Ten minutes into work time…
Two girls sit together reading aloud, book exchanging hands every page. “‘Rosalie took her in when her own mother kicked her out, her senior year in high school…’ – Ohhh, Starr’s mom must be young, then!” I love overhearing student voices when the room is calm, and these connections in their books are what they share.
I look over at Darren and Karl, whose notebooks are open, but look like they’re just playing around. I want to say something, but I’ve already been on Darren’s case this week. I continue my survey of the room and decide to say something if it’s still a problem in a few minutes.
Jake and Daisuke are done with their work AND their book club books, and are reading for fun. I don’t mind that they’re reading graphic novels and informational texts: They deserve fun reading for being so far ahead of their classmates.
Ingrid and Ashley catch my ear: they’re discussing a big reveal in their book club book, marked by the telltale “I knew it! I called it! Didn’t I call it?!” I check in with them and they urge me to read the book, withholding “spoilers” from me in order to tempt me into reading.
Emerson started work time by sharing his 40 Book Challenge Log with me – He has read 40 books in 8 genre categories already, and it’s only March! I congratulate him with a “pizza party invite for you!”, but he wants to compare challenges. We look at mine: I haven’t filled out the log since the end of October. At his prompting, I pull out my personal record of books read (on the Notes app on my phone), show him what it looks like, then dive into sorting them into my 40 Book Challenge Log.
Meanwhile, he picks up Undefeated.
Once I’m done, Emerson and I compare logs. We start by talking genres: His “Other” category is mostly run-over titles from Realistic Fiction, just like mine so far. However, I like Historical Fiction more than he does. “But I read a lot of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, and that got me a lot of historical fiction titles,” Emerson shares. “Oh yeah, I read the Underground Abductor from that series!” I exclaim as I add the title to my log. “It’s the Harriet Tubman one.”
He also shares that he read a LOT of nonfiction – more than he ever dreamed he would, thanks to our nonfiction unit in class (yay!). And Emerson did read a lot for that unit – in fact, he was a prolific nonficiton reader (am I using that word right? IDK!). We also agreed that finding one good series in a less-than-favorite genre can get us into fantasy and sci-fi quickly. He notes how much he loved the 40 book challenge, telling me he credits it for both broadening his reading horizons, and raising his lexile score by 200 points midyear.
Then, he goes back to his third book club book, happy as a clam.
I look back at Darren and Karl – and to my shock, Darren has moved away from his distracting friend. He is as focused as can be, laying on the floor a good ten feet from Karl. I could do a happy dance! I want to run over and congratulate him, but I make a note to tell him later so as not to disturb his newfound focus.
For the rest of the period, I get to read a chapter of my own book, Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper (a book club title I’d been neglecting to read until the final throes of our unit).
A minute before the end of class, I share how impressed I am with my students’ use of work time. “Look around the room,” I encourage them. “How many of you spent this time reading? How many of you made progress on the notebook checklist? EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of you was using your time wisely. What did it feel like?”
One student shares, “I was just reading, and it was great.” She shrugs, but I secretly want to squeal with joy.
“Remember this feeling for tomorrow! I’m so impressed! Nice job!” I shout over the shuffling of bodies as the bell rings and they speed off to lunch.
First period was not like this.
Second period was not like this.
Fifth period was total chaos and will probably NEVER be like this.
Sixth period, I let the kids convince me to spend all period reading aloud from Front Desk.
“Ten minutes into work time” is always a gamble to write about. It’s not this perfect in every class every day, but it sure feels golden when one class finds their stride!