Saturday, January 24, 2009

More books for more boys

This week I sat down with William and introduced him to the collection of books I'd gotten for him at the public library. I put them all in a bin in his classroom that I labeled "Miss Brave's Books for William" and told him he could choose books from that bin to read during our independent reading time. During lunch that day, William's teacher came to my office and reported: "Whatever's in that bin, he loves it. He keeps walking by it and peeking over and asking to take from it."

Which brings me to Jonathan. Jonathan is in my reading group along with William and in perhaps an even more dire situation. He has also been held over at some point in his life (I think in first grade), and he is still reading at level F. That's maybe middle of first grade level. It's very low.

Jonathan hates reading and is probably less motivated than William. He's also a total drama king and very easily spirals into tantrums and angry outbursts during reading. If someone accidentally steps on his books on the way to the mini lesson, for instance, he'll react in an angry huff and pull his sweatshirt over his head. If he is playing with something during the lesson and I ask him to please put it away, he will first (1) deny he was doing anything wrong, (2) blame the wrongdoing on someone else, and then (3) retreat into a corner behind a bookshelf, where he will put his hands over his ears and pull his sweatshirt over his head. Jonathan is always the victim, always the wronged party, and always full of excuses as to why he isn't making good choices. (Jonathan also became a big brother this year after eight years of being an only child, and the transition has not been easy, to say the least.)

Jonathan was absent the day I had the "what do you like" meeting with William, and as it turns out, he was hugely jealous of William's stockpile of library books. In the twenty minutes it took for me to figure this out, during which time I was futilely attempting to do guided reading with another group, Jonathan had destroyed two book baggies ("Why did you rip apart your book baggie?" "Because I didn't like it") and was working on a third. "I'm not going to read my books until I read them books," he told me, resentfully gesturing to William's books.

Aaaargh. So I resolved to have a meeting with Jonathan. It wasn't easy, because as I didn't want to reward him for ripping apart book baggies rather than approaching me maturely about the problem I had to wait until he made a positive choice in order to pull him aside for the meeting. (Side comment to my administration: Issues like this are why it's virtually impossible to do one guided reading group and one strategy lesson per reading period in addition to the mini lesson and the share, because hello, when children are having total meltdowns I sort of consider that an important issue to address.)

"What would you like to read about?" I asked Jonathan.

"Motorcycles, bikes, airplanes..." Surprise! Sound familiar? In addition, Jonathan added to the list football, basketball, ice skating (...I think he meant ice hockey, not figure skating), dogs, trains, cars, buses and virtually every other form of transportation.

So off I go, back to the public library. This actually dovetails nicely with our next unit on non-fiction, since our school library is so pitiful in the non-fiction department anyway. Now I have to hope I can find non-fiction books on the appropriate level...

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