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At the beginning of class last Tuesday, students were asked to summarize what was currently happening in the books that they were reading. They typed their answers into a Google form, with reminders to incorporate the sentence variety and conventions we’ve been working on in class. I’m especially happy to see the use of appositives in the responses!
Most importantly, I’m happy with the level of engagement I’m seeing with most students and their books. Spending time in the library and in silent reading has given me insight into students’ reading lives. I’m learning who is familiar with which authors, who reads reluctantly and who reads willingly, and who throws up big roadblocks to reading…and perhaps why. Several students and I are now working on finding books that will get them interested again after many, many months of not reading any book at all (true confessions have been one of the benefits of this return to library visits and reading time).
Some of the many intriguing plot summaries from last week:
Ben on Perfect Season by Tim Green:
“A new kid, Chuku, has just moved in and is a potential star wide receiver. He met Troy, the main character one day at the Jets facility and Troy was impressed. Since Troy has to attend a poor school because his dad ran away with all of his money, he tried to “recruit” Chuku to attend and he did. So now, with a hall of fame player, Seth Halloway, as their coach, they are looking forward to a perfect season.”
Jane on Size 21 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot:
“Heather Wells, a college dorm monitor, has been hearing strange screams going down the elevator shaft and she has been finding people dead at the bottom. She knows these types of people wouldn’t elevator surf (jump from elevator cars to the next) so she calls the police, and of course they don’t believe her and no one else does either. She starts to investigate and finds the president of the colleges son as a suspect.”
Joseph on Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins:
“Gregor is getting ready to go on a hunt to find the Bane — the biggest baddest rat in the Underland — and kill it. Gregor knows that he has to do this even though the prophecy calls for his death. Him and Ripred, a rat that is on the humans side, are going to do whatever they can to kill the Bane and let Gregor keep his life, but it will be very hard.”
Francesca on The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler:
“The main character, Penny, just arrived at a new school in Hog’s Hollow. She and her mother baked cupcakes for a party and they have just arrived to set up the party room. An embarrassing accident happens and the birthday girl, Charity, now hates Penny. She then ‘welcomes’ Penny to her new school with a locker full of pennies.”
Kevin on The Fourth Stall, Part II by Chris Rylander:
“Earlier in the book, the protagonist Mac and his best friend Vince, along with a few other assistants, conducted a mass cheating operation for the SMARTS test, the book world’s equivalent of STAAR, where they corrected every answer. Unfortunately, everyone failed the test, despite the corrections. As the punishment for a failure on this scale results in the school being closed down, Mac and Vince must find out who is trying to take the school down. If they can’t–it’s the end of the world.”
Dahlia on The Chase by Janet Evanovich:
“FBI agent Kate O’Hare was captured by Carter Grove’s elite private security agency called Black Rhino. Nicholas Fox, her partner and international con-man and thief, is caught, and even though her bosses know what she’s doing, she’s on her own. Kate successfully talks her way out of the tricky situation, finds Nick Fox, and heads back to the states, finds Carter Grove in possession of stolen paintings, and arrests him, with help of a rag-tag crew and her dad, ex-Navy Seal, Jake O’Hare.”
Sam W. on Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr:
“The main character, Connor, has a big baseball game coming up against his biggest rival, Billy Burrell and the Red Sox. Connor runs into Billy at school, where Billy starts to threaten Connor about ‘accidentally’ hitting him during the game. Connor then watches as he walks off and walks right into a locker door, sneding Connor home laughing. Connor then finds the tires on his bike slashed with some jagged glass, which only could have been done by the one and only….. Billy Burrell!”
What are you reading now? What’s happening in your book?
The message of the above graphic is one we already know: reading is important, and reading every day fosters academic strength. Chances are that the more you read, the better student you will be…the better thinker you will be.
At the seventh grade level, we ask that you strive to read 800-900 pages in a nine-week time period, that you log the titles of the books you read, and that you obtain a parent signature next to each title as corroboration of your reading. Reading that many pages means reading regularly, even though you may not keep to a 20-minutes-a-day schedule you had when you were younger. We all have more time to read some days than we do on others.
Recently, we teachers have lifted the requirement that you read at least one book of a specified genre per nine weeks. The most important thing isn’t what you read, but that you read. I appreciate these words by educator and reading expert Donalyn Miller: “Reading belongs to readers, not to teachers. If we want children to see reading as anything more than a school job, we must give them the chance to choose their own books and develop personal connections to reading, or they never will.”
We’ve made that small change, but I’m thinking there need to be more changes. I’d like to open a conversation about how we do reading at school, and I’m asking for your input. Parents, feel free to add your thoughts, too.
- Independent, Sustained Silent Reading is something we used to do daily in seventh grade when ELA classes were 84 minutes long. I’d like to find time for ISSR again at school. Some schools with only one period of ELA have their ISSR time one period each week or once every seven school days. Others use the first ten minutes of every period. What are your thoughts about how often and how long we should have independent reading in the classroom?
- Reading Logs don’t have to be lists of titles with signatures. If we are reading at school again on a regular basis, there could be time for reading conferences with the teacher. With our iPads, we could record small group conversations about what’s happening in our books and turn in those conversations. What would be your preferred way of receiving credit for your reading?
- Regular library visits are important to supporting an ISSR program. Should we start going to the library every two weeks? Some students have said they have trouble finding a book to check out, so perhaps we should arrange for Mrs. Martinez to spotlight some titles for us each time we visit. How do you think we could make the most of regular trips to the school library?
Parents and students, I look forward to hearing your answers to these questions (and any other thoughts you may have about reading) in the comments section of this post.
Students, I’ve been so pleased to see the enthusiasm for reading that you have shown in these first weeks of school! Already you are bringing your public library books, paperbacks, Kindles, and Nooks to class. You’re browsing the classroom library and checking out titles from best-selling young adult authors. Extra minutes in class have been spent productively, with you choosing to read once your binders are organized and your letters are written. This is exciting! We are building a community of writers and readers in our seventh grade classroom.
We can all foster this enthusiasm for reading and support the growth of our class library by ordering books from Scholastic. You can browse each month’s book flyer and order online here or from the link on my website (it’s under the “resources” tab). Our class ordering code is GNM2B.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to read for my reading log this nine weeks. I’ve almost finished my audiobook How the Light Gets In, the recent Louise Penny mystery I mentioned in my letter to you, so I think I’ll get started on my required biography/autobiography. I’ve checked out a book about the Bronte children: Charlotte, Emily, Anne. I know a few of you are familiar with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, and both are on my list of favorite books. I’ve listened to my Jane Eyre audiobook three or four times over the years, and I know I will listen to it again. I am really looking forward to learning more about the lives of Charlotte, Emily, and their lesser-known sister. All were writers, and all are interesting to me.
What person have you chosen to learn more about in your reading this nine weeks? What makes you interested in the life of that person?
Visitors, have you read an interesting biography or autobiography recently? Leave us a comment here.