“Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation.”
This is the quote I shared with my students on the first day of school (it's been on my blog page for quite some time). It's the first thing we wrote in our reader's notebooks. Because I looped with the majority of my students I wanted to start the year out a bit differently, more metacognitively. I wanted students to recognize the power of slowing down, of pondering, of reflecting in authentic, meaningful ways.
We spent some time during our first few crafting sessions of reader's workshop really dissecting this quote... delving into it's meaning (my purpose was two-fold... to share the importance of annotating text and to build a bit of vocabulary right off the bat). Then we moved into the idea of annotation (discussing its definition, relevance, etc.)... deciding that we can "annotate" three ways... by writing directly on a piece of text (leaving tracks), by jotting thinking on sticky notes or in our notebook, or by using our own hearts and minds as a storehouse. The important part... holding it for "some future occasion."
Yesterday was day five of the school year and I've already seen students becoming more aware of word level quandries, sentence level wonderings, and whole text ponderings. Our conversations are grander and our thinking more precise. And, I think it's going to lead into our first thinking strategy study with more complexity as we strive to remember, understand, extend meaning, and make our reading experiences memorable. We've been working together on short pieces of text for the past few days.
This year, we're going to be reading How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor as our first read (I got a copy for each student). Together... as a whole group, in pairs, as individuals, we're going to annotate our own copies. I've never done this before, but my friend Lori Conrad found starting the year with a common text beneficial with her fifth graders. Building the foundation with rituals and routines merging with our daily reading lives (strategy book clubs, response notebooks, independent reading, vocabulary development, etc.) on some common ground may just lead us down the path of slowing our thinking down and really delving into text. By the way, students will, of course, be reading their own text during reader's workshop... we'll be using this text as a touchstone for our crafting (mini-lessons) for the next few weeks. I can't wait to see what happens.