Archive for Teaching

THIS is why I teach . . .

It’s really not cool — not at all — to cry in front of 8th graders.  So I didn’t.  But today I came mighty close.  Today was the last reading of Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue, a novel I chose carefully as our debut read aloud for the year.  As we gathered on the carpet, Reader’s Notebooks ready for response, I proceeded to read the last two chapters.  It was magically quiet as we stepped inside Tess and Aaron’s world for one last summer day.  I read the last sentence in its brilliant three word simplicity, then closed the book reverently.  Silence — for a good 2-3 seconds (which can seem really long) — followed by spontaneous, heartfelt applause.  Eighth graders generously clapping at the end of a read aloud.  Just because.

It’s a privilege to share story with kids, even “big kids.” And it’s a pleasure when I observe teen readers already picking up Ms. Lord’s Rules because they know and trust this author will deliver a good read.

Silvya already asked what I was going to read next.  I don’t know.  For now, I’ll linger in the afterglow of this book for a few days, knowing the commitment of time for read aloud and response has been rewarded.

Don’t let anyone tell you 8th graders are too old to succumb to story!

A few more pleasures . . .

Some day, when I return to Bellingham, I hope I’ll remember unexpected pleasures such as these:

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA— “I love you, Katniss!” shouted at the top of his lungs by 13-year-old Siddhanth (better known as Sid) as he lunged off the Tower and plunged into the sea at Telunas a week ago.  This is a kid who not only devoured The Hunger Games trilogy, he bravely admitted to the entire class that he read–and loved–all of the Twilight books (which set off quite a commotion — and permission for a few of my other guys to admit they read ’em too!).  Sid is an avid reader, a gifted poet, and he lights up a stage as an actor/actress (as we discovered during skit night at Telunas when he stole the show performing a female-jive version of Little Red Riding Hood).  Sid’s a gutsy kid who’s earning acceptance for his unique talents — I’m fortunate he’s in my class.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA— Catching Mallari under my desk when I returned from lunch.  When I asked what she was doing, she sheepishly admitted she’d “stolen” our one-and-only copy of Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue because she needed to find out what was happening to Aaron and Tess, the main characters. Don’t (ever) let anyone tell you that 8th graders are too old to listen to a story, especially one with characters they care about.  Yesterday afternoon as I hustled to return a book to the library minutes before class, another student stopped me on the stairs:  “Are you going to read Touch Blue today?”  Our ritual in RLA 8 is the read aloud three times a week — but now that we’re just six chapters from the end, they want more.  How satisfying is that?


There’s an “Eclipse” at SAS

The first week of 8th grade is now history, but not without an eventful debut assembly of the year.  I can’t remember the last time I attended a middle school assembly (probably when I was in junior high) but I highly recommend doing so.  That is, if you enjoy off-the-wall energy, ear-splitting screaming, and the sight (and sound) of Brass on Bikes (middle school teachers riding unicycles and playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on trumpets).  All while wearing wigs, tiger-striped pants, and oversized sunglasses.  Got the picture?  And, if that act didn’t bring down the house, the big-screen viewing of the “Eclipse” trailer followed by an “SAS Eclipse” skit, followed by the arrival of a life-sized cutout of Jacob left me near tone deaf.  Clearly Jacob is “the one” for Bella, according to SAS middle school girls.  While their screams echoed off the gym walls, the boys rolled their eyes, plugged their ears, and looked either bemused — or downright disgusted.  Talk about response!  [I wish I could’ve bottled this — or captured it on video — to show my students at Western.  Especially those who scoffed at the “invitation” to read Twilight in our young adult literature class.  The culture of today’s teens (and pre-teens) includes vampires — and a thunderous obsession for Jacob Black, whether adults like it or not.]

What an ending to a memorable week learning from 8th graders!  In only five days we’ve created our Reader’s Notebooks (displayed below are Wooho’s and Riko’s notebook covers) and we’ve written two response entries to the read aloud, Touch Blue (Cynthia Lord’s new novel).

Wooho's RN

Riko's RNWe’ve also worked on the covers for our Writer’s Notebooks, designing heart maps (see Shiv and Kyle hard at work in the photo below) that we’ll use next week to generate ideas for the first extended writing pieces in our notebooks.  The kids’ abilities, interests, and energy is all over the map (SAS is a “real school,” after all!).

But they’ve been engaged and they’re learning the rituals and expectations of our reading and writing workshop in the 8th grade.  My hope is that they’ll soon experience the rewards as readers/writers/learners, if they haven’t already.