Twenty years ago this summer I became a fellow with the National Writing Project summer institute. That summer completely changed my ideas about teaching. In the institute, teachers were teaching teachers. There was not one guru in the room imparting knowledge. The writing workshop of Donald Graves became my own. We were all learners and teachers, collaborating, writing, coaching.
I kept this model for teaching writing all these years, but I hadn’t thought about applying it to reading. This week I have participated with an amazing group of teachers in a cyber book club around Cynthia Lord’s Handful of Stars. I was not intimidated about joining in because I had already read the book once. Also, my friend Julianne Harmatz was spearheading the project, and I wanted to support her efforts. I had no idea that it would change my entire philosophy about teaching reading.
Because I teach elementary gifted students at varying grade levels, I have to create an individualized plan for my students. A few years ago I read Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know How and implemented reader response notebooks into my curriculum. I have gone from requiring three responses a week to requiring only one. After this week, I think I know what has been missing. Note-taking.
As I was reading Handful of Stars, in order to be ready to write my response for the group, I took notes. I found myself writing down quotes. Quotes that spoke to me. Quotes of wisdom. Quotes that showed a change in the character. Here is a sample of my writing from a quote.
“People want us to come and work, but they want us to be invisible.” Whoa! Similar to the quote above about change. Being invisible is how so many racial and socio-economic prejudices play out. Maybe if we ignore them and go our own way, no one will really notice. Like that damned flag. We need to be having these conversations, as tough as they may be. We need to make the invisible, visible. All lives matter!
I was surprised at what this quote bubbled up in me. Writing fleshes out and helps you understand more fully yourself and your response to text. This is a powerful realization for me. I have felt that my reader response assignments have been just that, assignments. Now that I have experienced writing about reading in such a supportive environment, my passion for noticing and noting has grown. I will be more intentional about the note taking during reading.
All of us in this group of teachers have experienced revelations such as these. I learned about tools such as a pressure map for the main character and a what I know/what I wonder chart. I have new tools in my tool box and a fresh outlook on reading workshop.
Julianne created a game for finding quotes in a book using an Uno card game. Take a look at it here.
Our group will be having a Twitter chat on Tuesday at 7:30 PM Eastern using #WabtR. Join us and see what new thinking arises. Working with a group of like-minded and dedicated teachers has fueled me this summer. I have so many new Star Friends!
Link up your Digital Literacy posts here.