Using Conroy’s My Reading Life as Mentor Text

 

At the end of first semester, I asked students to write about how their reading lives had changed. We’d been doing workshop for a few months, I’d seen some growth and some good habits forming in many of them, and I really wanted them to recognize that they were better readers than they had been at the beginning of the school year.

I asked them to reflect on their reading lives, using an excerpt from Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life as mentor text. (I think this is one of the best mentor texts out there, so we have ordered enough copies for each teacher in our department as well as several for our classroom libraries. My colleagues are probably sick and tired of hearing about this book, but I feel strongly about it. It’s a great read and an amazing mentor text, all the way through.)

I gave the students this short excerpt from chapter one: Continue reading “Using Conroy’s My Reading Life as Mentor Text”

Don’t share your answers – share your thinking!

My thinking has changed since I started teaching using the workshop model.

I think my students’ thinking has changed, too.

I think that’s the point.

 

For the first seventeen years of my teaching, I was concerned about whether the students turned the assignments in on time, read the short stories and novels that were on the syllabus, and if they were generally compliant.

I assigned packets with study questions when we read The Great Gatsby together. (Big packets! Short answer questions with one right answer! Find it in the text!)

I asked my students to write letters that Huck and Jim might have exchanged after leaving the Phelps’ farm. (Bonus points for burning the edges of the paper or dipping the letters in tea to make them look old!)

I had students create their own real life versions of scarlet letters. (The ones that were made out of rice crispy treats and red M&Ms got an A for Awesome!)

Here are a few gems from past years.

For the first seventeen years of my teaching, I mostly asked all of my students to do the same thing at the same time. 

For the first seventeen years of my teaching, my students mostly gave me the same answers at the same time. 

At least, that was my hope (gah!) – I wanted them to get it! To come up with the same connections that I had! So they would “understand the canon!”

Maybe I’m too hard on myself. I know teaching and learning happened in my classroom before workshop, but I can’t help but think that things could have been better.

 

Things are different now. I don’t want the same answers from anyone any longer (or any more arts and crafts).

I’m not looking for answers, necessarily, either.

I realize now that I am looking for evidence of thinking.

I noticed this the other day in class. My students were learning about aphorisms (mentioned in an earlier post), and one of them asked if they could talk to each other to make sure they had the right answers.

I. Stopped. Everything. Continue reading “Don’t share your answers – share your thinking!”

Book Talks When the Teacher is Out

An inevitable reality of teaching is that sometimes the teacher has to be absent. It’s part of life, so I refuse to feel guilty about it.

Mostly.

When I can plan ahead for my absences, I ensure that students are working on something which puts learning at the forefront, rather than having a “let’s take advantage of this poor substitute teacher” situation. That eases the guilt a bit.

Next month, I will attend the Adolescent Literacy Summit and I’m super-excited to learn from some amazing presenters. However, I’ll be missing three days of classes, and I want my students to be doing something worth-while and that helps them move forward with the development of their reading lives.

I’ve planned countless lessons over the years, so I’m not worried about the “lesson” part of the classes that I’ll be missing.

But this book talk habit is a new one.

It’s harder to plan for when I’m not there.

And book talks are an essential part of readers workshop. Kids need to get excited about new books every day!

That’s the situation I’m facing, and I’m exploring some solutions. Continue reading “Book Talks When the Teacher is Out”