Just finished The Book Whisperer and want to go back and read it again. It must be my year to revisit things I did in my first years of teaching. Like Awakening the Heart, this book reminds me of things I used to do and the passion I had for teaching reading and writing that I have some how lost over the last decade. I think it coincides with becoming Head Teacher. Maybe now I feel comfortable enough in that role to be a teacher again!
I loved the book so much I sent Donalyn an email , and I seldom do that. I have already culled my home shelves for old favourites for a class library and plan to raid the stored boxes of books in the shed for more. I’m planning how I am going to get some shelves into my room and a trip into town to check out the Op shops for more books. And I’m not going to spend Term 1 doing Naplan practice! I have a secret desire that my seniors will start asking to borrow the books when they are surrounded by them and plan to have some space devoted to Related Texts for Belonging and History and Memory.
PS if you are interested in resources I have set myself the goal of adding a resource/lesson plan to the Lesson Plan page every week. My first offering is a workbook on the play Two Weeks with the Queen. It’s not your usual kind of workbook so have look and feel free to adapt. Created for Year 7 in 2011, it worked well with my very noisy, energetic, lively Gen z-y (my term for those on the ‘cusp’)
Another great read. I got my copy of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller this week and am about half way through. The author’s commitment to creating lifelong readers is reflected in her enthusiasm and ideas for taking our love of reading into the English classroom. It confirms my own belief in the value of a free choice reading programme and providing time for kids to read in class. I am planning a rebuilding of free choice reading in class in our faculty plans for this year and Miller is helping to shape how I might do that. Her description of the ‘underground reader’, a student who is already an avid reader and just wants to get on with the current book brought back memories of hiding a book in my desk in primary school and reading it in my lap when I had finished other work or while waiting for my turn to read the next section of ‘The School Magazine’ which we read aloud in class. I couldn’t help thinking back to last years Year 7 that definitely had a few underground readers. For some reason I didn’t get our reading off the ground until later in the year. How they must have suffered!
Miller sets a goal of 40 books a year for students and reading across a range of genres. The high expectation generated by this goal and the use of genre to support the work in key units are ideas I plan to take into my reading programmes this year.
I have just finished reading Awakening the Heart by poet Georgia Heard. I enjoyed it very much and I think she would be delighted that her book has re-awakened my joy in reading and writing poetry with students. Something I feel I haven’t done a lot of, over the last few years, and something I always loved as a young teacher. I think a love of poetry is what led me into teaching English.
Georgia’s book is about the importance of bringing kids to poetry in a positive way and for them to learn that poetry is ‘food for all’. She says, “One of the most important life lessons that writing and reading poetry can teach our students is to help them reach their well of feelings — their emotional lives– like no other form of writing can”. Right now, I think that is a really important and significant goal for our current students, and goes to the heart of the debates about subject English. There are many wonderful ideas and inspiring stories in her book that make you want to go into the class room right now and begin. A book to add to the very best books all English teachers should read.
One of my personal favourites from the book is the Living Anthology Project, where kids choose and place poems where people will read them, like waiting in line at the canteen or at the office, or for the bus. Inspired by the Poetry in Motion project, it made me think about the ways we traditionally teach poetryand how to turn our poetry teaching into project based learning. My idea is that this year we ask year 7 to create their own poetry project which might be a Living Anthlogy project or could take some other form.
English teachers tend to love books, and I am no exception. When it comes to buying school related books, most teachers seem to buy the books that they can use directly in the classroom. The textbook kind. I am not a great fan of these books and my clean up of my resources and shelves has led me back to books I have collected over the years that inspired me in all kinds of ways. The kinds of professional reading I like are the books that go to the heart of teaching, about how and why and invariably they are books that make me rethink what I do and lead me to some kind of creative innovation, taking me beyond the writer’s ideas into my own, like Teaching Literature: Nine to Fourteen (Benton and Fox) and If you’re trying to teach kids how to write, you’ve gotta have this book! (Marjorie Frank). These are books worth sharing with beginning English teachers, because these books will help them re frame their theories about what teachers do and what English teaching is all about. May be you have some other suggestions?