Slice of Reading Life in Room 5

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hTuesday. I love this day because it is a day I get to write for Slice of Life. I probably wouldn’t write if it didn’t exist. Because, you know I’m busy, busy start of school. But oh how much this process and processing does matter. Thank you Tara, Dana, Stacey, Anna, Betsy, and Beth of Two Writing Teachers for hosting a this day. Read others and add your own slice here.

At dinner last night my husband asked me about my day.  I talk about my students. How funny they are. How much I like them. Last night I didn’t have much to say. Not because I had changed my feelings about them, quite the opposite. I felt like the day wasn’t good enough for them and told him as much. Frankly I told him, I was bored with myself.

“Good thing there is a tomorrow,” he said.

So true. Then I thought on the reading rhythm of the day, and I revised my thinking, as I thought about the get to know you conferences from the day.

The “I’m not sure what to make of it” reading conference:

Me: So I see you are almost done with Super Chicken Nugget Man (a classic). Can you tell me a little of your thinking?

We have been talking a lot about character. How what characters do, say, think are windows to the types of people they are.

AG: Hmmm. Well I think the character’s name is Fern.

Me: Oh…

AG: Let me look.

We flip through the pages together. It looks like Fern is Super Chicken Man in disguise. I can understand some of his confusion. Perhaps it’s the secret identity that’s got him confused.  At one point, we agree Fern and Super Chicken Man must be one in the same. But later he comes back to me saying it can’t be he same character.

Me: Hmm…  But how does that fit with what came early on in the book? When he tell us he is Super Chicken Man.

AG: Do you want me to figure it out?

Me: Well I’m confused and I’m wondering about it. Confusion needs to be paid attention to. It needs to tell you something.  How might you deal with this?

AG: OK. I’ll look back.

He wasn’t pleased. I make a note to check up with him tomorrow.

The quick conference that works the way you want it to:

Me: Hey, M how’s Origami Yoda. Could you share one of your jots with me?

MT: Hmm. I’m not the kind of reader who jots.

Me: Ok, I see. Are you the kind of reader who talks about reading.

MT: Oh yeah!

He went on to tell me all about Derek and his thinking about him. Clearly he had ideas and the book was working for him. But clearly we needed to up his work, knowing he will need to put some of his thinking  on a page some day soon. We work a bit together. I leave an artifact to work from and make a note to check in tomorrow.

The unexpected conference at the end of Readers Workshop:

BG: Mrs. Harmatz this is kind of a hard book.

She shows me Paperboy.

Me: (thinking, hmm maybe too early in the year for this) Tell me why.

BG: It’s hard to know who is talking.

Me: (l look at the text) Oh because there are no dialogue tags and no quotation marks.

BG: Yeah, I mean I get the why there aren’t many commas. Because he doesn’t like them because of his stutter. But…

Me: (wow, wow, I can’t believe she’s noticing this) Wow I hadn’t noticed that. (And I hadn’t.) You really make me think. Do you think there are no quotation marks on purpose? Do you think that it’s like the commas?

BG: Yeah maybe because he doesn’t like to talk.

Me: We’ll I’m reading my copy tonight. Do you think you can understand it without the dialogue tags?

BG: Sure!

Me: Ok, what are you reading tonight.

BG: I’ll read about 50 pages, maybe more. Can you keep up?

The as the bell rings conference:

MM: Mrs. Harmatz, I LOVE THIS BOOK.

PLEASE NOTE: This comes from a STRUGGLING READER. My strugglers, and I have quite a few, are those who want to do well, but something is in their way. For some it’s processing, some it’s focus, some language, some it’s a mix of all of the above. But they don’t struggle as thinkers. They struggle in traditional text at their reading level that do not hold their attention–probably because they aren’t engaging a 10 year old mind. These readers who struggle all have their heads down and are immersed in the worlds of AMULET, The Warriors, Bone and Dragonbreath. One student told me he read his book four times. Engagement, yes. Close reading you bet! Time to look closely at the power of graphic novels.

Me: YOU made my day.


11 thoughts on “Slice of Reading Life in Room 5

  1. Okay, so I’m really trying to go to sleep before midnight here, but CAN’T because your slice is SO engaging! LOVE this reflection on your conferences. Fascinating isn’t it how you can walk away from a day of teaching like this with the feeling of disappointment with your teaching, but upon reflecting see how truly powerful the day was. You were there to support, listen, prod and celebrate with your students…now just 5 days into their 5th grade year. Yay you, Yay them. Looks like a year full of wild reading! Congratulations. 🙂

  2. I love your posts!! I’m so glad you’re here. The line that will stick with me…the one I get…is this, my struggling readers, “…don’t struggle as thinkers.” It’s so true. Time & time again I’ve seen evidence of this as well. Hmmm, I love how you make me think! 🙂

  3. Often the reading also is far beyond the writing ability. They have much to say, but it’s not easy to write down all those thoughts. I love all the examples of different students, Julieanne, and the way you talked with them. I hope you’ll continue to share every few weeks so we can see the students changes, and I’m sure growth will happen. You’re so right, hard to get back into that rhythm.

  4. Glad you had all these experiences, so you could share them with us. Like Dayna said, “upon reflecting (you) see how truly powerful the day was”. This was important for you, but also for everyone else who struggles with those challenging moments. It’s only the beginning of the school year! Thanks for sharing the YES! but also the challenging moments.

  5. I like the format you used for this slice – giving a glimpse of the conferences, showing how things are, not just picking the perfect ones, and finishing with positive.

  6. Two phrases that stick with me:
    “Good thing there is a tomorrow.”
    But they don’t struggle as thinkers.
    I think things are off to a great start, my friend. You are listening, you are there…and they know.

  7. Your students are so lucky, Julieanne! Your reflections are so insightful, even after knowing these kids only a short time. Looking forward to reading more about your journey with them this year!

  8. Julieanne,
    How quickly you can capture the essence of a reader and a reading conference – what a skill AND an art! Your thinking added to your students’ thinking = Powerful learning all the way around! “They don’t struggle as thinkers!” = a statement to be etched in stone!!!

  9. I was catching up on blogs today and this post actually made me want to go to work (which doesn’t start for me till next week—when I’ll see you)! The ranges of these conferences was wonderful and I hope it’s okay if I use that line that Fran & Tara also noticed—that the so-called strugglers don’t struggle with thinking—because it’s so very true and so often overlooked.

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