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!

Focusing on the “I’d rather…” readers December 15, 2009

In Janet Allen’s book Yellow Brick Roads: Shared and Guided Paths to Independent Reading 4-12, she uses the term “I’d rather” readers to describe the kids in our classes who score proficient on reading tests and are good readers, but would much rather be engaging in other activities besides reading.  The past month I’ve really been focusing my efforts on my I’d rather readers.  Reflecting on them and similiar readers I’ve had in the past, I’ve noticed that they all have two common characteristics.  First, they’re all boys.  The second is that they all see the value in being “efficient”.  They are not lazy or careless in their studies, they are just focused on meeting goals in the most efficient way possible.  Somehow, reading does not seem to fit into their “efficiency” equation. 

During parent conferences last month, I had an in-depth conversation with the mother of one of these boys.  She  expressed a desire to see her son read more at home.  She told me that it is a nightly battle to get him to read.  During our conversation, I could sense her frustration.  The next week, her son and I sat down to have a post-reading conference on the book The Lightning Thief, which was recommended to him by a friend.   He was so excited to share about this book.  He was able to tell me, in vivid detail, about the characters, conflict and themes.  He was able to explain why he would recommend this book to others.  He was so fired up about it, and couldn’t wait to start The Sea of Monsters, the second book in the series.

After that conference, I began to notice a change in him as a reader.  During Independent Reading, he was actually reading.  Sometimes during English, I would catch him with the book under his desk trying to sneak in a few words here and there when he thought I wasn’t looking.  He became more in tune to our class novel, The Cay.  He would engage in more conversation about the class book, asking questions, predicting and putting in his two cents about his thoughts on the novel.  I even caught him sticking around on his break to peruse our class library! 

This week I plan on calling his mom to see if she’s seen a change at home.  Based on a couple of comments he’s made at school, I suspect it may still be somewhat of a battle on the homefront, but I am looking forward to reporting the changes I’m seeing at school.  I think she’ll be pleased.

Had I continued to teach reading the way I have over the past three years, this student would have continued to be an “I’d rather” reader this year.  I am confident that the decision to include more independent reading time and book sharing, as well as  focusing on matching books to readers made a difference with this kid.  The changes I’ve made in my class culture have provided an avenue for me to catch the kids passing through that may be good readers, but don’t think reading is good.  I caught this one, and I’m hoping to catch more!


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!