A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Ever since I returned from the CCIRA conference, I have been meaning to blog about lots of different sessions and ideas that I came away with. To give you a very brief overview of the conference, I left feeling rejuvenated in my practice and it also reminded me of some simple truths that I had forgotten about (which I will mention later). I also loved that my mentor’s takeaway from the conference was that our students needed to be reading more and that we needed to make reading more obvious in our school. To make that shift, I feel like we as an English department need to revisit some things (i.e. mandatory 4 part book reports every quarter across every grade), but we also need everyone in that building to join our conversation about reading and books. This change makes me excited for tomorrow, next quarter, next fall, and the years to come. I know change is slow and this culture shift is probably years away, but I want to be a part of it for my building. I want to be part of the catalyst for change.
Currently, I have been allotting Thursdays and Fridays as reading days in my reading class. We do nothing but read the whole period – me included. Students spread themselves all over the classroom; many of them enjoy cramming themselves into tiny corners or under tables and desks. Some bring pillows and blankets from home and make themselves comfortable as they read. In the entire year, I have only had two students fall asleep during this time. I’ve encountered many more reluctant readers who will spend the whole 45 minutes staring off into space or ripping a piece of paper carefully to make a bookmark, but, for the most part, my students use and look forward to that time. This choice to allot all of Thursday and Friday to reading in my reading class is not necessarily a popular decision with my coworkers, but it’s one of those battles I’m willing to fight. I know I’m not giving my students enough time, that really half of every class period in reading should be dedicated to reading, but right now it seems like all I can do in a building driven by data results and raising test scores, no matter what.
During CCIRA, I remembered something I never thought I would forget. It shames me to say this, but in having a language arts class and having a reading class, I somehow managed to divorce reading and writing. This is horribly embarrassing to write here, but I did. In my reading class, I wasn’t really having my students do any sort of meaningful writing. I got too wrapped up in the pressure around me to teach reading strategy after reading strategy after reading strategy and vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary, while trying to avoid the reader’s books with the comprehension questions that follow them that I know the 6th and 8th grade use. My first year of teaching a reading class has felt a little like trying to navigate a mine field while trying to put the wings on a plane that has already taken off. This class really cements the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing yet and startles me with how easy it is to get sucked into a building’s ideology and culture. When our countdown to PAWS (the Wyoming state standardized test) starts in October and we don’t test until the 2nd week of March, it takes everything I’ve got to pull back from the test prep frenzy and really evaluate what I’m doing and whether it’s helping foster readers and writers. I still didn’t escape without botching it a few times and I still have an entire quarter to go.
Here are the top five things I’m doing to move forward after the conference and some personal reflection:
Any other ideas you have about what I could start doing to bring reading back in my school, I would love to hear them. What are you doing in your own classrooms/reading lives?
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