March 12, 2015 A Community Indeed!
I made a big move this summer and left lots behind (see previous posts), but when it came time to slim down what I was shipping, the main choice was clear- BOOKS! I knew that I would be moving into a classroom with a library, but I also know me, and my vision of a library is not the same as most people’s idea. I NEED books to teach with, I need books to recommend, I need books most of all to help build our community. I arrived with only a dozen books and for the first few weeks had to rely on the classroom library that was in place. We read we wrote, we did all of the usual things you do at school. In the first few weeks of school, I spend a lot of time building community, as that is our foundation for the year. Part of that is various surveys, getting to know the students in the class. I asked questions about their reading likes and wanted to know more about their interests. I asked about favorite books and what they would like to read more of. In those first few weeks, I visited new bookstores and bought more books and soon I got the call I had been waiting for. That Thursday the truck came to my apartment and dropped off 14 boxes- clothing, a few boxes of mementos belonging to my sons and some household items. The next day 18 boxes arrived at school- BOOKS! I spent much of the weekend organizing the books, sort of.
On Monday, the students were surprised to see the changed classroom. We spent a lot of time deciding how to organize and label boxes so that readers could find what they wanted. We boxed up the small classroom library that belonged to the school so that readers in other classes could use those books, and we really began the work of third grade. To me, one of my main jobs as a teacher is to help these students find books that they love. We spend a lot of time sharing books we love, passing books back and forth, trying out new authors, reading aloud, and generally developing our reading community. Since that day we have participated in Picture Book Month, a Mock Caldecott unit, watched the ALA book awards announcements, shared favorite books via Skype with other classes, blogged about books, celebrated International Dot Day, loved the Global Read Aloud, “met” two authors via Skype for World Read Aloud Day (thanks to Erin Dealey and Tara Lazar), and now we are keen participants in Tony Keefer’s March Book Madness. We are busy building our community!
Today was a day that really reinforced to me that we are a community of readers. After recess, I read aloud from The One and Only Ivan and the students were a rapt audience. Then one boy blurted out, “Isn’t today the day we can check how the vote turned out?” We all knew just what he meant- the next round of voting for March Madness had finished and now we could see the results. This is a boy who only recently identifies himself as a reader. We plugged in my laptop and crowded around the SmartBoard so we could see the results. As I slowly revealed the bracket there were loud shouts of glee, tempered by groans of disappointment at the books that had been eliminated. One student busily circled the winners on our class charts, others rushed to look at books that were still in the running that they did not know, everyone was actively involved in sharing their opinions. Some students immediately went to vote in the next round. A few students told me that they had left some blanks- not because they did not know the books, but because the choice between them was so hard and they could not make that call. A few students came to me and said, “I am sorry, Ms. Victor, I had to vote for _______ and I know that is not what you would have done.” Our community of readers!
Other signs of a healthy community of readers: There has been a used book sale at school this week and my students have been buying like crazy; two books from our classroom have been located in the lost and found this week- returned by a student who knows our books; a lovely student bought me a book at the book sale, because she knew I would love it; the classroom assistant came in with a box this afternoon, which she quietly put on a table- totally distracting a few students, because they knew what was inside- books that I had ordered for the classroom.
There is lots more I could share about our community of readers, but I will leave it for another day. Meanwhile, I have a book waiting for me- I am almost finished and I know that there are students in the class waiting to be the next readers for it. As the year winds down in June I will spend time preparing this community for the transition that is summer, and life beyond our classroom, but one thing is for sure- we are readers!