Reflections on a Year in 6th Grade

At the end of every school year I ask my students to reflect.  They look back on the last ten months and write me a letter where they reflect on what they learned, what is still challenging for them, the best parts of my class, and how I can improve as a teacher.  While many people may think it is silly to ask your students how you can improve, I learn a lot from my students each year.  This year I was especially interested in my students’ viewpoint because so much changed in our school.  I lost half of my teaching time and how to rework my yearly plans.  While I reflected on my practices I was also curious to see how my students viewed the year.

I spent a good portion of my evening reading their letters to me.  Wow!  I wanted to share some of my favorite portions of a few letters.

….I love the read alouds because every one you pick out is amazing.  I love coming to class and hearing you read.

Read-alouds helps me explore more genres.  The genres I didn’t want to read I enjoyed the most.  Books like Also Known as Harper and All the Broken Pieces surprised me that they were good.  This helped me find new good books.  Also, read-alouds helped me relax.

Boom!  That’s right, more vindication from actual. breathing. middle school students.  They are not too old to be read aloud to!  In fact, they enjoy it.  And I am so happy to hear that the read-alouds introduced a few students to new genres that they didn’t think they would enjoy.  Plus, who doesn’t like a little time to relax?

I would like to tell you one more thing.  It is that I hope you continue doing letter essays.  It is great practice for writing essays.  I like telling you about the book I am reading and my opinion on it.  Letter essays are important to me.

Writing the letter essays was one of my favorite activities this year.

Now, I will be honest- there were also many students who suggested that I skip letter-essays next year because they are too much work.  But I figure hey, work is good!  Plus, a few of the more reflective/mature students saw through the work and realized how important the letter-essays were.  A few of them even enjoyed the process.  As a teacher, I love watching them grow as the year progresses.  I also love the chance to correspond with each student one-on-one.  It’s a great way to get to know my students and have deep discussions about books.  Needless to say, letter-essays will remain a part of my class.

The 40 book list was a huge help to get me interested in different types of books.  In the beginning of the year when you hit us with a 40 book list I felt like how am I going to read that many books?!

I had a very huge accomplishment  This was the first year I read over ten books.  Last year I read maybe eight books.  This year I read in the thirties.  I feel like I was pushed to read more by the forty books list.

This year was the first year I instituted the 40 book requirement/challenge.  Previously, I just required my students to read, without giving them any requirement beyond reading at least 2 books from each genre.  I was very happy with how the list worked this year because a lot of my students were very stuck in one genre and the requirement forced them to branch out.  It also gave my more concrete students an actual number to aim for.  However, I’m not sure if I will approach it the same way next year.  I’m working on a few ideas and will be sure to update when I come up with a final draft.

Booktalks are awesome because I really got interested in the book you’re talking about , and I keep thinking about getting that book.

The more you booktalk, the more we read.

That last sentence sums up intermediate/secondary students.  They may think they hate reading, but it’s usually because they don’t know about the books that are out there.  We, as teachers, must be engaged in reading and publishing.  We must be able to share books with our students.  Reading is a social experience, especially for young readers, and under our guidance they can and will find books that they love!

Some suggestions:

– I think next year, at least once every 2 weeks, you should dedicate an entire period to reading.  Most of the time should be spent reading the read-aloud and the rest for reading independently.

-We should be allowed to vote on read alouds.

-More time in-class for reading would be great.  (Independent reading time in school really suffered when I lost half of my teaching time this year and it made a huge difference in my class/teaching).

I highly recommend having your students reflect on their academic year before the school year ends.  It is eye-opening for the writer and the teacher.