Friday, October 2, 2009

That's What It's All About

I say it quite a lot. I love my job. I seriously do. Maybe not every little nitpicky detail every single hour of the day, but I love coming to school and being with my students. That said, there are some days that are considerably better than others... you know, those days where things just click? I had one of those days on Thursday.

My GOAL kids are expected to read every day for their independent reading contract. They have GOAL instead of a regular reading class, so I'm pretty rigid about this requirement. I don't want their reading scores to slip because they're in my class. Every three weeks, they complete a self-evaluation on how that contract is going. Toward the end of the evaluation, there's a question that reads, "Miss Nelson can help me improve my grade in GOAL by..." Now most of the time, these answers are varied and individual. I comment on them or talk to the students or make a mental note of the suggestion. Many times they're blank or say something like "N/A," or "nothing, thanks."

Looking over the self-evaluations for the first three weeks of school, I noticed a trend in the answers to that question. Many students wanted help finding good books to read. I usually write "see me during library day, and I'll help you out," but rarely do they remember or do it. Many of my students are voracious readers, and they go through a lot of books. I also have some students who are great readers, but they just don't like to read (yes, it happens to the smart kids too). I decided to do something about it.

Along with our super teacher librarian, Dee Ann, I decided to incorporate booktalks into our normal library time. I decided to booktalk 5 books per week, just to get the kids thinking of books and authors that they might not have considered. I was in the library that morning choosing some books, and I thought that I probably should keep some kind of record about which books I'd talked about so I didn't repeat any. I was making a spreadsheet in the library, when Dee Ann said that she could really see this information on a blog, accessible to all kids, not just GOAL kids. Good idea!

I started my day, and the thought of a wiki came into my mind more and more. My 7th and 8th graders have used wikis in the past, and I liked the idea of them being able to contribute to it. It would still be accessible to other kids, but only GOAL students would be able to edit.

Another brainstorm hit that it should be organized by book title, a big wiki list of book titles. Some of them would be put on by Dee Ann and myself. Others would be put on by the students. And, we all could edit and comment on each others' posts if we had read the same books!

I gave the first booktalks during 2nd hour. The kids loved it! Even if they weren't interested in reading every book for themselves, they really listened and loved hearing about new books and authors. Then, I opened it up to them. In every class throughout the day, students had books of their own to tell the class about. Plus, booktalks by peers always mean more at this age than booktalks by teachers!

Last night, I thought of the best part of all. Every year, as professional development, we have to create a unit using Backward Design. I think this would be a great unit for Dee Ann and I to develop together using this format. I love it when I can kill two birds with one stone!

This whole thing might not seem like a big deal, but it was just a great day for me. I love when I can take a problem and really make a change in my practice to make it better. That's what it's all about! :)

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