Skip to main content

Historical Fiction Book Clubs

Slicing every day in March!

Today was the first day of our historical fiction book clubs. The kids are reading My Brother Sam is Dead, Out of the Dust, Children of the Fire, and Home of the Brave, in groups of two's and three's. 

During our daily reading status check-in, several of my students said they were having trouble understanding their books. Although the four books are at a typical level of maturity and understanding for fifth graders, almost all of my students are second language learners. 

What to do? 

Fortunately, today, there were three other adults in the room besides me - the ESL specialist, the Learning Support Assistant, and my Instructional Assistant. Each of us took a group of students and tried to help them problem solve whatever issues they were confronting. For example, in my group (Home of the Brave), we reviewed strategies for when we get stuck as we are reading. 

Many of my students have fallen into the habit of thinking that if they don't know the meaning of a word or they can't pronounce a word, then a book is too challenging for them. Although this may well be the case, it might be for the wrong reasons. Sometimes it's because the kids lack background knowledge about a historical event that the book is based on. For example, the group that met with the ESL specialist (My Brother Sam is Dead) spent time talking about the US Civil War and why wars exist at all.

All of the children wrote quick reflections about what happened in their groups on a shared Google Doc so that group members and I could comment or ask questions. It is a useful tool for thinking about next steps.

On Monday each group will need to set an agenda with time limits, and norms for collaboration. If not, the kids may get stuck in the logistics of working in a group and not have time to discuss the book.

I am going to hunt down some information articles about the historical events highlighted in each of the books. I am hoping that by building background knowledge about the topic of a book, students will better understand what they're reading and be more engaged.

We also need to revisit earlier conversations about multiple story lines in books. Fortunately, we spent time discussing this when we were reading biographies, so I'm hopeful we can make a quick connection to this learning.

Next year, we will need to add more choice in the titles available to our students.

I am inspired by my students' willingness to plow through (read: faith) and try different strategies when they struggle to make meaning.

I look forward to learning more from my students as we continue on this journey.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Students Plan for a Day of Learning

This is the third in a series of blog posts about strategies I use to help my students take ownership of their learning. The first post was about class meetingsThe second post was about giving kids opportunities todetermine their own writing and reading plansevery Friday afternoon. (Coming soon is the fourth post in this series about using student surveys to provide feedback about the classroom.)


"Yesterday I felt more independent than ever because I had to tell myself what to do." - 5th grade boy
It did not come as a surprise that my students embraced the idea of planning their learning for an entire day. That is what being autonomous and self-directed is all about and what we all desire to be in our day-to-day experiences. Allowing students to create their own schedules for learning, albeit conditioned by specific parameters (reading, writing, math, sc…

The Teacher I Want to Be

I have been dismayed to realize that despite my self-image as a teacher with a learner centered classroom, I am far from truly achieving that goal. 

I have been listening carefully to myself lately, and I don't like what I hear myself saying to the kids. Instead of empowering my students to take ownership of their learning, I am still the director on the stage. I still ask leading questions rather than ones that push the learner to figure things out for herself. I realize I often spoon feed my students hopeful that they will give me the answer I'm looking for. An answer that will make my job easier. Answers that will fit with what I expect students to say despite the fact that 30 years in education has taught me nothing if not that students are unpredictable, and if we prepare for anything, that is what we should be prepared for. 
An anecdote. The other day I was talking with a student about the fact that she was abandoning more books than she was finishing. I was as…

Searching for Balance

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the last couple of days. 
And, I've come to the conclusion that I must change my attitude - shift my stance - so I can assume a new perspective. So that I am more aligned with what's important and may add value to my life.  
Focusing on the negative is not making me stronger or healthier. In fact, I am often stressed because I worry a lot about unimportant things. I obsess over situations out of my control. I dismiss positive experiences that would help lift my spirits and align my focus towards what's important. 
I need a distraction from my own thoughts.
I need balance in my life. Not because I work hard to prepare my classes. Not because I read a lot of professional literature. Not because I wrote a lot this summer and will continue to do so now that school has started. But because I have been obsessing on the wrong things. Mostly, I obsess about what someone said or did and what it says about me as a teacher. I obsess about …