Can you believe that it is almost CHRISTMAS?! This semester has absolutely flown by. For those of you who don’t know, I teach 8th grade writing and 9th grade English at a choice alternative school (you can read more about my school in my About Jenn section), and I can’t believe that tomorrow is our last day of school before Christmas break!
As I think back on this semester, I’m both amazed at how much my students have learned and grown AND frantic about how much I still need to cram into the second semester. It’s simultaneous feelings of joy and disappointment. My students don’t know any better; they’ve written reflections on how much they feel their writing has improved and how they “actually like reading now,” but little do they know, we still have a loooong way to go!
I started blogging with my students this school year (thanks to Andrea!), and it has been a learning experience for all of us. I am planning to blog next year as well, but looking back I feel that I need a lot more front-loading for students as far as looking at model examples, writing paper blogs (I can never remember where this idea came from, but it’s from a Twitter friend!), and looking at good examples and bad examples of grammar/mechanics used in blog posts. My students are all below level in their reading and writing, but blogging has given them a chance to write for an authentic audience. They really love it, and I think that their writing will improve even more than when we were only “paper-writing” in class.
Another set of tools I introduced this semester was the use of Biblionasium (with my 8th graders) and Goodreads (with my 9th graders), where students can keep track of book they are reading and books they plan to read. We just started with these right after Thanksgiving, so my hope is to extend the use of them during the second semester. I am creating a group within Goodreads where I can post discussion questions for students as they’re reading. There are many groups that teachers have created for their classes, and one teacher was kind enough to allow me to “join” their group so I could see how she was utilizing the feature!
As I looked around my classes while students were taking finals, I could pin a book with each face…either the book they were currently reading or a “THE” book that convinced them reading wasn’t so bad after all. We made reading goals for Christmas break, students (and some teachers) checked out armfulls of books. However, there are still the stragglers that are still bouncing from book to book, not committing, not finishing, still with the “I don’t like to read” mentality. It’s my challenge over Christmas break to try to find a book for each of these dormant readers (as Donalyn Miller calls them in The Book Whisperer). There is a book there for them…I just have to find it.
So I will take the next two weeks of “vacation” and work…work on planning for next semester, for building on the foundation we’ve created, for growing my readers and writers. Because teachers never really have a “break”