No post tonight…..after almost 10 months, Lost is back!  Any other huge Lost fans out there? 

A Waste of Time?

I found myself nodding vigorously as I read The Book Whisperer’s latest post this evening.  It feels like I could have written the post myself.  Reading is viewed as a “waste of time” or a free period in too many classrooms.  Very few adults realize that this attitude is what leads students to view reading as a waste of time or something that is only done to please a teacher.

In two weeks, I will be leaving my class with a substitute for four days while I go to Mexico on a fellowship.  This will be the first time I have ever left a class for more than a day.  As I am writing the lesson plans I will leave behind I realized that my workshops are very different than the rote and memorization classes that many other teachers/subs are used to seeing.  I think I will have to leave very detailed notes explaining our daily reading time.  My students know that independent reading time is not the time to talk, work on homework, or do anything else.  But of course, I am sure they will push the limits (as any 6th grader would!) when they have a substitute teacher for the week and their regular teacher is in another country!  The note will explain that the students should read every single day.  I wish I could request that the sub also reads, to continue the modeling I do on most days, but I fear that the sub will be hesitant to do this.

Why would a sub be hesitant to sit and read for 25 minutes?  It’s not that I believe the sub would not want to read- in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  I think any substitute teacher would be afraid to do so because what if another teacher or administrator walked in and saw them just reading?  That sub would look like they were ignoring the students and not doing their job.  That is awful!  Reading should never be looked down upon as just a waste of time!  And what would that tell my students?  That reading is not a real, academic venture.  That it is something used to quiet them down and pass the time.   Not in my classroom!

In our classroom, my students and I love to read.  They beg to read.  They groan when I tell them that we need to move on and they have to put their books away.  They beg to read more of our current read-aloud, promising to make up the classwork at home.  They run to the library daily, trying to get new books or sequels.  They talk about books and make recommendations to each other.  They loan books to their classmates.  They write their letter-essays enthusiastically and want them back ASAP so that they can write back to me.  I love it!  Every classroom should be as enthusiastic about reading as mine.   (Not bragging there, just stating that all classrooms should make reading a vital and integral part of their day).

When did reading become a waste of time?  In my opinion, it happened when NCLB made testing more important than learning.  But then again, looking back on my own education, we were rarely given the time to just read.  For some reason, reading isn’t viewed as learning.  Yet I teach mini-lesson after mini-lesson that focuses on the type of thinking we do while reading.  I focus my read-alouds on thinking through my own  thinking, out loud.  I know many other teachers who do the same thing.  Yet we get strange looks and whispers because instead of spending those 20 minutes listening to a teacher lecture, my students are in the reading zone.  They are each in their own space, in their own head, living the lives of their characters.  How is this not learning?!!

Independent Bookstores

When I was growing up there were two locally-owned, independent bookstores in the immediate area.  About 10 years ago both closed and we gained a few new Barnes and Noble stores and  a Borders.  Today, there are no independent book stores in my area.  I hate this!  Instead, I am forced to buy from big-box stores when I need a book quickly.  It is also hard to form a relationship with a bookseller at a big bookstore, in my experience.  I read around the blogosphere about bloggers who form great relationships with their local booksellers and I wish I could do that!

Am I the only one who is seriously lacking in small, hometown bookstore department over here?  If you don’t have an independent bookseller in your area, what do you do?  Do you shop online?  At Barnes and Noble?  I am really interested in how others deal with this.

Twisting Arms

A few months ago I purchased a professional book that I was hoping would help me with my persuasive writing unit in writing workshop. When it arrived over the summer, I put it on my shelf and figured I would glance through it when I got to the unit. Normally, I end up with a million professional books that I use 1-2 pages from and then never look at again. It is safe to say I wasn’t expecting a lot from Twisting Arms: Teaching Students How to Write to Persuade.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Over the last few weeks, I have turned to Twisting Arms: Teaching Students How to Write to Persuade over and over again.  For anyone who is working on persuasive writing, this book is perfect!  It is filled to the brim with activities that will help you plan a great unit for any grade level.  This is one of the few professional books in my library that I have used numerous lesson ideas from.  I can’t recommend it enough!

Kidlitosphere Round-up

I’m about to run out to a birthday party, but here are a few posts that I am loving today!

  • Over at Wizards Wireless you can read a great review of Gary D. Schmidt’s new novel, Trouble. Gary wrote one of my favorite novels last year- the incomparable The Wednesday Wars. I am scouring the kidlitosphere for an ARC of Trouble. In the meantime, Susan’s review will have to hold me over.
  • Stacey and Ruth of Two Writing Teachers have a new look for their blog.  The makeover is wonderful and they really run a phenomenal blog.
  • Last, but not least, The Class of 2k8 is running a contest where entrants can win a 3-pack of books.  The contest is an internet scavenger hunt and I can’t wait to participate.  The books that you can win also sound great!  Plus, The Class of 2k8 website is a great way to hear about new books from first-time authors this year.

Hopefully, these will tide you over for a bit while I enjoy a night out.  🙂

Poetry Friday

I’ve been having trouble falling asleep lately, so this poem seemed especially apropos this week!

Whatif by Shel Silverstein
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Life As We Knew It

I started hearing rumblings about Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Dead & Gone a few weeks ago. When I read the premise of the novel I realized it was a companion to Life As We Knew It and soon ordered a copy from Scholastic. As a fan of science-fiction, I thought it sounded like a novel I would enjoy.

I began reading Life As We Knew It 3-4 days ago. Though it is not a long book, I could not rush through it. The story arc forced me to put the book down hours before I went to bed, for fear that I would have nightmares. The story is haunting and frighteningly realistic. Worst of all, it seems entirely possible. There were times I just could not bear to read any more.

Miranda is your average high school sophomore, with average teenage problems- her grades, friend problems, and anger at her divorced parents for favoring her brothers. She hardly thinks that the asteroid predicted to hit the moon is worth a mention in her journal, but everyone else disagrees. Her teachers are treating this as a historic event, and assigning homework of historic proportions to help their students appreciate it. The story, told through Miranda’s journal entries, captures life as she knows it. She barely mentions the asteroid, unless it is to complain about how it seems to be taking over people’s lives and inconveniencing hers. However, the asteroid becomes extremely important when it does crash into the moon, knocking it out of orbit.

It turns out that the scientists miscalculated the impact and the entire world is thrown into chaos. Miranda (and the rest of the world) never considered how much of our world is controlled by the moon’s gravitational pull. The tides, earthquakes, and even volcanoes are affected by the moon’s new orbit. Tsunamis destroy the coasts, volcanoes are erupting, disease and rioting begin to spread. Life as Miranda knew it is over. Suddenly, just surviving is a daily struggle. No electricity, a major food shortage, and rampant disease are just a few of the problems that Miranda records in her journal. The story is fascinating and completely pulls the reader in, keeping their heart racing throughout the novel.

I am still getting goosebumps, even after finishing Pfeffer’s book. It is, without a doubt, one of the most frightening books I have ever read. It all seems so real and all too possible. I can’t wait to read the companion novel, the dead and the gone.