Happy Back-to-School time. It's my favorite time of the year. My kiddos and I are settled in. We have figured each other out, and now we are pretty much sailing smoothly. We still stop and try again a few times a week to get routines down, but that's nothing compared to those first few days. My room is now a mess of anchor charts, student work, and little bodies. The air is starting to get a little crisp and a little cooler. Some of the trees in my yard are starting to show hints of yellow in their leaves. It's a magical time.
I wanted to jump on and do a quick update of my reader's workshop. I talked up starting reader's workshop this summer, and I did a lot of research. I read Donalyn Miller's books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. I also thumbed through an old copy of Revisiting the Reading Workshop. I used my graduate school's library to find more articles and books. I printed page after page, made notes in Adobe, and discussed things online with others. I also pored over my school's new curriculum, Being a Reader. I gathered up all the sticky notes, highliters, colorful pens, and notebooks I could find...and I made my game plan.
On the first day of school, I made a promise to my kids. We will read. We will read every day. Yes, you will read those books in my class library. Yes, I will read to you. We will read.
On the second day, I let them explore them my class library. I let them lay on the bean bags. I let them move the pillows around, and I let them dig through the baskets of books. Now, let me tell you, friends. I am OCD. I actually am. Everything has an order. Most of the time, that order doesn't make sense to anyone but me, but there is an order. I've always felt so much anxiety over letting my kids just run wild in the library. (Okay, okay, they don't actually run wild, but you get the picture.) I was scared to let go. I was scared to give up control. I was scared to say, "Yes, you can read that book (even though it isn't on your reading level)"
So, after letting them explore it for a short, short amount of time, I trained them on how to use it. We talked about the importance of taking care of books, and I explained how important books are to me. Books are my very favorite things, and I would pick up a book, model how to hold it, and talk about how I loved it when I was a little girl. (Which, by the way, my kids are astounded about. "You were little once, too?!") When we had extra minutes in the day, I picked up books from the library and read them aloud, adding those stories to their mental filing cabinets of books they can retell during independent reading time. I told them every day how much I love to read and how important books are to me.
That second week of school, something magic happened. We had a week of building stamina. After that initial exploration of the library, they all wanted to read there. I told them that we add those comfy, cozy spots as soon as I felt like they could stay on task, and they rose to the challenge. The first day they reached ten minutes of independent reading, we broke out the comfy, cozy spots. They spread out around the room, laying on pillows, sitting on stability balls, stretched on rugs, and lounging in bean bags with their tool boxes. And y'all. They read. My babies that can't even sound out CVC words just yet were retelling stories to themselves, whispering the dialogue in the voices I had used while reading.
I hate to sound corny, but I almost cried. There were my babies. There were my babies of parents who had told me they struggled with reading in kindergarten and hated it now enjoying their books. It's magic. Refer back to my first post about the magic of books.
After that day, I began to lay down on the floor with them, sharing bean bags with them and stretching out on the floor. We read together, them sharing their favorite parts of books and me helping them conquer those words that have phonics rules we haven't covered yet.
Last week, when we were creating our class reward jar (we choose a reward each week if we win the scoreboard game with WBT), I had at least five suggestions for extra reading time. That's it, y'all. That's the fire. We've ignited it in room 3, and I plan to keep it burning.
I also incorporated home "book bags" last week. I stuffed gallon bags full of books, and I sent those books home with each child. They have a folder with a reading log and a sheet full of example questions. My families are contacting me daily asking for new books. That's the fire. It has spread from my classroom to their homes.
To answer some burning questions I'm sure you have, I will say, "Yes". Yes, I will incorporate books on their independent reading level. My students have five books in their tool boxes plus a library book from our school library. We start small group guided reading next week, which will tell me a bit more about what my students can and can't do. We will start book shopping in the mornings before school starts (expect a post when I start that), and I will help them choose just right books. They won't be reading books that are too hard all year.
Yes, I will lose some of the books I send home. That was a hard pill to swallow. I am a collector of books. What's the point in buying them, though, if I don't share them with my kids? I will just have to lose some, and that's okay. I'll be okay. (Yes, I repeat that each time I send the books home.)
Yes, I count my kids looking at pictures and retelling the stories as independent reading. Reading a book is making meaning. If my students can look at the pictures in a book or retell the story and comprehend it on some level, then they are making meaning and making connections. That's what I want. We will worry about the "nitty gritty" of building decoding skills, vocabulary, and fluency at my small group table.
I jumped in. I jumped in when I was scared. I jumped in wondering how this would go. I jumped in thinking that my first graders might not handle it well, and I knew that I might have to regroup. I jumped in knowing it was going to take a lot of kid training, kid watching, and patience. I jumped in knowing all the anchor charts in the world won't teach my kids to love reading like I do. I jumped in, though. Now, we read every day, and we like it.
A parent wrote me a note last week stating how much she loves the new reading program. That speaks volumes. That's the fire.
Light it. Make those kids #happyreading.
Love to all of you during this crazy time of year!