Friday night has arrived:  artichoke and spinach pizza from our own local Shakespeare's Pizza, one Henry cat cuddled in my lap, and I just finished Jennifer E. Smith's lovely book, the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.:  happy, sweet, romantic and full of life lessons about love of all kinds.  My head is swimming with kids I'll recommend it to.

This week was our first week back at school after two weeks off for Winter Break.   I was ready, gung-ho really, to get started, getting kids back in books, getting all my new students settled into a routine, and trying out my learning from Kylene Beers' and Bob Probst's new book Reading Nonfiction:  Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies.  Parts worked really well.

If I didn't mention before, I teach a high school reading class, filled with a mix of 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders.  It's required for students who struggle with reading and are doing poorly in other classes, especially English.  Sadly, most of my kids are not excited to be in my class. Understandable, really.

I don't let that bother me, though, because I know magic will take place in my room.  I saw it in December when I had them add up all the pages they had read across first semester.  "Ms.  Hagen!  I read 1,600 pages!"  With looks of disbelief, they realize they had become readers, something they never thought would happen.

Back to the parts that worked...

First, my students are in books!  Predictably, the new students were full of "I don't read books," and "There are no books I like."  I do love a challenge.  We did a Book Tasting the first day - I put bins of books on each group of desks and challenged them all to find 10 books they might consider reading, and then I turned them loose.  It amazes me to watch every single time.  The grumbling soon turns to small bursts of "I read that book!" and "This one was really good!" and before we know it, they've scoured four bins and almost every kid has ten or more books written down.  I even had a table of boys hiding the books they wanted so no one else would "steal" them.  I love my job.

The second success was introducing nonfiction stance from Reading Nonfiction.  We talked about the definitions of fiction and nonfiction and how "real" and "true" don't tell the whole story of nonfiction.  This led to great conversations about who gets to tell history and the presidential elections.  We also talked about how people read fiction and nonfiction differently.  Finally, we practiced "What surprised you?" Such a simple question that led to actual conversation!  I realized that this work will be slower than I thought, not because students don't understand, but because they need time to explore, process and redefine their ways of thinking about nonfiction.  Thank you, Kylene and Bob!  It was the best start to a nonfiction unit I can remember.

The part that didn't go so well YET was the new kids settling into a routine.  That will take some time.  It was, however,  a great reminder of how far the rest of my students have come since August.  I said everyone found a book.  That is true.  It is also true that I had one boy about to cry when I said we would be reading a full 20 minutes, and no, they couldn't have any tech breaks.  Another girl looked absolutely stunned when I asked her t tell me a book that she read any time in the past that she remembered liking.  "Really," she said.  "I've never read a book I liked."  They just don't know what they're in for.

The last joy of my week came today when Kara, a student I had two years ago, came back to see me. "Do you need another book?" I asked her.
     "No," she said, "not yet.  I just wanted to tell you though, that I'm halfway through Love and Leftovers.  It's so good, and  I am going to need another one soon, so can you have one ready?"
    "I've got just the book," I told her, "I'll finish it this weekend."

This from a kid who didn't read, wouldn't read, hated books.  WAS. NOT. A. READER.
Did I mention I love my job?

Happy Friday!


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