Saturday, February 11, 2017

Rereading Our Own Notebooks - Building Fodder

I've been spending some time rereading my old reader's and writer's notebooks lately. Looking through my notes for snippets of brilliance from other readers and writers.  Looking through my notes for snippets of brilliance from the young readers and writers I work with every day.  Looking through my notes for snippets of brilliance that made their way onto the pages as random thoughts or ideas.  Looking through my notes for snippets of brilliance from my own notebook entries (or just intriguing snippets).

Currently, my students and I are taking an explicit look at "Determining What's Most Important in Text."  Encouraging students to make decisions about what's moving them through a piece of text with clarity and understanding is an important cognitive behavior; nudging them to latch on to important ideas, themes, content.  We're in the midst of taking what comes "naturally" and trying to notice and define the role that "being intentional" has on meaning making.  We're focusing on the word most, because it's this discernment that is critical to making the most sense out of text.

When I plan a strategy study (comprehension/thinking strategy), I often revisit prior attempts at learning and my teaching.  I look at charts of our thinking from previous years.  I look at student work that I've collected over the years.  I look into my own notebooks for fodder.  If I want to empower learners, I have to know how it's gone in the past.  Perhaps this is why my at-home library is chockablock full!

Today as I was reading my notebook from 2013-14, I ran across an artifact from Avery that she handed me in February 2014.  She brought me a copy of the beginning of chapter 19 of Almost Home by Joan Bauer:


LAST NIGHT WHEN I didn't sleep, I wrote this:

When somebody important says your important, 
You'd better believe it.
Even when everything around you says you're not.
You'd better hold on to it.
You'd better write it across your heart
So you don't forget. 
Bad words come at us easy, 
But good words are hard to hold.
You've got to do the work to keep them safe. 
Put them in a box, 
Put the lid on, 
And if you don't have a box, 
Anything will do.

When she handed this passage to me she said, "Mr. Allen, this is what determining what's important really is... we have to keep our words safe!"  And, Avery's right.  Keeping our words "safe" is an important part of becoming a reader and writer (I immediately pasted the passage into my notebook and jotted down what she said).

I love when students find snippets in their own reading that supports our current thinking strategy investigation.  When they make the connection between a thinking behavior and an excerpt of text, it's mind-boggling!  And, because I have evidence archived in my notebooks, I can now bring it out and share Avery's words with my class this year.  It's our past that often steps forward to support our current thinking.  We can stand on the shoulders of greatness by taking time to reflect upon and use past successes.  I can stand on Avery's shoulders.

My students and I talk often about making our reading experiences "memorable" and taking opportunities "extending meaning."  In fact, I write about this in my book, Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  These are two goals we discuss at the beginning of each school year.  I have four goals for my students (to remember, to understand, to extend meaning, and to make reading experiences memorable).  We focus on making our reading experiences important enough to share and find bits of text important enough to remember.  Avery understood that.

It behooves us to encourage young readers to fall in love with words.  To keep them safe... in a notebook, in their heart, in a box... anywhere!  If we listen to students in new ways, in careful ways, in sincere ways... they might just surprise us.  They might just bring us a sticky note, a spattering of text, or an idea that brings clarity to OUR reading life or our teaching.  We just have to remember to tuck it away and revisit it.  Snippets of brilliance are too important to let slip into the recycling bin... we have to let them "re-cycle" in our teaching and learning life!

Image result for almost home bauer

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a post! I feel like I need to print this whole post and hang it on the wall! I especially love this line, "I have four goals for my students (to remember, to understand, to extend meaning, and to make reading experiences memorable)." I want to bring it to my teachers and see what they think. I am curious, though, about the order of your goals (and maybe I'm just overthinking??? Possible!) If I would think kids needed to understand before they could remember. Is there a reason you put them in the order you did?