Summer Reading for Teachers, Let's Compare Lists

You know you're a teacher when you bring multiple books on how to get better at your day job... to the beach. Or to the pool, or the park, or the cottage, the cabin in the woods, the cruise ship, the pontoon boat. Teachers will read about teaching, anywhere.


So what books will be in your beach bag? What's on your summer reading list? Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Mine always seems to be a little too big. But hey, no harm in that. At least I won't run out of things to read.

Here's a look at my summer reading plan:

1. Read a current professional book.


I don't know about you, but I don't have a lot of time to read many professional books during the school year, unless we're doing a book study as a staff. But there is no lack of choices to put in my "back pocket" for the summer. Here are a couple I want to read sooner rather than later:


Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Beers and Probst
My district, like many, has been moving heavily into "close reading." It's exciting because it is a practice that I believe in and truly think is valuable. I think I've got a pretty good handle on close reading basics, and  I've heard good things about Notice & Note, so I'm hoping it will be a book that can help me take close reading to the next level and that I can pull ideas from right away.
 
The Leader in Me, by Stephen R. Covey (creator of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
My school is attempting to transition into a new school-wide character education program. What that is or will look like... I'm not sure yet. But my mother-in-law, who teaches kindergarten at my school (yes, I work with my mother-in-law) has been thinking that the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Students might be a great fit. Her excitement about it makes me excited to get to know the system better.

2. Read a favorite professional book, again.


Every summer or two, I really enjoy going back and rereading a favorite book about teaching. Have you ever tried it? I have such a different perspective the second time through because normally I've tried some things from the book by then, and I can go back and get that big picture view again. I also pick up lots of little twists and tips that I either missed the first time through, or wasn't ready for yet. Here's my choice for this summer:

http://www.stenhouse.com/html/notebook-connections.htm

Notebook Connections, by Aimee Buckner
I read this book with my grade level team a few years ago and I remember loving it. It's an easy read and has some great ideas to use with reader's notebooks and getting kids to think deeply about what they read, which I'm all about. Specific ideas from the book that I can remember?... um, not sure... hence wanting to read this book again.

3. Read a stack of picture books that I've not read yet.


Gosh I love a good picture book. I love finding one that will be perfect to use with a lesson, or to just read to my class because it's so good. Here are a few that I have not read yet, but will be looking for from our library this summer:


 
 

The Great Paper Caper, by Oliver Jeffers (The illustrations look awesome.)
A Very Unusual Dog, by Dorothy Joan Harris (Recommended by a reader, thanks Leslie.)
Locomotive, by Brian Floca (The 2014 Caldecott winner... how could I not read it?)
On a Beam of Light, by Jennifer Berne (Looks like a good nonfiction picture book.)
That Summer, by Tony Johnston (Honestly, I forget why I put this on my list, but I shouldn't take it off now, right?)
The Dark, by Lemony Snicket (With this author/illustrator team, it has to be good.)

4. Read a handful of young adult novels that I've not read yet.


My wife makes fun of me for reading so many novels that are written for kids. It's usually when we're both reading in bed, and she's over there with her James Patterson or Fern Michaels, and she'll peek over at me reading The One and Only Ivan, and ask, "Is it good?" with a little half smirk, half wink. "It's about a gorilla," I say. "Of course it's good." (Update: After reading my blogpost, my wife thought it only fair that I mention how much I poke fun at the stacks of Fern Michaels' novels she reads. Guilty.)

I do enjoy reading young adult novels, but I also like looking for little nuggets of text that I might use with my kids. You'd be surprised at how many excerpts you can pull from novels that can stand alone and be used to teach something (The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, Hatchet, and Because of Winn Dixie are a few books like this for me.) Here are a few I'm looking forward to reading this summer:


Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo (She won the Newbery again, people!)
Darius & Twig, by Walter Dean Myers (a favorite author)
Canyons, by Gary Paulsen (I read a book by Gary just about every summer.)

5. Read a book by an author my dad recommends.


My dad reads a lot. Most of the authors he likes, I now like... Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Brad Thor are a few. I'm thinking I'll try to read this one by the late Vince Flynn, called The Last Man.


I'm pretty sure my wife bought it for me last year for Christmas, and it just got set somewhere and became part of the scenery. I actually think it's on the floor next to our bed, now that I think about it. Well, maybe I'll start reading it tonight. At least she won't make fun of me for it.

Let me know what's on your summer reading list. I'd love a few good recommendations, and I'm sure other readers would love to hear too!


Tracking the "Inside Journey" of a Character

It's the inside journey that really matters, isn't it? Sure, the outer, physical journeys and travels that characters go on are more flashy and adventurous, and most assuredly help keep us entertained and engaged in a text, but the inner journey... lasts.

It's the change and growth that happens to the inside of a main character that can often change us, right? Think of a piece of literature you've read that made you look at life a little differently, or that even made you do your life a little differently. I would bet that the main character in that book was the main ingredient in how it affected you. For me, I think of Billy from Where the Red Fern Grows, and Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath, and Edward from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.


I want my students to soak up what a main character has to offer, to go further than simply noticing a change by the end of the book. I want my students to go along on the character's journey, to track it closely, and to be affected by it.

And here's a lesson that tries to address all of that.

My third graders and I were doing a second-reading of a piece of historical fiction from our basal-anthology. While students reread the story in partners, I had them use sticky notes to mark three places where the main character, Hans, had an opportunity to make a decision. (I say "opportunity" because sometimes the failure to make a decision can tell as much about a character as actually making a decision.)


Then we used simple tri-fold mini-booklets to record these events and to develop some thinking about them. To make the mini-booklet, I pre-cut plain paper in half length-wise. I gave each student one piece and we folded it into thirds. On the front cover, we wrote "The 'Inside Journey' of Hans."


On the inside flap, I had students draw a portrait of the main character during an important part of the story.


With the booklet opened up all the way, students used the three blank sections to explain the events from the story where Hans had an opportunity to make a decision (using their sticky notes for reference). Students followed this up by explaining what each opportunity showed about Hans. In the example below, you can see the student's third explanation ends with, "This shows he kind of overcame his fear."


With the booklets completed, we then really dug into Hans' "inside journey." We discussed the three events we chose and what Hans showed us through his actions. By having their booklets opened up and looking across it, students were really able to see how Hans had grown over the course of the story. It turned out to be a great tool for our discussion of Hans' journey.

I'm not claiming Hans to be the second coming of Tom Joad. In the grand scheme of great characters, young Hans probably won't be too memorable. But hopefully the exercise in tracking his journey will be.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...