Although challenging at times, my first weeks with my new class of 30 wonderful fifth graders have been successful. We're building a community a little bit at time through class meetings, "The I Message," and reading.
My school has a dedicated block schedule where I must devote an hour and a half to the district anthology each day. The anthology has it benefits, such as pre-determined focus skills, mandatory attention to all genres of reading and an exposure to a wide dearth of literature. However, I notice that it doesn't encourage reading for pleasure. Research shows that the more students read, the more their reading ability improves.
Thus, each day, completely separate from my reading block, I schedule reading conferences. This is a time when students read their independent book for 20 minutes or so while I circulate around the room, holding mini-conferences. At this time, I check their reading lists, talk to them about the books they are reading and suggest new books. Some early successes:
- I skipped reading conferences for a few days, due to testing, and found that students had moved the "Important" magnet next to it's slot on the agenda. I have not skipped them since.
- One student loves Inkheart! I just finished this book last week and promptly recommended it to the class. This boy latched on and each day tells me how good the book is. I couldn't agree more. Hopefully more students will love it as well once a copy finds it's way into their hands.
- Our first time taking books to an assembly... happened. I count this as a success because we tried. Some students read while they were waiting for the assembly to start and some chatted with their neighbor. Scanning my class, I did notice the talkers were the ones still fighting reading. I need to focus some attention on these kids to find books they might like.
- My classroom library still looks amazing! Students are able to easily put books back where they belong as a result of the new organization.