Friday, February 4, 2011

Be a Sentence Stalker

Last week I read Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop and reread Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.  I love the energy and passion each author brought to his or her own respective book.  As a teacher, reading a book written by a teacher who obviously loves what he or she does, believes in what he or she does, and wants to share what he or she does gets me all excited.  I have no immunity for that kind of energy, nor do I want that vaccination.  I can't get enough of it.

I have worked with students and working on making text-to-text connections...except it's evident when a student doesn't read much because that makes it hard to make a text-to-text connection.  A few years ago, when I started reading children's/young adult literature again voraciously, I started to notice how easy it was to make text-to-text connections.  It became second nature because I had a vast pool of texts with which to make connections.  Needless to say, last weekend as I read these two books I immediately saw how they could work together and then it brought to mind Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School by Kelly Gallagher.  It makes me ecstatic when ideas connect like this.
Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High SchoolThe Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every ChildMechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop
The ideas from these three books that I linked together all center on creating a community of literacy in the classroom.  I work with my students one-on-one so for me this is different from the classes described in the books and from any classroom environment but I still strive to create a literacy connection between myself and my students.  I think this idea can be applied in any situation.

In Gallagher's book, he outlines what students can look for while they are reading so they can participate in a Reading Share.  He explains that as students read, he wants them to be on the lookout for parts in the text that make them respond; this might be something funny, something that makes them angry, something that exhibits great writing, etc.  I love this element of metacognition that readers are aware of what makes them feel a certain way or of the author's craft.  This is where Anderson's ideas about being a sentence stalker come in.  He discusses the idea of teaching students to be readers who are actively assessing the quality of what they are reading.  From a writing perspective, the students are recognizing what stands out as good writing and then they can share this with the class and examine it and hopefully at some point apply it in their own writing.  Enter Miller's book about creating an environment of reading for readers in and out of school.  Her classroom is a place where everyone can share and discuss books.  Why not encourage readers to look objectively at what they are reading, share that great text with others, and at this exact same time develop a strong community for reading?  There is no reason not to, it's brilliant!

Have you read any of these books?  Do you ask students to do a Reading Share?  Do you encourage students to stalk sentences?  Is your classroom (no matter its size) a place where students are able to share what they are reading?  I would love to hear how you foster a reading community in your classroom!

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