Writer’s Notebook Wednesday

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This is my first contribution to Writer’s Notebook Wednesday! It is a personal narrative I have been writing alongside my class:

As we pulled into the stranger’s driveway, the excitement in the car grew. The garage door was open and we could see two golden-fleeced puppies playing in a large crate.

“We are definitely getting one!” Megan exclaimed. We all laughed, but we knew it was true. We could never leave without a puppy, having seen them.

Quickly, we piled out of the Rav-4 and introduced ourselves to the breeder. She let us know that the boy was the one wearing a green collar and that the little girl was the one in the pink collar. The boy was already reserved but the little girl was available.

“Go ahead, you can let them out and play with them. Take them out on the front lawn!” the breeder said. Megan rushed to the cage and opened the latch.

A tangle of legs and tails piled out, all golden and fluffy. Yip yip! Both puppies raced towards the lawn, tumbling over their unsteady legs wagging tails. We watched them play with each other, racing around the lawn and garden, wrestling and playing. Megan chased the little girl and then sat down in the garage. Without a sound, the little girl slowly approached. She sniffed Megan’s foot expectantly and before we could say a word, she threw herself into Megan’s lap! We were in love! After a few more minutes, Megan scooped up the puppy in her arms and said in a decided voice, “We are getting her!”.

With a laugh, we turned to the breeder and made it official. As the money was turned over and the contract was signed, we made our way to the car with our new baby girl. After an hour of playing outside with her brother, meeting a whole new family, and being adopted- she was exhausted. As we pulled out of the driveway, she snuggled up on the backseat, between all of us. As she slept soundly, surrounded by the love of her new family, Mom leaned back and said, “Welcome home, Lucy”.

Meetings

I have been thinking lately about the many meetings we have at school. A few of these meetings always focus on language arts and the “best” way to teach. Over and over I hear that while “independent reading is not a waste of time” it is not possible for students to read for any extended period of time. Just recently, I was told that students will read for 7-10 minutes, and then just stare at the page, pretending to read. I dare not tell these administrators that my current classes can read for 50 minutes, uninterrupted, and beg for more when we stop! While they read, I float around the room checking pages, holding conversations (which check comprehension without the student even realizing it), and looking over reading logs. While I agree that there are those students who we must work with very closely in order to build their stamina, I think it does our children a disservice to assume that reading for any length of time is an impossibility for them! Teaching is about expectations. I expect my students to read during workshop, they know my expectations, and they read.

Many districts seem to think that the average American child will only read short pieces of text and only with a specific purpose in mind. For example, we should give a 1-2 page piece to our students + a graphic organizer. This graphic organizer will ensure that they do the reading we ask of them while not staring at the ceiling. I fully support the use of graphic organizers as organization tools and guidance, but why are we making our students completely reliant on them? Why can’t a middle school child read a novel and actually enjoy it? It seems that student+novel+enjoyment just does not equal out for many administrators. Instead, we shortchange many students by giving them one page to read plus a one page organizer to fill out as they read. Too many teachers have removed independent reading and choice from their classrooms. Instead of spreading a love of books and a passion for reading, they are making reading a chore.

In my classroom this year, my students are readers. Everday they recommend books to each other, to me, and to their parents. I have had 3 parents approach me since Back to School Night to say something along the lines of, “I don’t know what you are doing in that room, but my son is READING!”. The most telling sign? My two classes have the highest combined amount of Scholastic orders each month so far. Instead of the average $20-50 ordered in the other classes, my two classes order over $100 of books each month.

Somehow, we need to convince more administrators and superintendents that the workshop model is the way to go. Lectures and textbook readings are not grooming students to be readers. They are building a hatred of reading and books. It has to stop!

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