All this from a boy in an ELA class that has the reputation of being a behavior problem and not available for learning. The strategies from Falling in Love with Close Reading have changed not only my teaching, but the learning of my students.
I have completed three days of my reading lab "Strategies in Action" in a colleagues classroom- and it has been truly amazing! Not only am I learning more as a teacher than I thought I ever would- it is the students that have made this experience of being in the classroom remarkable.
My first lesson was closely reading for text evidence using the song "ROAR"- and boy did the students show they have "the eye of the tiger"! The students took the song to a whole new level- and walked away with a deeper meaning. Not only that, they stopped me in the halls and in class to tell me the new songs they are listening too and trying to understand. Students are asking to continue to read lyrics to music. They took the extra music lyrics I printed off from popular songs like, "Home" by Phillip Phillips, "Demons" by Imagine Dragons and "Firework" by Katy Perry and brought them home to read over and annotate for a deeper meaning. I want to point out that this is a class that requires a lot of emotional and academic support through a special education teacher, classroom teacher and paraprofessional- yet they were engaged and motivated to learn. They questioned each other, they extended each others thinking and wrote and wrote! I couldn't have been more proud! Here is a snap shot of their work with "ROAR".
The students rose to the occasion! They immediately saw they focused in on the characters actions and dug deeper into the text to locate further evidence of the characters actions. This is really where their learning took off! Even without introducing the ideas of patterns and grouping our evidence, through their discussions the students began to make inferences about the characters. They began to see the characters motivations and relationships. By color coding the patterns, it only strengthened their thoughts! I heard students say, " Wait- I agree with you because Stella rushes to Ruby even though she is in pain!" and " Ivan is so caring just by the way he tells Stella it will be ok!" The biggest Aha moment came when the students realized the relationship between Stella and Ruby- Stella was going to care for Ruby like Ruby was her daughter. All this through the close analysis of the actions of Stella and Ruby. They saw how Stella defends Ruby against Mack, the awful zoo owner. And how Stella risks her life!
Before we started our lesson today, I played the song "Best Day of my Life" by American Authors. I explained to the students that when I hear this song, it energizes me and gets me ready for the day at work. I told them I considered being in their class over the next few days to be the "Best Days of my Life" and I hoped that when they read and learn with each other they are having the "Best Days of their Life" just like the song. ( I know kind of corny- but their reaction was priceless- They ate it up!) I want them to know I value them as students, readers and children.
I have about 5 more classes left to teach with this group of students. I plan on taking them through a journey of reading informational text about elephants to strengthen their understanding of Stella and Ruby in The One and Only Ivan. I want them to continue their work of closely reading for text evidence to make connections between the fiction and nonfiction and to gain an understanding of the central idea of the informational text.
And as a request by a student, I better find a way to incorporate the song "Radioactive" into my lessons! Guess I have my work cut out for me!