The Value of the Reread

During goal setting this semester, one of the categories students might have randomly been assigned (more on that in a later post) was along the lines of reading a favorite book again, or reading someone else’s favorite book.

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There were a few different ways to phrase the idea, but essentially these categories were about reflecting on oneself as a past reader and/or discussing favorite books with friends. This is an impossible category to book talk, so it’s time to get creative.

I shared a clip from a Friends episode: Rachel and Joey swap favorite books, so Joey agrees to read Little Women and Rachel agrees to read The Shining. (Show just from about 00:39 to 1:50.) This clip simply introduces the idea that students who have wildly different reading preferences can still share and discuss books, and then broaden their reading comfort zones.

After watching this short clip, I asked my class – these were 10th graders – to think about any favorite books that popped up, whether they had reread the books or not. Did any titles immediately come to mind?

I then shared a more serious, yet short article from npr.com:

You, Too, Will Love Big Brother: A Life Of Reading And Rereading ‘1984’

It’s a short and sweet article about reading and rereading a book from childhood to adulthood, and how the meaning and connection to the text has changed and evolved. It’s also a recommendation of a great book.

So now my students are contemplating titles that have impacted them in one way or another. Most likely, they will reread for the first time with this assignment. They will recommend favorites to each other and eventually swap books.

I’ll share chapter two of Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life, the one that discusses his relationship with Gone with the Wind. He describes his mother’s passion for it, and the first lines of this chapter describe how she needs to replace her own well-loved copies.

I’ve used excerpts from My Reading Life as mentor text before, so the students are familiar with Conroy’s voice, and will hopefully be able to summon up a book, short story, or poem that they can finally agree has helped to shape them into who they are, and what they are becoming.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Book Talks Make a Difference

Yes, students want choice. They don’t want to read our favorite books – they want to discover their own favorites. But many high schoolers are out of practice and don’t know how to choose a book. That’s where the book talk comes in.

The teacher has to lead the way. Even if you are unsure about this whole workshop approach. Even if you haven’t read any young adult fiction lately. You can read the back of the book out loud. Or you can read the first few lines of the first chapter. Sometimes that’s all it takes. And you might find a book you want to read, too!

Start every class with a book talk and silent reading. Flip the order around from day to day if you want to, but start with these two things. Students should know that they need their independent reading books and their next reads lists. At the end of each book talk, remind students to add the title(s) to their lists if any of the books seem interesting to them.

I can share part of my workshop story here. At the beginning of the school year, I didn’t even know what Readers Workshop was. But I agreed to try it out.

I (naively? hesitantly?) started giving all of the book talks, but eventually the students wanted to join in.

That’s when the momentum really picked up. 

 And, they got to choose their own due dates. They love that. 

Here’s how it worked: with a google spreadsheet, students signed up for a weekly due date that was sometime during the semester. During the week of their book talk, they would arrive to school on a Sunday morning, and in theory, were prepared to present the book talk first thing, or any other day that I might call on them during the week. About five students signed up for each week, so I would have anywhere between one and three students book-talking in any given class. 

Here’s an example of the spread sheet the students had access to. If they changed their minds or presented on a different book, it was okay. But, as with all things, the teacher gets to set the boundaries in which the students have choice. Continue reading “Book Talks Make a Difference”

Talk to Students about what YOU are Reading, too.

Last week I posted this outside my classroom door, and I also made one for each of the other teachers in the English department:

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It’s a small and easy step towards engaging students in conversations about books, reading, and all of our reading lives.

I got the idea from my dear sweet husband who was in Bahrain last weekend for some NESA professional develois-reading-sign-from-bahrainpment. He saw these around the school and knew I would love the idea. Continue reading “Talk to Students about what YOU are Reading, too.”