I have my students divided into four guided reading groups, which were randomly named Embassy, Papaya, Chameleon, and Sapphire. These groups meet with me at least once a week to work on specific reading strategies and discuss their understanding of the books they are reading as a group.
For most of the year, my reading groups have followed a fairly traditional paradigm. Each student was given a specific role, such as the Discussion Director, Summarizer, Connector, Illustrator, and Word Detective. These roles were rotated weekly, with the idea that each student would get the opportunity to fill each role.
After my meeting with the Literacy Across Content Areas inquiry group on Tuesday afternoon, I decided to try something different with reading groups. Instead of assigning roles, I have decided that each student is simply going to be responsible for joining in a true book discussion. Everyone has a copy of the book their group is reading and they will meet once a week to discuss the book.
My goal for this is for the students to engage one another with the text. To talk about what they have read, what they thought about what they have read, and to talk about how what they have read changed what they think about what they read! It won’t be easy, but I have full confidence in my students’ ability to read independently and then discuss books as a group. I am excited to see where things go from here with our reading groups!
I love the Battle of the Books. It is a great program that gets students in third, fourth, and fifth grade to read a set of 30 award-winning books written for young people. The students work in teams of eight to read all 30 books and then they compete to answer trivia questions related to the books. Several of the books are selections that are on my To Read list, including Because of Mr. Terupt, Out Of My Mind, and The Name Of This Book Is Secret. There is also Love That Dog, which I read for the first time a few weeks ago when a friend purchased it for me as a gift. I don’t typically care for poetry as a genre (I’m not really sure why), but I love Love That Dog. (more…)
Fourth graders tend to be rather chatty. I’m okay with this, usually. There are times when I need my students to stay quiet and listen to directions, and there are many times when I will indicate that work is to be done silently but, honestly, I don’t mind a whispered conversation or two with a neighbour, especially if that conversation is related to the work at hand.
Of course, sometimes the talking gets out of hand. Someone starts talking above a whisper, and then someone else does, and then it seems like I suddenly have all 26 of my students talking loudly instead of working quietly. As the week draws to a close, I feel like many of them are struggling to hold on. Spring Break is just so close!!! But they are persevering and we will make it to the end of the week, I am confident.
One of the more challenging times for all of my students to stay on task is when I am meeting with a reading group at my back table. I have tried to establish positive expectations for what students should be doing while I am with a group. The are typically engaged in independent, silent reading or writing. My class knows that they are not to interrupt me while I am meeting with a group unless it is an emergency involving blood, vomit, fire, or near-death. (None of these emergencies ever arise, and so most of the students know to wait until I am done meeting with my group before asking a question.)
Last week, I read this blog post from my Nerdy Book Club Internet friend, Mr. Colby Sharp, who teaches
third fourth grade in another school district. I’ve never met Mr. Sharp, but we’ve talked online via Twitter and email a few times and we are fellow book nerds/geeks. (My speech at the beginning of the year about my passion for reading is something I picked up from Mr. Sharp, who shared this video a year ago.) I especially appreciated this portion of his post:
Things are far from perfect in my little classroom at the end of the hall. We have a long ways to go and probably not enough days to get there. I wish everyone was reading above grade level, heck, I wish they were all reading at grade level. Although we have our issues and we are not perfect, today was perfect.
Today I had a moment like Mr. Sharp’s day a week ago. While I was meeting with my group that just finished reading Johnny Tremain, I looked around and I saw, for the briefest of moments, everyone in the room doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Some students were reading, some students were writing, but all students were focused and on task. Nobody was chatting with a neighbour or finding an excuse to get up and wander around the classroom or trying to use the bathroom or get a drink. They were all just engaging with literature. It was just a moment, but it gave me a glimpse of what is possible. Just like Mr. Sharp, I am grateful to have a classroom of readers. Some are reluctant because they haven’t found The Book For Them yet, some are over-achievers with a pile of books on their desk and more at home. But all of them are readers, and every now and then they all remember it at the same time. We are going to keep working at it, and we are going to keep reading and writing. Our ultimate goal is to have forty-five minutes of uninterrupted reading in the room. And you know? We’re going to get there. Knowing that is what makes it all worthwhile. Achieving the end goal is fantastic, but the journey along the way is absolutely wonderful.