I teach freshmen English at a Title I high school in Texas. My school is 85% Hispanic, 83% economically disadvantaged, and 40% LEP/ESL/Bilingual. Every year, I am lucky enough to share my classroom with approximately 160 freshmen over the course of the day, and there is no place I would rather be. My students make me laugh, challenge me to constantly reflect on and advance my teaching, and keep me "young" (who else is going to teach me how to "Hit the Woah?")
My students come from three different middle schools, and ninth grade is a time for them to make new friends, figure out who they are, and learn to navigate the increased responsibility that comes with high school.
My students experience English primarily through a readers and writers workshop model. In a workshop classroom, students are engaged in literate behavior by working on ongoing reading and writing projects during class time. The teacher serves as a coach who explicitly teaches strategies to the whole class and provides students with individualized instruction through conferring.
I believe providing students with a choice of reading material is one of the most valuable ways to support students in recognizing themselves as readers, building fluency and comprehension, and developing a reading practice that they will sustain outside the classroom.
With this project, I am trying to ensure that every student in my classroom has access to a book that they will connect to and love.
I am hoping to provide my students with books in sets of four, to enable the books to be read alongside other students in book clubs. This reading setup provides opportunities for students to work together to help each other understand what they are reading, and to hone their abilities to have productive academic conversations.
Last year when I taught a book club unit, I was able to put together enough copies of books for students to read together during class time only. Since the same books were read across multiple class periods, students were not able to take books home with them to read outside of class. It is my hope that with this project, I will have enough high interest books in my classroom library for each student to take their book home with them to read.
This project includes many books written by, and for, diverse communities. My students deserve to see their own experiences reflected in the books they read and to know that their identities and stories matter. At the same time, books are more than mirrors, they are also windows. It is also important to give them the chance to read about people with different experiences than their own in order to promote an understanding of the diversity and complexity of the human experience.
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