I teach 7th grade Language Arts. This is my first year. If you've taught at all, you know those words are pregnant - ready-to-pop pregnant.
State assessments are about a month away. All the material that I haven't taught yet is pointing a fat finger at me, and all the lessons that flopped over the last few months are rolling around on the ground laughing their heads off. (Would my students be able to pick out the figurative language I've used in this post so far? Ah, good question.)
So, what will I do with the month that's left? abcsdefgnnjhijkjkkklnmnloopqrstuvvvvvvwxyz. (Just a brief interlude by my son who's learning his letters. It probably won't be the last.) Where was I? One month to go, right.
For Christmas I received a book called The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller. And, wow, I was so convicted about my methods up to that point in the school year, that I'm now (as of yesterday) taking much advice from the book. Miller is an experienced 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Texas, as well as a consultant with the North Star of Texas Writing Project. (Article about Miller here, her blog here.) The gist in one sentence: in order to improve reading, wait for it, students have to read (cue light bulb above head). The simplicity gets you, no? Especially since I KNEW that already. Because, as a reader, even as a student-reader who hated assigned reading, I know that I still loved to read the books I wanted to read.
Independent reading with instruction that will help students engage their own books - that's what the rest of the school year will be like in my classroom.
And even though the state assessment just might make me puke before it's all said and done, I will push for the end of the year goal of 20 books per student. I'm gonna do it too. And maybe, just maybe, I'll inspire some non-readers to become readers, and some already-readers to read better and better literature.