In case you missed last week’s post, one of my goals for 2018 is to get back to writing. The plan is to publish a weekly blog post, the “Sunday Seven,” where I share classroom strategies, book recommendations, Project LIT Community updates, and other literacy and education thoughts.
1. Project LIT Book Club Announcement
It’s official: Best-selling author Nic Stone will be joining us for our next book club on February 2! Check out this announcement video and you’ll get a sense for how much this means to our students.
The video also highlights what Project LIT Community is all about – empowering students to increase book access (and access to diverse books, in particular) and promote a love of reading.
Give students daily time to read, discuss and celebrate books like Dear Martin, and this is what happens. Not only are our students becoming more passionate and proficient readers, they’re also gaining valuable real-world skills (event planning, social media and marketing, graphic design, communication, leadership, etc.) as they continue to transform our community.
2. Book recommendation: I Am Alfonso Jones
This book hit me hard. I’m going to be thinking about Alfonso for a long time, and plan to add multiple copies of Tony Medina’s graphic novel to my classroom library. (It also could make a wonderful #ProjectLITBookClub selection for 2018-19).
3. Making the case for independent reading
Thanks to Tatiana DeWitt (@TatianaDeWitt) for posing this question on Twitter recently: “Middle and high school ELA teachers: What are your thoughts on sustained silent reading? Do you use it in your classroom? Is it effective?”
It was wonderful to read through all of the responses and see one educator after another speak to the importance of giving students daily time to read.
As the amazing Lauren Deal (@lpdeal) tweeted: “If I tell students that reading is important but then say I don’t want to use valuable class time for it, I’m undermining my own message.” Exactly!
In my classroom, students spend the first 20 to 30 minutes of our block reading, and it’s a game-changer on so many levels. I shared more thoughts on this in a recent podcast with the wonderful Linda Dunnavant and Education Conversations.
4. Four takeaways from Kelly Gallagher’s workshop
I recently attended a full-day workshop with Kelly (thanks so much to Lipscomb Academy for organizing the event) and as I reviewed my notes, a few lines were worth repeating here:
“You can teach every single standard, but if students don’t read and write more, it won’t matter.”
“With the 4 x 4 approach – 4 big essays, 4 books (which students often fake read) per year – a student’s ability will stay the same, not improve.”
“Time is the currency of education, so we need to ask: How do we spend the limited time we are given? Is this the right lesson for these students right now? Is this learning experience worthy of the time it will cost? Is there another way to approach this that will be better?”
“To increase the volume of reading and writing, we have to change the structure of our class.”
Couldn’t agree more. Thankful, as always, for Kelly’s work!
5. We have to make it easier for teachers to add diverse books to their classroom
Project LIT Community is sending three copies of Dear Martin to a lucky Twitter follower. The fact that more than 400 educators have entered in the giveaway over the past two days reminded me that we have to make it easier for teachers to get these important books into students’ hands.
What’s it going to take? Two things: Funding and support!
Teachers should not have to purchase these books (or spend countless hours fundraising) for their classroom libraries. Additionally, teachers should not have to waste energy defending/justifying why their students are reading and discussing diverse books. Instead, they should be encouraged and supported.
Shout out to all of the educators who are making it happen despite the obstacles. Our students are thankful!
6. Nothing better than talking to students about books
One of last week’s highlights: Rodrea, upon finishing Jason Reynolds’ masterpiece, Long Way Down, calls me over to her desk and says: “How Reynolds gonna do me like that?!” My thoughts exactly…
Another highlight: Olivia coming by my classroom in the morning to talk about Tiffany Jackson’s Allegedly. She’s been reading it at home and wanted to know if Mary was innocent or guilty. I told her there was no I way I was going to spoil it for her (or you, if you haven’t read it yet), while adding that the ending will leave her speechless!
7. ICYMI: Last week’s #ProjectLITchat
Check out all of the resources and strategies shared during last week’s amazing Twitter chat. (We’re hosting our next chat on January 21 — 7 ET/6 CT).
Inspired by a suggestion from all-star teacher and Project LIT site leader Kimiko Pettis (@kcpteachertips), I had students create mind maps for Justyce, the protagonist of Dear Martin. Great way for students to demonstrate understanding of characters in any novel…
Wishing everyone a wonderful week, and as always, happy reading! And if there’s anything you’d like me to address in a future blog post, don’t hesitate to reach out via Twitter, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in the comments below. Thanks!