Celebrate Students and Books: How Much Better Can it Get?


celebrate link upThis week, I celebrate students’ understanding of each other and themselves. My students formed their book clubs about a month ago. They found their friends and found books.  Student reading clubs can be complicated. Friends don’t always match up when it comes to books. When I let them choose their reading partners, I knew there would be adjustments. This week students made some.

T,  J,  and L sat on the carpet looking for a book. They picked up Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere. T wanted it. J didn’t. L was quiet.

J said, “I really don’t feel comfortable with this book, Mrs. Harmatz.”

Before I could ask why,  L said, “I can understand why  J doesn’t feel good with this book, there are a lot of difficult words.”

I was so impressed with L’s understanding and kindness.  J was reaching way out of her comfort zone to be with her friends. This week, J decided the book club choice didn’t fit her.  I was so proud of J’s understanding of herself and her courage to do what is best for her.  For the moment, J has stepped away from this club. She still is a part of their read aloud talk, their debate work, their writing discussions. Just not this book.

This week, I celebrate students who are readers, not levels. After leaving her club, J chose Because of Winn Dixie to read on her own. It’s above her benchmarked level. I told her I’d be her partner.  I could support and monitor her. After reading, she came to me with her thoughts and questions. Her takeaway was on track, but what was better were her questions; what she identified as “the trouble”. She knew and noticed where it got hard; where she needed coaching.

This week, I celebrate students’ flexibility. My students love to talk. Quiet can be hard to find in a small classroom with 29 other fifth graders. We have to work at it. To settle. To get comfortable. And sometimes we move to find that space.

This week, A was on the carpet, on his stomach reading his book when M walked up to him, nudged him and whispered in his ear. A got up and walked with his book back to his table. I didn’t say anything but wondered, what was that? So later, I asked.  M responded, “I knew I’d do better on the carpet alone, so I asked him to trade with me.”

This week I celebrate picture books. I closed the One and Only Ivan on page 36 and picked up Last Stop on Market Street.


When I set aside our long and lovely chapter book for picture book consumption, some of my students moaned, “What about Ivan!?”

No worries I told them.
“You can finish up Ivan in your clubs. We have met all the characters; now you can take it over.”

I’m thinking this is the way we will be moving on for a while.

I’ve made this decision for many reasons.

I want my students to…

  • experience the development of all the story elements daily
  • reread (again and again) a whole text with multiple lenses
  • see craft moves readily
  • find the power of words
  • notice what is not present
  • write from the images and ideas the text presents
  • have the opportunity to think deeply and carefully about a text
  • reach beyond the what-is-going-to-happen-next thinking
  • experience as many books as possible in the course of our time together
  • build, build, build literary knowledge

My students are in many places and spaces in their books. I want our read aloud to bleed into their reading lives. The more we can read through a text from beginning to end, the more likely we are to hit just what a student might connect to or need. Working together, working alone, thinking deeper.

This week, I celebrate being with students who are learning how to be readers, how to make choices for themselves, how to work together, how to work alone, and all the books that help them get there.

How much better can it get?

This week, I celebrate with Ruth Ayers and others at her blog. Find other celebrations here.