A Slice of Children’s Literature Class: Slice of Life #sol18 16/31

Yesterday, something magical happened in my Children’s Literature course for pre-service elementary teachers. My phone had ticked down from 18 minutes, and the bell began to chime, signaling the end of our reading time. I slid my finger over the alarm to turn it off, tucked an index card into my book to mark the page, and looked up. Not a single person lifted their eyes from their book. Not a single person made a move to mark their page. They all kept reading as if the alarm hadn’t sounded. They were in the zone.

I sat there waiting, and they just kept reading.

So I did the only thing I could do: I opened my book and read a few more pages with them.

I feel like that’s the day you know you’ve got them: when the timer goes off, and every single reader in the room keeps reading.

It was a small group in Children’s Literature yesterday. Absenteeism is always a problem in spring semester, and the problem gets worse after spring break. But it meant that we could talk books with the whole class rather than in small groups.

Here’s what they’re reading right now:

  • Primates
  • Vanishing Girls
  • The Midwife’s Apprentice
  • The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
  • You’re Welcome, Universe
  • Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Wonderstruck
  • Lucky Broken Girl
  • Sure Signs of Crazy
  • Savvy

I’m reading Macy Macmillan and the Rainbow Goddess, which was read first by a student and enthusiastically recommended to me. I’m sure it will make the rounds when I’m done.

In May, I will survey them to find out what made the difference in their reading lives this semester, but I already know what their answers will be. For all the hand wringing we do about how to get kids reading, the formula is always the same: book talks, access to good books, book stacks made just for them, a teacher who reads and talks about books, time to read in class, enthusiastic read-alouds to introduce them to new authors. If it seems simple, that’s because it is.

What I don’t do is probably just as important: no tests, no quizzes, no logs, no journals, no projects. What do we do when we finish a book? We tell some other people about it, and then we find something else to read.

How do I know my kids are reading? I don’t need reading logs or quizzes to tell me that. I only need that moment in class when the timer goes off, and everyone keeps reading.

 

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11 thoughts on “A Slice of Children’s Literature Class: Slice of Life #sol18 16/31

  1. It’s great seeing one child absorbed in a book but a whole class – magical (as you said). It definitely would have been a shame to break that spell and call them back to reality. Glad to read that you joined them.

  2. “What I don’t do is probably just as important: no tests, no quizzes, no logs, no journals, no projects. What do we do when we finish a book? We tell some other people about it, and then we find something else to read.” Agreed- I have been trying this approach this year, and it’s working. I live for the days where the entire room is still reading when the timer chimes! Thank you for sharing specific titles.

  3. I LOOOOVE this post. I love that you are modeling to preservice teachers that students don’t need tests or quizzes or logs, etc. They just need to read and talk about it!

  4. This is a lovely moment. I’m still waiting to get to this point with my seventh graders. They have had a wild week!

  5. I love the way you tell a story about reading stories, particularly the full circle you create by returning to your starting comment. And yes, it is that easy to get kids hooked on books and on reading.

  6. SSR is my favorite time with my class. I always try to find a YA book to read and usually I have one or two curious about what I’m reading. And every Friday afternoon we take fifteen minutes to just sit there on the floor and talk about what we’re reading. I’ve noticed an uptick in readers this year by doing this. Like you said “a teacher who reads and talks about books” is necessary. There’s times I’ll extend SSR by five or ten minutes when I look around and see that the spell has been truly cast.

  7. I’m just about to take my reluctant 10th grade readers into SSR (after March break ends, we’re there). Thank you for this reminder about the magic when it works. And for this “For all the hand wringing we do about how to get kids reading, the formula is always the same: book talks, access to good books, book stacks made just for them, a teacher who reads and talks about books, time to read in class, enthusiastic read-alouds to introduce them to new authors.” And for the line about what you don’t do. This will be a rocky transition (they are pretty new to me), but here we go again – may the magic strike!

  8. You know I love this. I’m having my dev writing students do a presentation at the end of the semester (basically an extended book talk). And while I am having my comp students do a project with the book I chose, their choice books will be read and shared.

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