Friday Reflection – the classroom library

What a long week it has been. I am waiting for my son to finish cross-country practice and taking a few minutes to reflect on the first two weeks of school. It’s nice to just catch my breath…

Three weeks ago I was given the opportunity to move from social studies to language arts. I loved what I taught, but this is truly an opportunity to “do what I always wanted to do when I grow-up.” Bonus – I get to it with an amazing team of co-teachers and a very supportive administration. I actually left an in-service asking another teacher if it was possible that our jobs could get better? I am that kind of happy!

All summer I have been hanging out in twitter world with the English teachers, the librarians,  and the authors. I instantly had ideas for what, why, and how I was going to tackle the world of English teacher. 40 book challenge… writer’s workshop… mini lessons… I was motivated!

Reality – after two weeks – I’m tired. 8th hour on Friday and I realize I’ve forgotten to eat anything since breakfast.

I’ve spent hours talking with students and parents about expectations and ideas. We will do the work of writers and we will try to become independent, veracious readers. I am working to establish the culture of passionate learning and stay one step ahead of the kids.

“No, you can’t turn that in yet… we are going to learn how to revise. That’s what real writer do.”

“Yes, I know it’s hard to write a poem, but we are going to give it a try.”

“Yes, I do have ideas for books you can read even if you have not read one since second grade.”

The students leave interested, wondering, tired – a lot like me.

Then a knock on the door brings a visitor with a box full of books. Books for my new library. Books for the new English teacher. Books to sort. Books I have not read. Books I read and loved. Books already being checked-out by my son who has wondered in.

And suddenly, I am not so tired after all…



Reading Logs Kept and Shared – Inspiration

This s20120702-080559.jpgummer I began keeping a reading log. Inspired by a pretty notebook, I began writing all the thoughts that come up as I read. It’s not formal. There are doodles and notes, quotes and questions. In addition to books, when checking out a blog or in a discussion that seems relevant to my reading life I’ve found myself pulling out my notebook to record that too.

So today when I happened upon Jessica Johnson’s Sharing my Reading Life blog I just had to smile. In her blog she shares a batch of ideas on how her reading log has inspired her students and teachers to read.

Isn’t it cool when you happen upon the next stepping-stone in a journey? It’s like stopping at the gas station and receiving directions to your next destination before you even get a chance to ask.

Similar to Johnson, when I talk about books other readers and soon-to-be readers share what they are reading or what they want to read. I do talk a lot about books. My fellow teachers pass books around, I’m in a book club with my girlfriends, and I love seeking out books that my husband and I will both enjoy reading. I also know that the more I get my students reading the better they do in all their classes.

Johnson has taken my inspiration to the next level. In addition to a notebook of reading inspired thoughts – I think it’s a great ideas to keep a record of what I am reading, when, and what kind of book it is. Like Johnson I believe this will help me see and understand my own reading habits and be better able to share and model them with my kids and my students.

In fact, the kids and their cousins just spent a weekend together. Between swimming and firefly catching, there was lots of reading. My sister and I are both teachers, but we didn’t have to do anything to inspire them except load them up with books and time. The questions and ideas they shared sounded just like the book group discussion I enjoy with my friends. Now I wonder what would happen if I handed them each a journal for writing and doodling and remembering…?

I think I’ll do that right after I finish Forged by Laurie Halse Anderson as I promised it to a student who saw me reading and writing about it at the pool last week. Happy reading!

If you want to visit Jessica Johnson you’ll find her @PrincipalJ on Twitter and at Reflections from an Elementary School Principal on blogger.

Anecdotal evidence suggests kids love to choose their books!

Something crazy is going on at my house. It’s good crazy. Really good crazy actually.

This is my son Cole. He loves his video games, playing on my iPad, and riding his bike. I can think of other things he really likes to do, but I don’t know if reading would normally make the list. I love it when he reads and he knows how important it is to be a strong reader, but he’s never given me the impression that he loves doing it.

In contrast, my daughter Anna inhales books, talks about books, trades books and has even been known to keep a book journal all on her own. It’s easy to recognize her passion.

Therefore, it has not gone unnoticed that since school ended, Cole has had his nose in a book non-stop. It started with Middle School the Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson. The book was sitting on the center council in my car and he just picked it up and started reading. When I took his little sister and brother to tennis, he asked to ride along. Book in hand he found a shady bench and spent the hour reading. Last night he rode along to Anna’s softball game and again only looked up from the book to watch her bat.  When he finished the book last night I wondered if that would be the end. Instead, I found him up early reading.

It sounds like he decided to finish the Harry Potter series that he took a break from when I “made him read for battle of the books last winter.” As I served lunch to the kids today, he asked if we could go to the park this afternoon to do some reading. Wow! How could I deny a suggestion like that?

Unable to resist, I took a risk and decided to ask, “So what’s with this new passion for reading all of a sudden?”

“What do you mean?” he looked confused. “There are books all over this place and finally I get to read whatever I want. I’ve been waiting all year for this.”

I guess if there was any question in my mind about the importance of letting kids choose their books – it just vanished. I’m thrilled to have him reading for fun and excited to see what else he chooses to read this summer. It’s his choice, however, I can’t promise Anna and I won’t plant a few that we think he’d like on his seat in the car.

Charlie in the Library

  Quick-Write assignment is in:


We’re going to the library? She can’t be serious. It’s summer vacation. I have been free for a total of 18 minutes and she is already making me go to the library. Isn’t there some law that says they have to give you the weekend off from any kind of learning. I know she wants me to read this summer. It’s all she’s been talking about, but really this is too much.

I mean a kid needs a break. Especially because I’m not into books. I’ve got lots of other things to think about. Like the reminder on my iPod going off. Guess it’s time to feed my cyber dragons.

I wonder if that’s a good enough reason to stay in the car.  It’s probably not; especially if Jo and Amy are going in. This is just the sort of thing they love. Ugh! They bug me.

You have to understand, It’s so annoying enough to have older siblings, but it’s worse when they’re twins. Jo is the oldest. Mom always has time for him. She takes him running every morning to get ready for her half marathon. He’s going out for the middle school cross-country team in the fall. I don’t like running, but they could at least ask me. I might want to go. Well, no I wouldn’t, but it would be cool if she would do something like that with me.

Don’t even get me started with my big sister Amy. Everyone thinks she’s perfect. They’re always saying stuff like, “Thank you Amy, at least we can count on you to keep your room clean.” Seriously, what about taking laundry down a flight of stairs makes her so likable. I don’t get it and it’s just going to worse tonight when they open the report cards. “Oh look Amy straight A’s again! Good for you!”

I’m going to be sick.

This place is empty. Nobody else has a mother who makes they go straight to the library on the way home from the last day of school. I can prove it – look around – we could park anywhere.

“Okay, when we get into the Library I want you guys to be on best behavior; no running around, no swimming in the water fountain, nobody leaves the Kid’s section without me. Amy would you keep an eye on Gretta?”

“I’ll watch her,” I suggest, thinking that watching my little sister has to be better than what is about to happen.

“No way, Charlie,” mom answers, “you and I are on a mission. We have eighty-four days until school starts again and you have to get reading if you have any chance to survive the 3rd grade.”

“She’s right,” pipes in Jo, “That third grade teacher is a monster. She terrorizes little kids who don’t like to read.”

“That’s mean. I like her,” says Miss Perfect. “She makes you read a lot, but it’s great, she has such interesting books and there’s shelves of them all over her room. Third grade was so much fun. Don’t listen to Jo. You’re going to love it.”

No, really, I’m not I think and before I get a chance to say anything out loud Mom is agreeing with me. “He’s not going to love it unless he loves books and that’s what we are going to work on. There’s no harm in getting started right away – especially since Charlie is gifted and talented in his ability to get under my radar. Not this time, no Sir, this summer is going to be different…”

I stop listening. I think I’ve heard most of this speech before.  We walk into the main doors and Jo heads straight to the section called YA. Amy takes Gretta to the picture books.

“Okay, Charlie, let’s do it. Let’s find some books that you are going to love.”

Books I’m going to love? There’s a word for that – oxymoron or something. Yea moron, that’s what I feel like as I follow my mom past the librarian.


Assignment #4 from Teachers Write!

A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime.  What is she/he thinking?  Worried about?  Dreading?  Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her? Show us in a paragraph or two.