I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
It's been three weeks since school started, so I thought today I would slow down a little (almost impossible at the beginning of the school year) and reflect a bit about what is going on in my classroom so far. I'm going to choose some essential questions that I want to drive my teaching in 2013-2014 and make sure I'm thinking about them throughout the year.
HOW ARE MY STUDENTS EXPANDING THEIR LITERACY LIVES? In these few weeks, I've stuffed my classroom full of various genres, formats, and authors. We've begun the 50 Book Challenge, and they're recording books on their charts. For the fifth graders I had last year, this is just an extension of last year's expectations - that they will always have an independent, choice book, and I and their classmates will be helping them choose new and interesting reading materials. I loved hearing a few of my fifth graders say, "Everywhere you look in this room, there are books! Well, except for that corner." (Little do they know there is a new bookshelf planned for that corner this week!) For my sixth graders, they were a little skeptical that they could read that many books, but they're coming along. We're reading short, nonfiction articles from magazines, picture books, and we're starting a traditional literature unit with 5th graders and a mythology unit with 6th graders. I've gathered a collection of novels for small groups for these units:
We've started writing weekly summary response letters about independent reading, and have written a Quick Write or two. We've watched some book trailers, and I've shown them my blogs, inviting them to comment. Several kids have noted that they are enjoying reading a lot already! We took a look at Wonderopolis. Soon we'll be reading and writing book reviews, designing book talks, and Skyping. We need to do more online reading and writing, which are on the horizon.
HOW ARE MY STUDENTS CONNECTING TO EACH OTHER, AUTHORS, AND TEXTS? I started the year with Aaron Becker's Journey. My fifth graders' theme topic this month is JOURNEY, so it was a perfect introduction. When I tweeted about how awesome it was, Aaron Becker tweeted back that he'd be happy to Skype us. I said that we would LOVE that, but I had three classes of fifth graders and two of sixth. He came up with the perfect solution, which I will share later this week. I can't wait to share it with my students! I've also incorporated more "Turn and talk" into my routines, which we all really like. Soon we'll be meeting in small groups to discuss extended fairy tale and myth novels. I'd like to do more writing and conferring soon. Kids have written short responses to our read aloud in their journals, and are starting to talk to each other about what they're reading, adding books to their "To Read" lists.
HOW ARE MY STUDENTS APPLYING WHAT THEY READ AND WRITE TO THE REAL WORLD? This is one of the things I'm most excited about this year. We've got a project brewing that will connect a read aloud to social action. Stay tuned for a Nerdy Book Club post about this, hopefully later this week. I'd also like to have kids writing for the school and maybe contests. I'd love for them to also blog on either their own blogs, or as guest bloggers on our classroom blog. I'm starting to share the real life writing I do, and I'd love to have them start writing their own Slices of Life!
I'd love to hear about questions that you ask yourself as teachers, too. What should we be asking ourselves and our students about literacy and our classrooms?