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.




11 thoughts on “Celebrate Students and Books: How Much Better Can it Get?

  1. I imagine it must be tough to sit back and watch your students, but you intentionally allow them to work through their reading choices independently. This transfer of power is just as it should be so that your students become readers.

    • It is tough to sit back, and I’m constantly struggling with what is the best choice. At some point, I believe, they need to have to make these choices. This year I’ve allowed them a lot of control. As long as I keep a dialogue going, I can help them along when they’re unsure.

  2. I don’t think it can get any better, except as they grow and learn to be even more reflective and make more decisions for themselves. Your patient ability to watch and let be is admirable, Julieanne. I love hearing the stories.

  3. Thinking back to the start of the year, would your students have been so comfortable making the adjustments in their learning as they did this week? I doubt it. They have grown because of the learning community you created for them. Truly a celebration!

  4. “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.” I love your insight here for moving from novel read alouds to picture books. Much to celebrate in this post about powerful and thoughtful readers in your classroom.

  5. This is amazing. I would so love to spend a day in your classroom, witnessing all this magic. Thank you for sharing another snapshot and celebration from your classroom.

  6. I can feel your joy in your words. We have mixed grade level book groups and choosing books is often the hardest part, To grow student understanding of themselves and acceptance of differences takes time. It would be so easy to step in and tell the students what to do, but the patience, letting them learn from their own experiences, is vital for them to become independent and reflective readers. Wishing you many book love moments next week!

  7. I love reading this! You are empowering your students to take charge of their learning. Choice is so incredibly important for them, I think. It is clear from their interactions with each other that you have created an environment where there us safety – students are feeling safe being able to ask for things from each other that they need. My hat is off to you – this is something I am striving for and just hoping – praying – I can get there for my kiddos.

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