Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Books - an encore

Sometimes the best lessons are the ones I come up with at the last minute.

With the show next week and all of the craziness, I had no idea - absolutely, literally no idea - what to do with my AVID class today. For my other classes, we're either in the middle of projects or I've got enough stock lesson plans that I could come up with worthwhile activities for the 80 minutes I have to prep for each class. But AVID? Nothing.

So last night I was heading for bed, figuring that I would just have to come with something when I got to school in the morning, and I stepped into my library to enjoy the room. I was admiring my fine alphabetizing when I recalled the assignment I had given the AVID kids last time.

You see, the more I teach, the more I believe that the foundation to educational success is a love of reading. I did a poll with this class and found that out of 30 kids, about 6 of them read for pleasure. How sad is that? So I told them that they each needed to get a book (age-appropriate, at least 200 pages long) and read it by winter break. Not too hard, right?

I recalled that assignment as I enjoyed my own biblioholism last night, and suddenly I started pulling out books from the shelf. I went through my collection and soon had a pile of about 40 books that meet the assignment's needs - roughly appropriate for 8th and 9th graders, and all over 200 pages long.

I began the class by spreading the books out on the floor in the middle of my room. They were immediately curious. Then I walked them through these steps:

1. Look, but no touchie - Based only on the front cover, which book would you pick to read and why?
2. Select a book, one book per student. Read the back cover and any inside flaps. Write down a summary of what the book is about and what kind of book it is.
3. Read the first chapter OR the first ten pages (whichever comes first). Describe what's happened so far in the book, and what characters you've met.
4. Would you continue reading this book? Why or why not?

And badda-boom, a 75 minute lesson. But here's the magical part - they were way into it. They wanted to touch the books, look through the books. They were fighting over who got to pick which book. And I'm not sure if you will understand the significance of this, but when it came time for them to read the first part of their books - they all did. Silently. I mean, I even stepped out of the room for a moment to get something, and when I came back they were all still reading quietly.

I though to myself, "Holy crap, it's a literary miracle!"

At the end I asked how many of them would like to keep reading the books they had picked - two-thirds of them raised their hands. And I know some of the others didn't because another student had nabbed the books they wanted to see.

So I realized a few things.
1. I should never hide or undermine my own passion. I think it's the reverance and excitement that I can't suppress when I talk about books that sold them on this project to begin with.
2. One of the greatest things my parents did for me was take me to the library regularly. I talked with Janelle about it, and she told me that going to the library is still anxiety-ridden for her, since her family never did that. It's just overwhelming, so she doesn't go. No wonder these kids of mine don't read - their parents don't either. That's why
3. I have to teach them how to pick up a book. It's so intuitive for me now, but it's not for them. But, hopefully, it's not too late for them to learn it.

I hope this project works. I need to hunt down more books for them, though. Especially books with Hispanic main characters - "Sister Chicas" was one of the most popular choices.

If you have any suggestions for my kids to read, feel free to post a comment!

1 comment:

  1. The very best thing I've done with my English classes so far is book conferences. Instead of a book report over their outside reading (which they don't want to write and I don't want to grade...),I sit and talk with them about the book for about 5 min. I know your classes are crazy large, but I think you'd love doing this!

    I love your idea and might merge the two assignments! I can see this as a way to guide them to a book. Thanks!