June planning is half of the reason I still live in New York. The time at the end of the year when my department at work reflects on the past year and begins making plans for the next. I suppose it’s a sign that I’m in the right profession, because every year the idea of re-imagining how to help kids love reading and writing is incredibly energizing. Five years ago probably this week I was deciding whether I should move back to Ohio or stay in New York. My first year of teaching was a circus: teaching 3 different subjects, two grades and not having my own classroom, I was literally beat. But when my team sat down to talk, I realized I actually had insight, rather than my typical sitting at meetings and soaking in other people’s advice and ideas. Planning was a creative outlet for me. So I stayed, excited for the next year (and an all 7th grade ELA program, obviously)…and the prospect of living in a bug free apartment with two of the greatest friends in the world (the other half of my reason for staying.)
Anyway. My 8th grade ELA team’s June planning has been so invigorating. In our re-imagining of our reading curriculum, it has left me wanting to do nothing but read. Truly. 8th grade reading is mostly about going deep, making connections and being excited about the ideas you find. In order to teach into this idea, we are revisiting old favorites from childhood and reading them with a closer lens–teaching skills for close, thoughtful reading with an incredibly accessible text. Then they can practice in a childhood re-read of their own, then apply the skills to their on-level reading. Make sense? Stay with me for why this is relevant to you.
Our read aloud is Charlotte’s Web. Yes, the book that you probably read in second grade. But. You have no idea just how thought provoking, well written and life-giving this book is. The teachers are also reading “The Annotated Charlotte’s Web” in preparation, which includes a ridiculous amount of information on E.B. White, his overall brilliance, writing craft and the tracing of themes. This facilitates “reading like a writer” better than any text I’ve come across. I can’t wait to talk about this with my students. But. The greatest part:
After our students have read Charlotte’s Web with us, and have re-read a childhood classic, they will write an “appreciation.” A colleague found these forewords in Penguin’s Children’s Classics: an author writes about his/her childhood experience reading the book and what it means to them as an adult. It has been so much fun talking about our favorite reading experiences as children: The Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows…We can’t wait to give our students the opportunity to revisit these books and write about their experience with them the first time and what it was like to reread them as young adults. Sigh. It just takes me back to the world of imagination when playing pretend felt so real.
You should seriously consider going back to some childhood favorites and rereading them. I’m convinced that they help remind us of all that is good and true. I just love how reading can change us and shape us and I am forever grateful that my parents “forced” my brother and I to read every night before we went to bed…a habit I never grew out of. I’ll post my “appreciation” later this summer. I’d love to hear about the books that defined your childhood. Reread and remember.
I love books.