SOL: Expectations With Choice

Writing about reading has been a difficult sell for some students and adults.

I just want to read, stop bugging me to write, is a complaint I’ve heard from both populations.
But, I know, from my experience, writing about reading, always lifts the level of my thinking.

Do I always do write about reading? No. If I want to read something deeply or I am reading with others, yes. I make purposeful choices. I want my students to do the same. Always dogmatically writing about reading, no. When they are reading deeply and with partners, yes.

Sunday, I read my students’ Reader’s Notebooks. They are theirs. I don’t grade them. I check in on them for specific work. Now that testing is over, I wanted to get a sense of where they were in their thinking.

Monday, after book shopping, I called them to the carpet and said, “I set a lot of time aside this weekend to read your notebooks. I was so excited to see what was going on in your reading lives. Sadly, I finished in no time. There wasn’t much to look at.”

They looked at me.

I could of, maybe should have asked them why. But I didn’t.

Instead, I asked them to tell me all the ways they could write about reading. They said I recorded:

Character webs, sketching, know/wonder thinking (wonderful shorthand for Vicki Vinton/Dorothy Barnhouse’s strategy in What Readers Really Do) emotional timelines, tracking the plot, retelling, boxes and bullets, summary, found poetry.

I looked at them.

They looked at their feet.

If they knew so much, why didn’t they write? I knew they were reading. Maybe they were making purposeful choices, perhaps not.

I could of, maybe should have asked them why. But I didn’t.

Instead, I handed them their Reader’s Notebooks and said. “We have four weeks left. Let’s get serious.”

Expectations were set: In thirty minutes, read and write about reading.

“Can we choose any way to write about reading?” K asked.

“I expect you to,” I said. “Use what works, for you and the book.”

“Can you leave that list up?” M asked.

“Of course.”

“Yesss!” And he took off.

Four students refused to leave the carpet. All looked concerned. Finally, one asked. “Can I get a new notebook?” Then the rest chimed in with me too.

Ok, that was an easy fix.  Off they went, new notebooks in hand, thrilled with the opportunity for a do-over.

I moved from reader to reader checking in, scattering stacks of post-its, reminding them of how they might be useful.

I walked by A’s desk; he looked up at me sheepishly. “I don’t write about reading,” was his response to how’s it going.  Shame made his shoulders hunch over. I could see what he was thinking: Just when I thought I could happily enjoy reading, she caught me.

“I know,” I said. ” I’ll help. You’re a great reader; you just have to show a teeny bit of your thinking on the page.”

He sucked in deeply and looked at me. Suspicious. “Ok, I guess.”

With about five minutes left in the workshop,  I asked those kiddos who were sucked deeply into their books to come up for air; take a moment to write about something that stuck with them.

Afterward, they graded themselves on quantity and quality of their reading. They talked with their partners, shared their writing about reading, made some plans for reading tonight.

Many came up to me to assess their writing. I turned it back to them with what do you think? Most were tougher graders than I would have been. Typical.

Several kiddos pulled reading logs out. (I have generic ones students can choose to use. ) This time, I asked why.

T said, “I like them. I like putting down the time I read and the pages I read. It helps me set goals for myself.”

A said, “They are neat and organized. I like that.”

Whoa. Really?

K walked up to me. Holding out her notebook, “Can I use this over the summer? I have a plan as to how I’m want to use this.”

Uh, yeah sure, great idea.

I was disappointed this weekend.  But, what I saw today was surprising and pleasing.
When there were unstated expectations, during the fog of testing and test prep, most did not write about reading. But today, all jumped to do it.

They knew what to do.
Expectations were clarified.
A menu of options could meet the expectation.

Everyone wants to leave the classroom feeling like they did something. Expectations with choice help students find that path.

That’s how reading went today.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

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Celebrate: Fridays, Fresh and Clean, and a Bit of Nudging

A few quick celebrations today with Ruth Ayers and friends. Find more celebrations here.

celebrate link up

1. Friday Netflix.

We don’t have television, only online streaming and videos. Shamefully, I love binging on a good series or several movies on a Friday night. I came home after a week of very long days and fell on the couch.  My husband is in charge of finding the entertainment. I watched/dozed through two dystopian movies and woke up for the romantic comedy.  A good way to end the night and start the weekend.

2. Clean2014-11-08 09.08.24 car.

We had a smattering of rain recently. This combined with parking outside made for a very dirty car. I normally don’t notice or really care too much about this kind of thing, but when I am afraid to brush against it for fear of getting my clothes dirty, it’s time. Now it sits, bright and shinny in the garage.

3. Blue skies. See the blue reflecting in the window? Los Angeles is hot and desert-like these days. That is our reality. But sometimes we get very blue skies. Something to notice and celebrate.

4. New notebooks.

2014-11-08 09.05.00-1Our first semester ended yesterday.  The majority of students have almost filled the Reader’s Notebooks they got fifteen weeks ago. That in and of itself is worth celebrating. I used to give students new notebooks as they filled them, but this year so many are almost filled and most are really, really worn/torn, I figured let’s start out the new semester fresh with clean slates, new goals and beautiful notebooks.

5. Focused Genius Hour projects.

This is my second year of genius hour and I have learned a bit about nudging students in their work. Some students have problems finding ideas, others give up on ideas. While I don’t/can’t direct their work I try to steer it in ways I hope will work out for them. This year I wanted it to be passion based but directed at making the world a better place.  This has focused a lot of the work. When they come to me with their ideas I say, great. Now how will this help the world.  They have to think about that. How can their passion, be it video games, art, reading, or gymnastics, help someone other than themselves. Makes them think, research and plan.

Here’s one example of a2014-11-07 15.20.56 group of Minecrafting students who are looking to teach us teachers how we can use it in our classrooms to help students learn. Really cool. Not sure what will come of it, but we all will be learning.

Happy weekend and to finding celebrations.