My head is spinning, the thoughts are creeping in, ideas seem to be coming from everywhere and it is reaching that critical time…How in the world am I really going to teach reading and writing to my incoming 7th graders? Not the curriculum, that has been taken care of for me, but how am I going to work with it? How am I going to get them excited about it? How am I going to welcome them, get their attention, and then keep it for a whole year of our adventure? How will I bridge the gap between my elementary mindset and their middle school mindset?
So while, I don’t have it all figured out, after all, who really does before the kids show up, I do have some ideas of what we will do to create a great writing/reading experience.
- I brought my library with me. There may not be many other middle school teachers that have this sort of library in my new district, but my books are who I am. Along with it, I brought my rocking chair, my carpet squares, and all of those picture books that mean so much to me. Together we will dive into the library and make it our own. I cannot wait for students to explore it.
- We will start with a picture book. Picture books are the vessels with which so much knowledge can be dispersed. They lure us in with their colorful pages and seemingly easy words, but leave us with deep thoughts and inspiration to write. So we will start with students choosing which book to read aloud. Current contenders include Pete & Pickles, Journey, Sparky!, My Teacher is a Monster, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Chu’s Day, The Story of Fish and Snail, Chalk, It’s a Book, and Unicorn Thinks He is Pretty Great. I hope each class chooses a different one.
- We will discuss the good and the bad. Last year’s lesson on why reading sucks taught me so much about my students and I hope to replicate it in some way this year. While I want to highlight how incredible it is to read and write, I need to acknowledge all of the kids that don’t feel that way. We need to have an honest discussion and we need to put all of our reading and writing demons out there. We cannot move on if we are not honest.
- We will use reflection. I learn so much when the students allow me into their heads so this year we will start with a reading and writing reflection. I may be crazy to think I can do the workshop format with all of my students, but I am going to try. This reflection will serve as our starting point. There has to be a way to get these kids reading, writing, reflecting, and talking. This is how we grow, this is how we learn.
- There will be comics. I have always had some comics in the classroom, but this year I brought more out. I know that some of my students are very reluctant readers and I need to catch them with something. So comics, graphic novels, and books that I may not have thought would fit for 7th grade has been brought along, and they will be pointed out and placed into the hands of students. Whatever it takes to get these kids reading.
- Books read will still be displayed. However, this time it will be on a bulletin board rather than on the door. I really want the focus to be on students’ reading and not mine when people walk by, so it will be our favorite book covers gracing our door rather than just what I have read.
- There will be voice. We start with short stories and I was reminded of the art of story telling by a friend. I need to see where students are as writers before we can set goals and short stories lends itself perfectly to this. Students will be encouraged to create one of their own, using a medium they are comfortable with. We will focus on telling their story rather than all of the heavy editing, that will come a little bit later as we start to grow, set goals, and become mindful writers.
- We will be global readers. We will be reading “One for the Murphy’s” as part of this year’s Global Read Aloud. I cannot wait to see the students connect with others as they think about this book and its powerful theme of redemtion, love, and finding one’s place within the world.
- I will share my reading and writing life. I will continue to prominently display what I am reading, but new this year, I will also display what I am writing. I think it is easier for us to show off our reading because kids expect us to read, but do they know us as writers? I think it will be powerful for the students to see that I write all the time and for a variety of reasons. Hopefully, this will spark discussion as well.
- Non-fiction will have a home. John T. Spencer inspired me when he discussed how we as adults forget that we read non-fiction all the time, yet it seems to warp itself into a textbook centered beast in our classroom. So this year I will embrace non-fiction even more. Not to forgo the wonders of fiction, but to help students understand how much non-fiction text they are already surrounded by and to realize that this counts as reading as well.
Of course, this is not it. There will be more as my thoughts settle and I get into the classroom and see what else I can do. But it’s a start and I am excited, and that to me means more than anything right now. What ideas can you not wait to implement?
I am a passionate teacher in Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.