Friday I missed school to attend–and present–at the MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) annual conference in Lansing.
I haven’t been to the conference in years, but this year I was invited to create a presentation proposal with two professors from a local private college about using Reader’s Workshop. Our proposal was accepted and before I knew it, I was on the schedule and registered as a presenter.
The presentation went really well.
My part was first and concentrated on using the Reader’s Workshop with 8th and 9th graders. I also gave my perspective as someone who is very new (only 9 weeks of experience) and what successes and challenges I am seeing so far.
This is where I wish my dumb blog would allow me to add pictures. In just nine weeks I had an enormous reaction to Reader’s Workshop.
On the day that I was out presenting, I had my students fill out a personal reflection sheet about how it’s been going. Almost unanimously, students agreed that the time we read in class is important and they wish we could do it more often. With the exception of only 5 or less students, everyone said the wish we could read LONGER than 20 minutes and more OFTEN than 3 times a week.
I wholeheartedly agree!
Kids also asked for more books. More from series that I already have, more biographies and memoirs of athletes, more titles like (fill in the blank), more, more, MORE!
Do you know how fantastic it is to hear kids who ten weeks ago claimed, “I don’t really like to read. It’s not my thing,” ask for MORE BOOKS??? It’s amazing!
Kids are also recommending books to each other and telling their parents about their books. At parent teacher conferences tonight I lost track of how many parents said, “S/he said the other night s/he was going to go read. I couldn’t believe it!” This made me smile SO DANG BIG! And it backed up my claim that if you don’t think you like to read, you haven’t found the right book yet.
The presentation on Friday also gave me ideas of what else to slowly add. One presenter had a good chart for having the kids fill out each day what book they are reading and what page they are on. It’s more organized than my pieces of notebook paper I have been passing around and losing. Oops. I’m hoping that this will be better for data collection.
The other presenter had a cool quote analysis sheet I am going to do with students once a week where they choose a quote from their book to talk about what it means and what connections they can make to it. This is also a good jumping point for some discussion and takes us beyond mere summarizing–our focus in the first quarter.
I do still have some challenges. Finding something that will get EVERY kid reading is still a struggle. There are a couple kids in each class that are either “book hoppers”–they “read” from a different book every time we have silent reading which really means they are not reading anything at all. Or they are “Media Center Denizens”–every time we are going to read they need to go look for a book in the media center because I just don’t have what they want in my classroom.
I also have a hard time with time. I have full novels I have to read each quarter with my classes as well as grammar, vocabulary, and writing that is mandatory. Being able to fully commit to the Reader’s Workshop model has been almost impossible, but I think I’m working it the best I can.
Next week I am going to share with you some of the books my students love best in case you are looking for gift ideas for the 13-15 year olds in your life!
If you are feeling like giving to students this season, you can find my Amazon Wish List for my Classroom Library here. We are ALWAYS taking donations (and the titles there are all student-generated).