Slice of Life: Levels as Student Tools

Friday I asked Lori (not her real name) to read a little of her book with me. I reminded her of what we worked on the last time we met, tracking the speaker in dialogue when there are minimal dialogue tags.

She shared this page from one of the I Survived book series.

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The trouble was, there was no trouble.

“Wow, you’ve found a book that fits you,” I said.

What next? I want to honor her choice and teach the next step. I sat thinking of what book would help her work toward her goal.  Choosing one for her seemed complicated and inauthentic.

I went off to anther student, thinking about this trouble and my next step.

Monday I gave it another go and asked Lori, “Is if there is a book you wanted to read, but put back because it didn’t feel right? ”

Lori  grabbed the book Ten, by Lauryn Myracle.  She had looked at it earlier in the day because of its cover, but soon  discovered the inside wasn’t what she expected.

“Let’s take a look, ” I said.

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The dialogue was much harder to follow than her earlier selection. We worked through it.Even with strategies and support, she felt this was too much. The difficulty was more than she wanted to handle now.

I wondered again. “Do you think there could be something in between the two of these books?”

She nodded.

“What could you do to find it?”

She looked at the levels marked on the top of the books. Ten was a ‘T’ and the “I Survived” book was a ‘Q.’

She looked at me and said, “Maybe one that’s an ‘R’ or an ‘S’?”

Maybe.

Lori started looking and found Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher. We tried. The reading felt harder than the “I Survived” but doable.

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Using levels to guide a selection can help. It helped Lori choose a book that she could read when she wanted a stretch.

In this case, levels became a necessary part of choice. It reminded me of Jan Burkins using the metaphor of shopping for a tunic in The Ed Collaborative Gathering. Sometimes the size can help us shop.

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Sometimes we choose to stretch ourselves as readers, and when we do this, some direction on levels could help us find a book. There’s nothing to say that it’ll work every time. But this adventure is something  to keep in mind the next time a reader ventures into the library.

Thank you, Lauryn Tarshis, Lauren Myracle, Ralph Fletcher, Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris for your work. You help my students become better readers and thinkers.

And thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. A place to share the bits of our lives that we need to figure out.

 

Celebrate: Read Aloud in their Midst

Elevation matters.

Even the slightest height inequity sets a tone.

I pulled kids to the carpet for Read Aloud. (Notice the emphasis?)

This time of the year, students become a little resistant. They are comfortable with me and more self-conscious about their 10 to 11-year old bodies. Add in a bit of fatigue and sunshiny day and there is a recipe for even the most willing to start to lingering at their desks when called to the carpet. I can see this thought on their faces: Am I a little too old for carpet sitting? 

I saw an open space on the carpet; just big enough for me. I grabbed A Writing Kind of Day by Ralph Fletcher and sat down in that spot. I leaned back against the corner of the bookshelf.  We were knee to knee, eye to eye. K laughed and said, “This is so weird!”

I opened to Poetry Recipe and started to read, til we got to the end …

I picked up my best friend’s pen
that I’ve kept in my drawer
ever since he moved away.

I took a deep breath,
opened my notebook,
and started to write.

They sat listening. Mouths open.

Just like Ralph,
I said,
let’s remember
a someone or something
you know, miss, or care about.
Open your notebook.
Put yourself there.
Look, smell, feel, hear.
In you mind,
look to the left,
write what you see.
Now to the right,
write what you smell.
Reach out in your mind’s eye,
write what you feel.
Close your eyes
and listen.
Write what you hear.

They sat and wrote
on the carpet.

This week I celebrate Read Aloud’s superpower: flexibility.

Read aloud allows us to adjust our stance with students and text. Sometimes were are in the thick of it.  Sometimes we listen in, observe; coach; direct. Sometimes we take our pens and study text. Letting the words move our pens, as thinkers, as readers, as writers. And sometimes we let words wash over us.

Writing beside them is nothing new. Sitting, in a place where a student usually sits, changes stance. Everything looks different, from my perspective and theirs. Read aloud lets me be with students. This week I celebrate being in their midst.

Thank you, Ruth, for Celebrate this Week. Read other celebrations here.