Friday, March 6, 2009

The cycle of reading

School has been a whirlwind of stress and a mountain of work lately (with the obvious exception of our glorious snow day). For one thing, our unit of study this month is "series book clubs." No one has done book clubs in second grade before -- typically they don't start until third grade -- let alone book clubs centered around books that come in a series. It is next to impossible to find quality series books below level J, and even those that we did manage to scrounge up (Maisy is an H, Rigby Brand New Readers come in levels A-E, Nicky is allegedly an F although this website lists it under "picture books for 2-5 years old" :::buries head in hands:::) don't really give my readers much to converse about in their book clubs.

I don't mean to whine, but book clubs generate a huge amount of work for me. Each of my five classes has three separate book clubs (based on reading level), and each student in each book club is supposed to read the same pages in the same book each day, so I have to figure out how many pages to assign them, and because the books are fairly short, they're going through them fairly quickly, which means I have to keep doling out more books and trying to keep up with who's reading what and when. Even though I tried to make it easier on myself and assign the same series to multiple clubs (I think I have every single copy of every Henry and Mudge book in the school), and even though I'm forcing my lower readers to read the same book multiple times just so I won't run out of books altogether, I've still had to be hyper-organized to keep it all straight. Why, why, why do we have to launch experimental book clubs in March, the longest and dreariest month of the school year? And why do we have to do it with running records and assessments coming up next week? I don't know how we're supposed to listen in on their book club talks when we're also supposed to be doing running records...and don't even get me started on the fact that our teaching points are the same old "Readers infer by paying attention to characters' actions, how they speak to each other, blah blah blah BLAH," and meanwhile we're not doing any teaching points on how they should actually behave in their book clubs -- like how about looking at the speaker when he or she is talking, or not interrupting when someone else is talking but instead waiting to say, "I have something to add to what ___ said" or "What ____ said reminds me of..." These are all critical things that I need to be teaching them in order to have a successful book club conversation, but instead of teaching them during my mini lesson I'm struggling to sneak them in elsewhere.

It's all especially ridiculous because technically I'm supposed to be invisible during the book club talk, but instead I'm totally breaking in because hello, they're in second grade, they don't know how to organize and run their own book club. Supposedly we're doing this to prepare them for third grade book clubs, but as far as I can see there's nothing really modified about what we're doing -- we're doing the same third grade version of book clubs without really preparing them to be ready for it.

Book clubs are also stressing me out because in some ways they really highlight the gap between my struggling readers and the average and above average readers in the grade. Even though a lot of my readers have made tremendous progress during the year, and even though some of them are doing really well, it's still disheartening to be in the same classroom with kids who are all, "I infer that my character is feeling glum" while my kids are all :::blank stare:::

Meanwhile, my new student who speaks no English cries all day long, and it is the saddest thing ever. I have him paired up with another Spanish speaker who speaks a pretty good amount of English now, and I have a Spanish/English speaker to translate for him during the mini lesson, but he is still sad and misses his mom and constantly asks when it will be time to go home. Today during my mini lesson the other kids were asking why he was crying, and we got into a discussion about what it's like to be new in a place where you don't speak the language. One of my beginner ELLs confessed, "When I come here, I so scared, I only know yes, no." And I said to her, "And now you talk so much in English I have to tell you to be quiet!" It did make me realize how far some of my ELLs have come; I remember a few of them from first grade when they didn't speak any English at all, and now they are D and E readers.

Coming up next: running records, assessments, report cards, parent/teacher conferences, and book clubs -- many, many more book clubs. Is it April yet?

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