I teach in a school district with high percentages of poverty, mobility, special education students, and substance use/abuse. For many students, learning is not their highest priority.
Little gives me greater joy than to see a struggling student develop a love for reading.
Many don't enjoy reading because their reading level is below their interest level. By the end of November, kids are begging me to have more reading time. They love to read together in small groups and discuss books. We have wonderful discussions about books I read to the kids. It's exciting when a student has a deep insight into a character or situation in a book and others chime in. Many books we read during the year contain important life lessons we can learn from.
What's best for both the kids and me is when they recognize improvement in their reading as well as improvement in their classmates. They learn to coach and encourage each other and can give specific feedback to each other as to improvements they see. My role has turned from a teacher to a facilitator of learning. The kids love the autonomy they are given. They take pride in their reading skills.
The books I have chosen are some of the most popular books of my fifth graders each year. My philosophy is that kids learn to read by reading. I teach reading by having kids read a book of their choice in small groups of up to four. They learn how to coach each other for accuracy, fluency, and expression while reading aloud each day. They also begin each session with a discussion of what they read the day before. Comprehension skills I have taught are applied in their literature circle discussions and assignments.
"Can we do lit circles?" That is a question my students beg for by December.
Even my most reluctant, struggling readers shift from hating to reading to enjoying, if not loving to read. The kids enjoy the freedom to choose books they're interested in reading and to read with classmates of their choice. They grow to be able to comment on improvement they see in each other. Believe me, those comments mean a lot more coming from a classmate than the teacher. Kids become more confident, and their reading ability grows more than the expected rate.
By having more multiple copies of a variety of titles in the classroom, kids have more flexibility in choosing a literature circle book. There aren't always enough copies of a book in the library. Also, in the fall of 2018, our school district is opening a new 4th and 5th grade school that I will be moving to. The plan is that the other elementary schools will send some of their library books to stock the new school's library. I'm afraid there won't be as many titles with enough copies for kids to choose from. The donation of the books I have chosen will benefit the kids for years to come.
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