Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating Reading and Writing

I’m joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all of the posts linked up at her blog HERE. Thanks for starting this, Ruth!

This week I got to witness engagement. Excitement. When I tell people that my students are excited to learn, I know that many doubt me. But, if you could have been in our class this week, you would have seen it. The energy was palpable. What was causing this reaction?

I decided to dive in to NaNoWriMo with my students. I was apprehensive about doing this and put the decision off until this week. Last time I participated, I was teaching one class of writing. This time, three classes, seventy-seven students. Could I manage it? I was worried.

Then I told them about it, gauging their interests. They flipped. They begged to begin their stories on Monday. I held them off. All week we brainstormed, created characters, plot diagrams, discussed setting, worked on word count. On Friday, when filling out our assignment books, I mentioned that NaNoWriMo began at midnight. They cheered. Cheered, people. Three classes of fifth graders cheered. They told me they were staying up late. I implored them to sleep and write on Saturday. They are excited and so am I. Still worried how I won’t become overwhelmed by reading seventy-seven month-long stories, but excited nonetheless.

Mock Newbery
I finally announced my Mock Newbery club to my students. I had stressed for so long about narrowing my list to twenty books and I finally realized that it’s my club and I make the rules, so I made it a list of thirty. This is a voluntary club where you have to read at least one book before each lunch and we will discuss the merits of each book at our meetings. Kids were clamoring for the books as I book talked thirty books to each class. I cannot believe how many kids want to join.

Book Trailers
Students love book trailers. Each time I show one, that book immediately has a waiting list. The newest book to be the hot ticket in our room? N.D. Wilson’s Boys of Blur. WOWZA. The kids were silent when the trailer ended, and then begged to be in line to read the book. Do you doubt me? Check it out below.

Read Alouds
I began the year reading Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. I finished with my own class a few weeks ago – I have more time to read to them on a daily basis. This week I finished with my two other classes. Each time they applauded at the end. Each class had a fabulous discussion regarding Albie’s character arc. I shared why I felt it was such an important book to read at the start of our year together. Finishing Absolutely Almost and reading Mark of the Dragonfly to my own class reminded me that read aloud time is sacred. I cannot imagine a day without reading to my students.

Donalyn Miller likes to talk about students knowing authors. That if they know an author’s name, know the type of books they write, than that is something they have in their “pocket”. They can list favorite authors, rely on their writing. It’s a step towards being a life-long reader.

My students know I have favorite authors. I have authors I love for their writing, but haven’t met. Then there are other authors that I admire for their writing and I admire as people I have met.

Linda Urban, Jenni Holm, Peter Brown, Kirby Larson, Jon Klassen, Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, and more, and more, and more.

I was telling my students how excited I was to head to NCTE in just a few short weeks. That I was seeing old friends – both teacher and authors – that made me feel like I was going to a family reunion. When they asked me what the authors were like in person, I was telling them how funny they can be. To give an example, I shared this video of one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Auxier, summarizing one of his books, Peter Nimble, while doing yo-yo tricks. The kids were enthralled, asked if I could get him to come to our classroom, and all of my copies of Peter Nimble and Jonathan’s amazing Night Gardener were immediately checked out. As a person who can’t even get a yo-yo to go down and up, I think this is incredible. Check it out below:

What an amazing week with my readers and writers – and absolutely wonderful things to celebrate in our classroom community. If you’d like to see our large Mock Newbery list, I’ve pasted it below. So many wonderful books this year, and many I had to leave off, but I’m happy with our list.

Have a great weekend!

Mock Newbery 2014
Absolutely Almost
Arcady's Goal
The Boundless
Boys of Blur
Brown Girl Dreaming
The Crossover
Dory Fantasmargory
Egg and Spoon
El Deafo
Fourteenth Goldfish
Ghosts of Tupelo Landing
Greenglass House
Half a Chance
The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza
Mark of the Dragonfly
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher
The Night Gardener
Nuts to You
Port Chicago 50
Rain Reign
The Red Pencil
Snicker of Magic
Spirit's Key
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
West of the Moon
The Witch's Boy