Every teacher has end of year rituals. During this second to last week of school for 2012, I’ve asked students to take inventory of the books they’ve read over the course of the year. We’ve tallied up the number of books we’ve read as a class, and each student has selected his or her favourites for our ‘You Gotta Read This’ list.
Yesterday, I also asked students to reflect on their year. I gave them several questions to think about, such as:
What are some of the big ideas that will stick with you from our reading and writing experiences this year?
What did you learn about yourself as a reader this year? as a writer?
What did you do in reading or writing this year that has made you particularly proud?
Students’ written responses were gratifying but not unusual. Many students were proud of the number of books they’d read over the course of the year. One girl wrote that she’d learned how to focus during her reading time which made the process so much more enjoyable and productive. Another student wrote that he had discovered the joy of reading series books. A few students were happy to have tried new genres, dystopian novels, action-adventure, humour, fantasy, etc..
It was the discussion I had with students after they’d written their responses that reminded me of how fortunate I was to have found Atwell’s book at just the right time in my teaching career.
Students were sharing their pride in having read so many good books when one young man said,
“You know, Ms. Mardie, it’s not as if we haven’t had time to read in class before this year, because we have. Last year we had silent reading for 20 minutes every day but I never really read! We were allowed to read anything we wanted: novels, comic books, newspapers, magazines, everything, and I would sit there, looking at the pictures of my magazine, flipping pages, and waiting for reading time to be over. In your class, though, we have to read BOOKS, and that made me start to really read.”
That’s right! In my class, students have personal choice in their reading BUT they have to read books, books, books and nothing but books. They can be fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, but I insist on books.
In her book, In the Middle, Atwell outlines the Rules for Reading Workshop (p.116). Although I incorporate all of Atwell’s rules in my reading workshop, it’s rule #1 in particular that helped this young man to start ‘really reading.’
From Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle:
"Rules for Reading Workshop
1. You must read a book. Magazines, newspapers, and comic books don’t have the chunks of text you need to develop fluency, and they won’t help you discover who you are as a reader of literature." (p. 116)
I agree. Even though I’ve had to defend this practice on more than one occasion with those who believe that engagement is only possible when students are making all of the rules, I'm a believer. I’ve seen it work, and now I have confirmation straight from my students.
Thanks again, Nancie Atwell, for everything.