Friday, March 6, 2015

Creating the Six-Star Top Ten List

This morning in my bleary-eyed state after waking, I stumbled across Brian Wyzlic’s blog post (HERE). I loved reading about the conversation he had with a student, and I really loved hearing about Colby Sharp’s secret six-star book list. My wheels immediately began turning. What books would make my top ten list? How would I even quantify such a list? I decided to turn this topic over to my students.

Each day of Language Arts we begin with a quick write. Sometimes I read them a poem, a short text, a picture book, some days we watch a video, and some days we look at an image. Regardless of the way we begin, we always then take the time to write off of that “piece” for two minutes. Today, I shared Brian’s blog.

Each class began shifting in their spots as I read them the post. They knew a quick write was coming. In the first class, a boy in the front of the room piped up as soon as I was done, “Good Lord, you’re going to have us try and come up with our ten favorite books, aren’t you? That’s an impossible task!” The buzz between the students was immediate as I assured them that yes, that was exactly what I wanted them to do.

In each class the students wrote for two minutes (our typical quick write time) and then turned to share with their neighbors the books they had added to their lists so far. The three classes are usually quite varied in their responses to any given lesson, but today’s lesson had the same impact on all three groups.

In each class the students returned to their notebooks to continue refining their lists after the mini-lesson.

In each class books and authors were debated as to whether they should be included on a list such as this.

In each class books in a series were brought up. Some thought that you should just be able to include the whole series for one spot. Others thought that was cheating and you should only include your favorite in the series.

In each class I witnessed favorites from when the children were small making the lists.

Most lists included a variety of novels, picture books, and graphic novels.

In each class children ended up adding books to their “to read” list because the books were on a friend’s top ten list.

My favorite conversation happened across the classes. We noticed that many of the books were not placed on the list because they were necessarily the “best book written.” Many of them made our list because of the memories that we associated with that book.

For example, one of the books on my list was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Now this is a fabulous book on its own, however it is on my list because of the memory I have of my mom reading it to us when we were small. Also, because of the way that my mom answers my boys when they ask what is for dinner, “pickled oats, sassafras salad, and timothy compote,” which is a line from the book.

One of my students picked the first book that made her love reading. Another selected a book that made him feel that he was a reader for the first time, way back in first grade. Many are planning to blog about their lists when they are done.

Watching my students pull book tubs off of the shelves, flip through reading lists from this year, and turn and talk about books read years ago was an amazing way to spend my day. I felt completely surrounded by book love. It was a wonderful feeling.

Creating a top ten six-star list is an impossible task – I have at least twenty-four on my list right now. But discussing books, celebrating memories, and finding connections through story? That is what I want my classroom to be about. Every. Single. Day.