Recently I observed one of my 8th grade students heavily involved in the book, “Notes From A Totally Lame Vampire” (Aladdin, $12.99) by Tim Collins. After a year of working with this young man, I had never seen him that involved in any book. Two weeks later I had to remind him that the bell to go home had rung as he and another classmate were deep in a discussion of “Milkweed” by Jerry Spinelli. This is every teacher’s dream, to have students feel passionately about your curriculum.
Number one in my class is you have to read to become a reader. In order to read, you need books and time. I provide both BUT it would be pointless unless the readers had choice in their reading opportunities. Now here comes the tricky part – how do you provide that?
To me the answer is natural, make your classroom a haven for reading material but I used the word “tricky” because until I read “The Book Whisperer” (Josey-Bass, $22.99) by Donalyn Miller I had only known one other ELA teacher who did this seriously. Why?
- Being a book expert
Let me address each one as I see it. Providing many copies of various different titles can be challenging but here are some ways to bring those tomes into your classroom.
- Spend any class monies on books rather than supplies, games, consumables, etc.
- Go to garage sales.
- Ask parents to donate.
- Take advantage of Scholastic warehouse sales.
- Borrow from the library (school or public)
- Buy from Amazon used books – many are a penny plus shipping of $3.99
- Share with peers
Silent sustained reading MUST be an integral part of each day’s activities. How can one become better at something unless you do it. I assign reading for pleasure as homework each night but how do I really know that is being done? By integrating this so very important idea into the daily routine I see with my own eyes what and how my students read. Rethink your own day’s routines – do students really need to do morning work or daily oral anything?
Now here is the really scandalous part, being the book expert. I read everyday all kinds of titles, and am still not an expert on YA books BUT I don’t believe that I have to be. I need to set an example but do not need to read every book in my classroom. But you ask, how do I know that students have read the book? Provide assessments that demonstrate their knowledge of the book. I NEVER give a test on a book. I am presently reading for pleasure “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Steig Larsson and wouldn’t want to complete it if I knew a test was coming. I assess in multiple ways one of which is a book review. This allows students to share and persuade other readers to have a look at their book. Here are a few samples.
“Elephant Run is a great book, so far. Roland Smith did a great job on Sasquatch, Thunder Cave, and the I.Q. series, it’s no surprise Elephant Run would be great.”
“Have you ever wanted to hit that perfect home run? Have you ever wanted to have a summer job with a major league baseball team? Well for Brian these can possibly both come true only in the fascinating book The Batboy by Mike Lupica. …..I like this book because it shows you to never give up hope.”
Can you tell who read their book? As the teacher it is your job to introduce the classics like “The Outsiders” or “Night” but when it comes to independent reading, allow your students to read what suits them and I think you will be amazed with the results.