Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Literature Circles Day 2.

Well, I was equally impressed with my class today as I was yesterday.  Today I met with my first 3 literature circle groups.  Basically, while I am meeting with a group the rest of the class is at their desk reading, writing response journals, preparing for their discussion group or working on other literature response activities I have set out for them.  Half of my students did not actually meet with their group today, yet they worked for close to an hour straight on the activities for their novel.  And, it sounds like they are really liking the books they have selected... I just hope this enthusiasm lasts. I plan to keep going with literature circles for about 4-5 weeks - maybe longer if they are still enjoying it.  I already have a couple students who are finished/near finished their books and will be ready to select a new one by the end of the week.

I really enjoyed my discussion with the Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) group today.  They have some really interesting thoughts on what it must be like to be Luke - the third child hidden by his family in a society that only allows 2 children per family.  They were quite concerned with how scared the family was of the government and what would happen if Luke were found.  I really get excited when my students dig in deep to the core issues in a book and don't just fixate on the surface issues.  If you haven't read Among the Hidden, it's a quick, but engaging read that fits into my favourite genre - dystopian fiction, and at it's core deals with the rights and freedoms an individual is entitled to in society.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Love Literature Circles

I was shocked by my students this morning.  They read/worked on lit circle assignments for 45 minutes.  (after I had talked about them for 20).  I left the room, walked down to the photocopier and back (twice), and no one had moved.  I let them pick their books on Friday, and for most of the morning before recess, they just read... which warms my heart.  My goal for the year is to get them excited about books and reading.  And right now, I have several students with 2-3 books on the go because they have their literature circle books and other books they have self-selected to read.

I spend a lot of time reading in order to decide what books I want to use for literature circles.  This year, for the first round, I have chosen:

Shabash! by Ann Walsh
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Among the Hidden by Margaret Petersen Haddix
Found (The Missing, Book 1) by Margaret Petersen Haddix
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Some of them are new, and others are really really old, but I think they are all worth reading, will encourage interesting discussion and I had particular students in mind when I selected each one because I thought there was something in the story that would resonate with certain students.  My Side of the Mountain is not my favourite out of the bunch, but I have had students love to read about Sam's experience living in the mountains by himself.  It comes highly recommended by my husband, who emphatically declared that "that kid is frikin' Macguyver...he made a fishing hook out of sticks and he lives in a hole in a tree..." How can I not include it with that kind of backing?

Any favourite books for literature circles?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Poetry Friday - Discussing Poetry - The Whip Around

One thing I find difficult about conducting in-class discussions is ensuring that all my students are participating.  It is easy for the students who do not like sharing their ideas out loud to sit back and listen to their more outgoing peers share their ideas.  And sometimes, the students who like to talk the most, don't necessarily have the most insightful ideas.  One technique that I have been using this week to make sure that every student in the room contributes is called the 'Whip-Around,' or 'Say Something.'

I first came across this strategy courtesy of Faye Brownlie, but I think it is a fairly common teaching strategy.  I am getting ready to launch my literature circles next week, so the Whip Around is a good way to get students used to participating in discussions -especially those that usually sit back and daydream (I mean listen...) in more informal discussions.

Basically, after students have read the Poem of the Day once on their own and together as a class, everyone in the class has the opportunity to say one thing that they are thinking as a result of the reading.  It can be anything (as long as it's on topic).  I would start with a student at the front of the room, and 'whip around,' snaking up and down my rows, giving everyone a chance to contribute.  Students can see when their turn is coming up, and they can say what someone else said as long as they add on one little bit of their own thinking.  It is fairly informal, but everyone must contribute as oral language is a huge part of our new curriculum, but it is not as scary as a more formal discussion.

I have used this strategy three times this week and by the third time I had everyone but one student say something about the poem, and not "I don't know."

I like to get to hear the ideas of my quiet students...they are often worth sharing...

Stacy has the roundup today at Some Novel Ideas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things that make my day...

There are little moments in teaching that really help me remember why I love what I do.  And one of them happens to be when my kids get excited about books.  Like really excited - jumping up and down, squealing and arguing over who gets to read it first excited about a book...

I am always on the hunt for books my students will like, and there are certain books that make me think of certain students.  Mostly, I am always on the hunt for books my boys will read and be excited about, because it is just so easy to find books for my girls...perhaps it is because they like what I like...

I was at Costco on Tuesday night and I came across the new Twilight Graphic Novel.  And, I picked it up right away.  There are some serious vampire obsessed readers in my classroom and I knew it would be a hit.  When I showed them the book, they were jumping up and down, squealing and calling other girls in from outside to come and see it.  And now, we have a sign up list for who gets the book next - the first book that has needed a wait list.

There wasn't much I could do but simply be happy that my buying a book had brought them so much excitement.  And that type of enthusiasm for reading in grade 6/7 girls just makes my day.  Maybe even my week.  It's too bad I only bought one copy...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Experience with Manga...

I went to a workshop last week on using graphic novels in the classroom.  There was a lot of information about the different ways we can study graphic novels - the art, the literary qualities, and the comic features, but for me one of the most interesting parts was when the presenter provided us with a copy of a short story from a manga serial and asked us to spend 5 minutes reading it.

Now, as much as I think that graphic novels are a great addition to my classroom and they have helped tremendously with my reluctant and weak readers, I have yet to read one from cover to cover.  I just can't get through one.  I do not like being slowed down by the pictures when I am reading and I find them much more difficult to read and comprehend than traditional text based novels.

So, when we were handed the copy and then instructed that we had to read right to left I thought I was going to be out to lunch for sure.  Well, I was shocked at how easy it was to get into the rhythm of reading 'backwards' and I found myself engaged in the story quite quickly.  Altogether it was a very interesting experience which would not have been as positive had I not been 'guided' through the reading.  Funny how the strategies we use with students work with adults just as well...

I would like to get more comfortable with reading and interpreting graphic novels so that I can teach them in my classroom and I would like to get my hands on a copy of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud to get a better handle on the techniques used in these books.

By the way, the comic we read in the workshop was from the Manga Series: Black Jack - quite an interesting series about a brilliant doctor who operates without the proper certification and often outside of expected ethical and legal bounds.