What I Know for Sure

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Although teaching a new grade level this year, there are some things that are essential in my teaching, no matter where the instruction takes place or with whom.  There will be:

1.  At least 20″ devoted to silent reading every day

2. A read-aloud by me every day

3.  Time to write on self-selected topics every day

Beyond that, I’m not sure. There are so many factors – curriculum guides, principal requirements, and most importantly, the students in the seats, determine what happens on any given day.  I also will only see my students every other day – a first for me and at this point, a real challenge for planning.

One teacher I admire does both a picture book and an ongoing chapter book every day. I wish I could do that but I’m not sure there will be time for both. I have found some wonderful opening picture books, though, thanks to https://www.choiceliteracy.com/ , some reading I’ve done over the summer, and my go-to faves. Here are my top 5 for starting the school year right:
1. That Book Woman by Heather Henson – a fictional tale of a boy who doesn’t know how to read who is frustrated by his sister’s ability to get lost in books. Then the book woman comes (based on the real Pack Horse Librarians of the 1930’s) and with her, the wonder of books. This one just might reach a reluctant reader or two. It also ties into the US. History that my 7th graders are studying.
2. The Memory String by Eve Bunting and Ted Rand. You just can’t go wrong with Eve Bunting, and with over 200 books and counting, there’s always one that will fit what you need. This is the tender tale of a young girl who has lost her Mother but has a string of buttons to remember her by, each one attached to a memory. Her stepmother becomes the hero of this tale (and how often does THAT happen?). I know it will get the kids thinking and writing about their own memories.
3. Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter. I can’t imagine teaching any year without this book. As the protagonist complains that nothing ever happens to her so she has nothing to write about, the reader is treated to not only lots of story topics but some sage writing advice as well. Once the students hear this one, they never again say, “But I have nothing to write about…” and if they do someone invariably calls out, ‘Remember “Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street!” ‘
4.  When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.  I haven’t found a book I like better to talk about place.  Even if the characters and events in Appalachia are foreign to the students, they understand what it is to love a grandmother and to have her love you back.  This book always sparks a great discussion about favorite places and the stories to be found in them.

5. The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer. I just found this one and boy, is it a keeper.  The book starts off as very popular, checked out so often it hardly knows the library.  But soon it is relegated to the surplus pile in the basement, waiting for the Book Sale.  Lucky for the book, Alice has not forgotten about it and the reunion is a happy one.  I may read this one first and ask if the students have a book like this in their own collection – if they do, I’ll know immediately they’re a reader!

So far, a mix of books about reading, writing, and history.  It’s a start.

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