Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reading: A Book In A Day

My students and I have been desperately trying to carve out some time to just read together for enjoyment. As I've mentioned before, we are bound by a prescriptive reading program. As a result, my readers will tell you without hesitation that they hate reading (see this previous post about last year's struggles). Here is how one of my students explained it:
"Who loves reading, not the subject, the reading-of-a-book reading? I'm not really the reading type, but I am busy reading a book that is very interesting to me and makes me want to tell someone about the book." 
They make a distinction between the subject and the act. And lest's be frank, who can blame them? What do my students want? They want to read and share what they are reading with others. With them having blogs, they have been able to share and have conversations about what they are independently reading, but they've been asking when we're going to all read a book together and discuss it like we did with Frindle, at the beginning of the year, and Tuck Everlasting, for the Global Read Aloud. Our biggest obstacle is finding time...any time we have we're squeezing out to write and publish collaboratively with students from all across the country. None of them want to give that up.

Photo from t0msk
The real goal here is that they all get to read a book and enjoy discussing....all because they want to for the sheer joy of it. So we are doing a book-in-a-day (which has really turned into a week because we only have a few minutes a day). We're reading There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar. What fifth grader wouldn't be intrigued by that title, huh?

The way it works is we begin by reading and discussing the first several chapters together. We get to know the characters, the plot, and get a feel for the writing. Then, the students divide up into pairs and each pair gets a chapter or two to read. They are responsible for knowing that chapter and summarizing it. Then, once everyone has completed their chapters, we share them in sequence, putting the story all together. Finally, we wrap it up by reading the last two chapters together.

This would not work with every chapter book, but this book has short chapters that, if you know the characters, can stand alone. There are forty-seven chapters in There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom and we've had a blast reading them. The comments that they make and the depth of the discussions are amazing. (Who would have thought about Bradley Chalkers, the main character, and his struggle being like the Grinch? My readers did.) Every day they come in and want to know if we'll be able to read together. They enjoy reading because it's fun and they have someone with whom to discuss it.

And to top it off, they've asked if they can make several projects to add to our "Coast to Coast Chronicles" which has a theme of Making a Difference. They pointed out that the themes in the book go along with what they have been writing and publishing.

In spite of all the obstacles, they've found their joy for reading.They are so excited that they've already started asking what book we can read together next. Guess I need to pull out all my class sets of  books; I can't wait.

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