Sunday, January 17, 2010

Books I have been reading lately and how we have been doing it.

I missed going to NCTE this year because I love all those free advance copies but many thanks to Orca for their generosity.  My kids, especially those 18 boys love those books, especially the Currents and Sports series.  They just can't seem to get enough of these!  I had a few come in this week and they dived into them.

You know how I continue to enjoy YA.  We had our Scholastic Book Fair in December and one book I picked up was The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler. I was probably drawn to the cupcakes on the cover!  One of my grade seven girls (this is only her second year of reading English after coming here from Pakistan last year) grabbed it immediately and now wants it back to read it again.  Penny's mom's marriage breaks up and she decides to move back  from New York City to her hometown, Hog's Hollow (which seems to be in the coastal southern United States) to open a bakery specializing in cupcakes.  Needless to say teenage Penny isn't thrilled, misses her dad, and immediately gets off on the wrong foot with the most popular clique led by the daughter of the woman that her mom defeated long ago as Hog Queen.  Penny does find friends and the interesting characters and realistic but humourous depiction of how three teens cope with the cards life can deal, save this from being just a cliche.  A very fun and enjoyable read!

Another book I read recently that I enjoyed was Juggling Fire by Joanne Bell.  I like these novels with strong female protagonists.   This book has a very different setting, in the northern Yukon.  Rachel is on her quest, to find out what happened (after the family moved to town) to their dad who disappeared from their original cabin in the wilderness.  With many misgivings on her mother's part, she sets off alone with her dog across the mountains to this cabin.  This novel gives a picture of a very different lifestyle to that which is familiar to our Vancouver students.  It is also deals with dealing with the loss of a parent.  This is a "regular" read, not part of the Soundings series.

I find teaching seventh grade students interesting in that there is ,of course, such a range of reading and interest levels.  One of my girls has taught me that wrestlers and rappers actually can have serious stories to tell, for instance. Note she is one of my best readers.  Some of my students are finally finishing books on their own for the first time partly  thanks to the Orca Currents, Soundings, and Sports series.  One of my sixth graders from the Philippines was happily reading a graphic novel version of a book in the Hardy Boys' series.  Some of my seventh grade boys are heavily into quite sophisticated science fiction and fantasy.

Last year I did an awful lot of demo lessons on The Daily Five and R5 but certainly in my room I have learned that you have to make these strategies your own and figure out how you can make them fit for your students.  For instance my chatty lot love R5, love sharing their reading with their partners and are quite amazing good at listening to what their partner says.  The fact that both our grade one buddies and our class are familiar with Read to Another is really helpful.

Currently each day we start with 25 minutes of Read and Relax.  My students are supposed to be ready with their books and set to go.  At the end of this they write how many pages they have read, a brief summary and then a response on a small piece of lined paper (I just cut up foolscap or use scrap paper).  Then they may just hand into me for a comment(quick feedback) or do R5.  Even the students can see their reading and writing are improving.  I make myself give them enough time to get into the Reading Zone as Nancy Atwell calls it.  My students admit that reading at home may be difficult-too many other tempting distractions, but hopefully they are now more likely to read properly.  Despite home reading logs etc. some of my students didn't seem to be reading enough but the right books and getting them into the zone seems to be making a difference.  I will keep you posted...

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