Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Commercials and Golden Sentences

Self-Selected Reading Time - Click to view gallery
Having just read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I find myself inspired even more to help instill in my students a love of reading. While teaching writer’s craft and reading skills are an essential part of my curriculum, I cannot let myself forget that those skills are lost on those who choose not to read. While there are a myriad of reasons and hypotheses attempting to explain the decline of adult readers, research has consistently pointed to a solution: reading begets reading. Students who are immersed in a literacy-rich environment, know how to choose books, and spend regular, sustained time reading are more likely to become lifelong readers. The fact is that middle school students’ lives are often booked solid with extra-curriculars, lessons, and family engagements. Many can barely find the time to complete their homework, say nothing about carving out a moment to read for pleasure. Sadly, pushing aside reading for pleasure skips a crucial step in developing a love of books. As I mentioned last week, I am making it my personal mission to allot students a snippet of time to read their books in the midst of their often hectic days. The response has been amazingly positive. Students have thanked me over and over again for this opportunity and, lo and behold, have even begged for more time.

Book Commercials - Click to view gallery
With the increased reading time, the literature students have been promoting the books they are reading through book commercials. Similar to Mrs. E’s Book Talks, the commercials are short, impromptu advertisements for their books. While there is a component of summarizing to these commercials, their focus is to encourage others to try something new. Students ‘sell’ a book by explaining their love for it and persuading others to give it a taste. This weekly activity has generated more volunteers than I can accommodate!

Golden Sentence - Click to view gallery
From their Story Grammar books, composition students used an author’s sentence as the beginning of an opening paragraph to a story. Their goal was to create the first paragraph and no more. Paragraphs had to be a minimum of five sentences long, and each of those sentences needed to include one tool like a phrase, word, or an independent or dependent clause. Once drafted, students shared their opening paragraphs with their peers and participated in revision conferences. Even though students published their complete story openers to Kidblog, we worked specifically on crafting well-written sentences. To that end, each writer chose his or her most powerfully written sentence to be the Golden Sentence. Once the Golden Sentences were buffed and polished, authors shared them in small groups and micro-responded to one another. Finally, students published their Golden Sentences and hung them in our classroom to be a part of a Gallery Walk. As students walked through the gallery, they wrote positive comments on Post-It notes and affixed them underneath the published works. Kids loved the opportunity to incorporate visual thinking along with their writing and they appreciated the responses of their peers.

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