“The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”
Professional educators, principals, school districts, and states are always addressing and revisiting the question, “How can we help our students grow best?” What new program is out there for us to buy and try? What is the new best thing? Where is the “magic pill”? Whether your district is like ours and we want to close the achievement gap or your school wants to push your students from “met” on state assessments to “exceeds”, I think the beginning step is with reading.
The truth is the only magic pill or program is hard work and dedication from you, but more so from your students. Reading is a gift that if presented the right way, will be a gift for a lifetime. Two years ago I went to my principal and asked if my classroom could read novels instead of excerpts as long as I provided the materials. It was the beginning an amazing transformation.
Since I teach 4th grade, I thought it was important for a student at our level to be able to follow a character from the beginning to the end of a story, connect with the character, and to share the trials and joys of the book with others. Within the first year of my revolution we were reading chapter books as a class. By my second year (now) I have implemented Guided Reading with Fontas and Pinnell, and created book clubs.
Along with my book clubs, I have had multiple mini-confrences with my kids and benchmarked them. This is where I have come to find one of my greatest joys in teaching because many students that at the beginning of the year would not finish their book club novel are now coming to me for advice on what novel to read next. Talking about books and characters gives two people an ability to connect and share an experience, and I love sharing these experiences with my kids and hearing their thoughts on novels that touch my heart.
I see book suggestions going on in my classroom from one student to another as well. It is not always easy to spot because it doesn’t create a huge distraction. The amazing thing about connecting with books is it blurs all demographic lines: free and reduced lunch, hispanic, below average, on level, black, white, above average, and we know the list goes on and on. Developing and cultivating real readers takes away all of these labels because in the end each student reads a novel and gains the same experience. Many times books generate the same emotion from every reader. Like in Meet Addy when Addy has to leave her sister Esther at the plantation, many of my book club members came to me in private to tell me they were brought to tears at the end of the chapter… even some of my boys!
The truth is reading can change lives, and if it can change lives then it can be the solution to our problems. So, how does all of this connect to using technology in the classroom? Easy! Integrating technology is the second step toward success. We can use tools we already have to bring our experiences with novels to life!
What do you do with a book club when it is done? A book interview or project of course. Maybe you want your book club to act out the 3 most important scenes in the novel or maybe you want to blog out a question to all of your newly ignited readers. The integration of technology into reading and writing is seamless because reading makes the mind wander into thoughts. Why not flush out thoughts, connections, and reading excitement into mini-projects. Share what your bookclub has done with me and I will post our next book club project!