This morning, before leaving for a day of errands, I thought of poetry. A few minutes later I was back in the bathroom putting on my makeup while reading Rilke and Billy Collins. I'll admit that this was not such an easy thing to do, but if people can text and drive, I figure I can put on eyeliner with one hand and hold a book with the other. I didn't poke myself in the eye once and rediscovered a poem by Billy Collins called "Schoolsville" that begins like this:
Glancing over my shoulder at the past,
I realize the number of students I have taught
is enough to populate a small town.
(from Sailing Alone Around the Room)
When I read this for the first time ten years ago, I liked it. When I read it now, I like it even more because I can now apply the sentiment to myself.
I arrived at school about an hour later (with eyeliner only the tiniest bit crooked) and surveyed my classroom. It's so very quiet in there during break. My reason for coming was I'd forgotten to grab the sticky notes that the 4th graders had placed on the chart titled "Book Recommendations".
This year, I started something called Literature Circles where the students pick their own novels to read from a varied assortment I lay out. There are multiple copies of each book and they join up to form a group with 2 or 3 other students who have also selected the same book. Each group makes up its own reading schedule and they meet three times a week to just sit around on the floor and in beanbag chairs to talk about what they read. In other words, they form their own book clubs.
It took some coaching and practicing before many of the children were ready to listen to what others said, contribute their views on the characters, ask questions, and share opinions about what might happen next in the story. But it's all miraculously come together. Now, the best part of every week is just standing in the center of the room and listening to the chatter and laughter and even the arguments the children are having about the books they are reading. It's what reading is supposed to be like.
Last Friday the students ended their 5th cycle of Lit. Circles and turned in their books. On Monday when school is once again in session, everyone gets to choose new books. I make a point of adding several new sets of books to the mix with every cycle just to keep things fresh. With the last cycle, I'd asked them for recommendations of books they'd like to see as choices for our 6th cycle of books. The children had stuck 25 stickies on the chart.
I'm so glad I came back for them. Their reading tastes have expanded and deepened more then I ever dreamed they would. We've got titles like The Chronicles of Narnia, Catwings, Matilda, A Dog's Life and A Wrinkle in Time. The hard part is going to be not ordering everything they asked for.
The Amazon book department loves me.