Last week I consulted with our amazing ELL specialist: Jody Zambrano. I told her about my Harry Potter plan that I had instituted, showed her the character map we had made, explained a few of the frustrations I was feeling, and asked her if she had any suggestions for me.
First, my frustration: My two ELL students were starting to “get” the book, but were not “engaged” in the book.
Jody thinks that although my ideas of how to handle the ELL problems with visualizing were good, the choice of book wasn’t so good. Harry Potter is high interest, but has it’s own language. Even the names of the classes are strange: Charms, Herbology, etc. She suggested doing the same with realistic fiction. I can only think of three books that are quite similar to the movies: Harry Potter I, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Anne of Green Gables. I’m thinking that since Anne of Green Gables takes place at the turn of the century that the same thing might happen as would happen with fantasy. Any suggestions out there??
Last year, my biggest challenge was Nick. Oh, Nick. With a lot of pressure, I could get him to read Magic Treehouse books–not that there’s anything wrong with Magic Treehouse books, but Nick, I knew, was capable of so much more. He was the pure definition of a resistant reader. Fake reading. Paging through non-fiction books looking at the pictures. “Losing” books. I was tearing my hair out.
One day, late in April, I set Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief on his desk. He moaned (too thick and difficult), but agreed to read one chapter. The next thing I knew he couldn’t stop reading. He read while walking, skipped soccer at recess to read, and read until late at night (his parents told me). He was a convert! By mid summer he’d read the whole series. By the end of the series he was a reader of much more than Percy Jackson books. This fall Nick scored the highest in his class on the MAP tests in reading! One of those moments teachers live for. never, never, but never give up trying to find that perfect book for a student.
Last night, I checked out Lisa Yee’s Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time as a possible read for resistant readers. It’s perfect! The story of a resistant reader who flunks 6th grade and has to go to summer school, Stanford Wong is a likable, athletic middle-schooler. Lisa Yee nails her characters. I could see my sons when they were in middle school: a mix of charm, insightfulness, dumkopfness, kindness, and lovesick heifer.
Mom sees me reading The Outsiders and kisses the top of my head. Usually I squirm when she pulls stunts like that, but this time I just brush her away and keep reading. This book is exactly like my life, except that I am not in a gang and I don’t get in a lot of fights and my parents aren’t dead. I asked Mr. Glick to stay after class Friday and we talked and talked about The Outsiders. Well, I talked and talked. He just grinned.
I thought maybe I had food on my face or something and finally asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m just happy that you are enjoying the book. These are the kinds of moments a teacher lives for.”
I just devoured Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart over the weekend. It was just my cup of tea–a book about book lovers and people being read in to and out of Bookworld. One of my favorite sections was about the book travel box that the main character’s father made for her:
“If you take a book with you on a journey,” Mo said when he put the first one in her box, “an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it . . . yes, books are like flypaper–memories cling to the printed page better than anything else.” (p. 15)
It’s true, isn’t it? I was thinking of the books that I’ve reread that do exactly that! As our school year draws to an end, perhaps we can “sell” summer reading as memory collecting.