Sunday, January 17, 2010

I got an email

I have been corresponding by email with several of my third grade students from my 09-10 class at Sampson Elementary. Some of you may not know that we relocated from Houston to Austin in the Fall, and I had to leave a great group of readers while they were beginning to bloom.

But email is great. I got one from a student this morning. She was telling me about having read "The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me" by Roald Dahl. I had also asked her in a previous email about what else she had been reading.

She listed about four or five books. "Warriors," "11 Birthdays," Beauty," and one of the Junie Jones books. My eyes widened as I read. It's just like Matthew...too many going on at once!

I praised her first for the choices of great books she had made. I told her how I noticed two had a fantasy slant and the other two more realistic fiction -- very balanced. Then I asked some questions before posing a suggestion.

I asked which book she tended to pick up more often and why. I asked her to notice how her brain felt when reading each one.

"I love the books you've chosen! I noticed you are just like me -- I love books so much that sometimes I pick up too many at once!"

I told her about the book I was currently reading, The Doom Machine by Mark Teague. I explained to her that I hadn't been enjoying it until this week, when Matthew and I made our priority lists. After I wrote my list, I wasn't worried I would forget about those great books I wanted to read, and I could focus on the one book exclusively. I told her how much more I loved The Doom Machine now that I was just reading that one.

I asked her to think about why she'd chosen each book, and to get a piece of paper. Luckily, she has been exposed to my teaching. By that I mean I have taught them to know themselves as a reader, or at least to start to get to know themselves. Their preferences, their just right levels, their stamina. If they know themselves as readers, THEY can make choices. They are in control of their reading life, they don't need to depend on any leveling program or anyone else. THEY JUST KNOW.

I told her to pick one book to read now, finish, and then list the others in the order she'd like to read them. I did say that Junie could be a "brain break" for her...which she knows means it can be read concurrently with the other book because it is an easier read for her.

When I was teaching her class, I talked about how our brains need those kind of books. We can't just keep reading the same kind or level every time we read. Sometimes, readers need a brain break.

I illustrated my point clearly when I brought in the reading material that I was currently reading. I had a cookbook, a newspaper, a novel, and a People Magazine. I explained how each one affected me as a reader. Actually, that is a subject I want to delve into more later. Let me get back to my student.

Hopefully, she will take my advice.

See? Matt's and my problem is more common than we think! We have to get them focused.

Anyone else's kids have backpacks loaded to the brim with unfinished books?

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