Friday was the kick off for my students to begin their Christmas vacation book project. This is the first year I have had any of my students do the project while on a break. To begin, my students have to choose a book that is at least 100 pages long and the book can not be related to a movie in anyway. In addition, I ask the students to not read something they have not already read. At the conclusion of their reading they must choose to do 1 of 2 projects. They need to either make a 6 sided three-demential cube or create a glog on glogster.com. The three-demential cube is related to a math unit they covered in their math class dealing with surface area and three-demential shapes. The choice of the glog comes from the technology standard that comes out of the CCSS. Overall, my main goal of the project is for my students to be engaged with reading on their own and for them to explore some new genres. Furthermore, my requirements the students are meeting for the project are covering some of the reading standards for the Common Core. For example, tying theme or the central idea to the characters, setting and plot. Also, I don’t want my students being bored with a traditional book report. If you are attending the Michigan Reading Association(MRA) conference in March, I will presenting some student examples in my session.
So, to get them ready for this project, I have taken the 7th and 8th graders down to the library and the book fair for the past two weeks and I have had some interesting conversations with my students and I have witnessed some miraculous transformation with my students. As always I received a few grumbles and groans about the project. Little did my students know, most of them would be engaged in a book outside of class. I am orally reading The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins with my students and we are just about finished. My students are begging me more and more each day to keep reading. With the book project, I have several students reading the second book in the series and I am seeing students read in the hallway. These are 7th and 8th graders I am talking about. It has been amazing. The math teacher approached me last week and said she was having great conversations with students about books and what they are reading. She has enjoyed it. I think she has even had to get after kids for reading in her class.
Just the other day I had several boys ask me if they could read Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. I said sure why not. I am in full support of graphic novels. Nevertheless, they were really surprised by my response to their answer. I clarified to them I am pleased they are taking an interest in reading something. Hell, I remember growing up spending hours in my local library reading Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.
After the boys and I talked, I approached a young man who was struggling with finding a book. I asked him his interests and after discovering he liked the outdoors and hunting, I pointed him to the author Gary Paulson and a book by a different author called Touching Spirit Bear. Great author and great book. After he made his decision, he was asking me about what the big deal was about reading. He was struggling with why people talk about books and form book clubs. I asked him if he felt left out. He responded by saying he could never understand what they were talking about. I worked this conversation to the fullest and told him it isn’t so much fun feeling like you don’t belong or know what people are talking about. He is definitely one of the popular kids and he never did respond, but I think he got the point of what I was saying.
The final thing I noticed was how much my students opened up and responded to me when I actually did take a vested interest in them and asked them about books they have read and what they they like to read. I have been forming more solid relationships with my students all because of reading. Who says reading isn’t powerful? I beg to differ and I can’t wait to see what kind of work my students produce over Christmas break.