Hunting for Treasure

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."–Walt Disney

The Power of book boosts… April 2, 2010

If you teach middle school aged kids, then you know that the greatest motivator for them is their peers.  If I didn’t know that before, I certainly know it after incorporating book boosts into my daily routine.
Back in September, one of the first books I boosted was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  After my boost, I thought for sure I would have kids checking out my  two copies of the book.  But guess what?  Not a single kid wanted to check it out!  I couldn’t believe it!  This book was so popular the world around, but apparently not in my class.  Over the next few months, I recommended it to kids seeking advice for a new book to read, but to no avail.  I couldn’t get anyone interested!
Finally, in February, I noticed one of my boys pull The Hunger Games off the shelf and check it out.  He began reading, and zoomed through the fast-paced novel in three days.  Upon finishing it, he signed up for a book boost and shared it with the class.  Well, I suppose you can predict the effect of that book boost…within a day I had a waitlist for the book!  I had to go out and buy a couple more copies just to so I could stop hearing, “How much longer until I can check out The Hunger Games?”  from my class.  Patience is not in my students’ vocabulary when it comes to waiting for a good book!
My experience with The Hunger Games reminded me that even the best books need a little boosting, and the most qualified to do it are the kids.  The most popular books in my class library are the ones that the students recommend to one another.  Because of this, I reserve about five minutes each day for boosting books.  Those five minutes are invaluable to me.
By the way, I now have a waiting list for Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games!  The third book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, arrives in August 2010!

Tuck Everlasting and literary elements-post-reading activity March 30, 2010

One of the novels we read as a whole class this year was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.  This is such a beautifully written novel.  It is a wonderful book to use for teaching theme, foreshadowing and conflict.  It’s also an excellent example of how an author effectively uses figurative language.

As a post-reading activity, I placed the class into small groups of 3, and gave each group a different literary element to represent through a poster.  The groups used their chapter summary maps (something I discovered in a Fountas and Pinnell book, Guiding Readers and Writers) to help them, as well as their notes on the literary elements.  After they were finished with their posters, each group presented to the class.

This was one of those impromptu activities that popped into my mind, and it turned out to be a great success.  It was simple, but worthwhile. It was a good way to review the story, and what I really liked about it was that my students had to refer to the notes they had been taking throughout the reading to complete the assignment.  I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but my students are still learning how to use their resources, so the requirement of having to go back and use their notes was good reinforcement for them.  As I was rotating to visit with groups, I was impressed with their dialogue with regard to the novel and their assigned literary element.  I was able to gauge who understood and who was struggling.  I will definitely use this as a post-reading activity again!  Maybe I will change it up by offering the groups an option to present in another format besides a poster, such as a skit or a poem.

Click on the link below to see a few of the finished products that made it home with me over the weekend!


Historical Fiction-top picks in my class March 14, 2010

This quarter, as part of my students’ independent reading assignments, they are expected to read at least one book from the historical fiction genre.  At first, this news was met with many groans and complaints.  But with a few book boosts from our school librarian and myself, my kids were able to discover that maybe historical fiction isn’t so bad.  Here are a few of the most popular titles I’ve seen kids reading:

* The Dear America/My Name is America Series by Scholastic
series of historical fiction.  Just about every kid in my class has found at least one title in this series that’s piqued their interest.  Here are the titles from the series I’ve seen kids reading

*Where Have all the Flowers Gone?  The Diary of Molly McKenzie Flaherty

*The Journal of Jesse Smoke, A Cherokee Boy, The Trail of Tears, 1838

*The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty, United States Marine Corps, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968

* So Far From Home, The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl, 1847

Other popular titles being read include:

*The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle

* Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf

* Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

*Sunrise Over Fallujah and Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

* The Secret School by Avi

* The Captain’s Dog:  My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Elephant Run by Roland Smith

* Incantation by Alice Hoffman

* Washington City is Burning by Harriette Gillem Robinette

* Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

*Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

* The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

* Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan

I don’t have a huge selection of historical fiction in my class, so requiring the students to read from this genre was an extra push to get them into our school library.   I’m happy that I chose historical fiction as an expectation this quarter.  The students discovered that there are THOUSANDS of titles to choose from, and that historical fiction doesn’t just have to be about war.  As a result, I’ve seen kids opting for historical fiction as one of their three free choice book selections!


exhausted but excited—parent conferences a SUCCESS! November 5, 2009

thumbs upIt’s 7:30, and I just got home from night two of parent conferences.  My team partner and I had about 60% of our kids represented….that’s terrific for middle school!  As exhausted as I am, I’m also excited about how well conferences went.  My efforts on teaching my kids how to choose books for themsleves, as well as my focus on matching books to kids has been working!  I had a number of parents comment on how they’ve noticed changes in their child’s attitude about reading.  They’ve noticed more reading at home and requests for purchasing specific titles.  I was so happy to get this news, and motivated to continue on the path I’ve been on.  I still have a few nuts to crack, but tonight I received a lot of feedback from parents on possible ways to do the “cracking”!  I also plan  to reread the advice Janet Allen gives about the “I’d rather” and “I don’t care” readers in Yellow Brick Roads:  Shared and Guided Paths to Independent Reading 4-12.  It is my goal to guide my “I’d rather” and “I don’t care” readers into a love for reading.  It can be done!