Saturday, January 21, 2012

Joy for Beginners

Joy for Beginners.  Joy.  There's something about those three little letters that just make you smile... whether you're talking to your oldest sister (my sister Joy turns 82 in February) or singing a holiday song, there's something about the word "joy" that makes you happy.  When my friend, Mimi from Seattle, introduced me to Erica Bauermeister, little did I know how much I would love Ms. Bauermeister's writing. 
     I read The School of Essential Ingredients and it blew me away!  Brilliant.  The same can be said for this book.  So rich.  Images fill your mind when you read Erica Bauermeister's words... "Sara's kitchen was a chicken farm of chaos..." or "The little girl was talking happily, the flow of her words bright and shiny, like candy falling from a pinata" or "...the ways their gazes floated over the crowd and then caught at the strangeness of her solitary situaion."  Page after page, I had to stop, think, and ponder the beauty of her writing. 
     This book focuses on Kate's survival after being ill.  At a celebratory dinner, her six friends challenge her to start anew by going river rafting... facing a fear!  She, in turn, gets to choose the challenge that each of her friends will take.  Today a friend posted the following... The phrase, "Do not be afraid" is written in the Bible 365 times.  That's a daily reminder to live everyday being, "Fearless!"  I thought it was a perfect parallel to this book.
     That's what this book is about... being fearless.  Listen to these words from the prologue, "But life is persistent, slipping into your conscious sideways, catching you with a fleeting moment of color, the unexpected and comforting smell of a neighbor's dinner cooking as you walk on a winter evening, the feeling of warm water running between your fingers as you wash the dishes at night.  There is nothing so seductive as reality."  Reality.  Fearlessness.  Two things that create an interesting juxtaposition.
     You should read this one!  Why?  Because it's brilliantly written and might just make you ask a few questions.  The whole time I was reading, I was thinking about both my personal life and my professional life.  Personally, I think there are some things I need to get done... get back to exercise, start swimming again, and learn to kayak .   Professionally, I think I need to stand up for my beliefs... get a little pissy, take some action, and challenge the status quo. And... wait for Ms. Bauermeister's next book! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thinking About Our Reading Goals

Last week, my 4th graders and I spent some time thinking about our reading goals for 2012.  We began by jotting some thinking in our reader's notebooks around the guiding questions, "What can I do differently as a reader?  What can I do to get better?"
     We wrote... shared our thinking with one another... talked as a group... and then thought of a one word synthesis that best captured our hopes as readers.  We had some grand conversations about the thinking that might guide our reading lives for the the next few weeks.  
     I had my students jot down their thinking, using their one-word as a heading.  They wrote a synopsis of their reading wishes for the coming weeks.  What an important way to gather thinking from my students in an authentic purposeful way.  Here are a few of their ideas:

  • "Expand"  Thinking about expanding helps as a reader because it lets your thinking flow more easily onto paper as if you were pouring water.  Expanding means to try new things and to do different things... that connects to choice because sometimes you need to try or change new genres. (Brooklyn)
  • "Footage"  Footage is like a giant web because it connects to a lot of circles.  If I want to picture (or create footage), I might want to read a more descriptive book.  I want to think about words when I choose books.  If I can find the right book, my footage becomes more clear in my mind. (Nolan)
  • "Simplify"  I want to somehow simplify my reading life because I think I'm taking too much of a challenge for myself as a reader.  I can't just read a big fat book to get better, I have to understand to get better.  I want to work up to where I can read thick books, so I just need to start out with a simple book. (Josh)     
  • "Journey and Discover"  Thinking about journey gives me a picture in my mind of a metaphor of walking into a forest and discovering new thinking for the book.  I chose these words because I hope they will help me become a better reader than I am now. (Molly) 
  • "Thinking"  Thinking about my thinking and the responsibilities that come with reading is one of my goals as a reader.  If I want to truly think about my book I also need to think about the choices I am making as a reader.  I need to write more.  I need to continue writing responses, but in higher levels.  My thoughts and understanding can strengthen, but only if I make the proper choices. (Lauren)
  • "Sophistication"  This is something that I need to watch myself on with the complexity of my text.  I need to use my sense for it more often, to do so I must think carefully about not just the text sophistication, but my thinking sophistication.  I will use this by not just grabbing some random book and start reading the words with no intention of thinking about "What in the world did I just read?" and actually going back to reread it. I must look through a wide variety and see what the book is about and carefully choose the one that fits best; like a puzzle.  Then I must slowly read it and take the time to slow down. (Libby)
  • "Locked In"  My new reading goal as a reader this year is to get locked into richer and better texts.  Because, some of the books I was reading last year were like gloop (too easy).  I want to get "locked in" as a reader and finish more books.  I want to get "locked in" to new strategies.  (Jack)
     Nell Duke once said, "I don't think there's any goal we have for students that's greater than the goal of having them be able to make meaning from, and critically evaluate, the text that they're going to experience and encounter throughout their lives."  My two word synthesis was "Choice and Voice" because those are the two things I want my students to discover for the remainder of the year.  And, like Nell, I want my students to critically evaluate who they are becoming as readers... so that they can grow and continue thriving long after they walk out the door of our classroom in June. in Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop, I included a quote that we have hanging in our classroom, "Where choice lives, learning prospers!"  It's so true...
     Here's to a prosperous, reading-filled 2012!  Cheers!