that help us walk in the shoes of others and ‘wish’ we could be better people. In this middle grade novel, Charlie Reese is an eleven year old girl who has been making the same wish since she was in 4th grade. It’s a secret, and she needs to make it every single day or it won’t come true. She finds all kinds of ways to make wishes (on stars, clovers, and some unique old wives’ tales!) She is sent away to live with her aunt in the Blue Ridge Mountains when her mother and father can no longer take care of her. She meets a neighbor who becomes an unlikely friend and a stray dog that has yet to be tamed. But she still wants her one wish to come true.All I can say is get to your favorite bookstore as fast as you can and get your own copy of WISH, you can thank me later!