Reflecting on Reading Workshop

My school is on spring break this week and I am enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation. However, I am also using this week to do some reflecting and planning. Last night I ordered a few books that I want to use in planning our April Poetry Month and our upcoming Holocaust unit. But today I finally sat down and did some of the professional reading I have been putting off.

I read about half of Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak’s Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop: Making Informed Instructional Decisions in Grades 3-6 and can’t wait to read more! As Franki and Karen say in the beginning of the book, there is a dearth of professional literature related to reading and writing workshop in the intermediate grades. As a 6th grade teacher, I have a hard time finding appropriate professional reading. Books either focus on early readers or middle school readers. Perhaps if my 6th graders were in a middle school environment it would be easier, but we are in an intermediate school. In our district, 7th and 8th graders are in the middle school. Thus, I have been looking forward to reading this book. I had no idea how awesome it would be!

Franki and Karen have broken down their reading workshop into manageable chunks. I am thrilled that each chapter deals with a different routine in reading workshop, including how much time is spent on each one. Very few books get into the nitty gritty of a teacher’s routine and even fewer include as much real classroom anecdotal evidence. I’ve been reading, flagging, reading more, jotting ideas, and flagging more. I’ve already come up with a few new ideas to integrate into my workshop. Even better, I have a new perspective on my reading workshop. I’ve struggled with assessing my readers this year. While I know I have succeeded in creating a room full of passionate, habitual, and critical readers (Atwell) I also know I have not done the best I can in terms of assessment. I need that hard data to back up my choice to use reading workshop (it’s not used in the intermediate/upper grades in my district) and Franki and Karen’s book is full of authentic and realistic assessments that I can integrate into my workshop routines.

This type of reflection and reading energizes me.  I am brimming with new ideas for my classroom and can’t wait to implement some of them!  I am also planning to attend TCRWP Saturday Reunion this coming weekend, which will also be an inspiring bit of professional development.  I should be rested, relaxed, and re-energized when we get back to school next week!

I’m only about halfway through the book right now but I expect to finish it tomorrow. I expect I will re-read it over the summer when I am planning for next year. I can not recommend this book enough!

Hot Books in March

I apologize…I am a few days late with this month’s installment of Hot Books in my classroom. For my new readers, a quick explanation: Every month I publish a list of the 5-6 books that are currently the most popular reads in my 6th grade classroom. To see previous lists, please click on the Hot Books tag under keywords.

Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot: I haven’t even had a chance to read this novel, Meg Cabot’s first foray into middle grade fiction. I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter and passed it on to one of my pickiest girls. She finished the book in one night and came in the next morning raving about it! She told me I needed to read it, but first she had a list of classmates to pass it on to. It’s been making it’s way around my classroom ever since and Cabot has been winning fans left and right. The same student also read my ARC of Airhead by Meg Cabot and passed it on to another friend (thankfully, I had time to read and review it first!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: I have loved “Wednesday Wars” since I first read and reviewed it back in December. I tried to handsell it to my students but rarely succeeded (historical fiction is always a hard sell to middle schoolers, I think). I finally succeeded when I used “The Wednesday Wars” as part of my historical fiction literature circles this past month. The lit circle who read “The Wednesday Wars” absolutely loved it and they have been recommending to their classmates. During conferences, one of their moms told me “I can’t believe my son. He sits down on the couch at night, pulls on a blanket, and opens that Wednesday book. All on his own! It’s amazing!” That some boy just finished it and told me it’s one of his favorite books of all time!

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan: Our latest read-aloud is a huge hit. It’s the first time I have read a non-fiction novel aloud and my students are loving it. Marley is easy to relate to and my students are laughing and sharing their own stories throughout our shared reading time. Puppies and puppy stories are always fun and my students are relating to the Grogan family and Marley. Be careful, though…there are a few versions of Marley’s story. Marley: A Dog Like No Other is the middle grade version of the novel. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is the adult best-seller and deals with the Grogan family’s attempts to conceive, too. Just a caveat emptor. :)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis: Another choice in our recent literature circles, this was not a popular choice on the first day.  To be honest, I blame the cover.  It doesn’t exactly scream “read me!” to middle schoolers.  However, at the first meeting, the originally unhappy literature circle group was singing the praises of Curtis.  They thought the novel was funny and touching, but “not too touching!” they told me.  Heaven forbid it was too sensitive. :)  Both boys and girls alike enjoyed the novel and they learned a lot about life in the south and the Sixteenth St. church burning in 1963.  Now if only the publishers would give it a better cover…..

These are only a few of the novels currently making a splash in my 6th grade class.  I have promised my classes that after spring break I will have many more books for them.  I will actually have a chance to read and review so I can bring them in a handful of ARCS and other books I have in my to-be-read pile.  I’m sure next month’s list will include many of those new titles.

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