To start the new year we began by discussing what our favorite kind of books are - we all have those. The challenge was to read outside of our comfort zone. We talked about what might happen. I proposed a three part challenge: topic, character and format.
Our next class took us deeper into the challenge. We discussed how a character might look different:
- Hair length or eye color
- Skin color
- Clothing - it could be from a different country or period of time
We discussed how a character might live differently:
- The story takes place in a different time.
- The character has a different culture and celebrates different holidays.
- We don't play the same things.
- We speak different languages.
- The character isn't human.
In 3rd-5th grade we also discussed what the format challenge was. We talked about how we were going to challenge ourselves to read in a format that we don't usually read. For example, we talked about how if we typically read nonfiction books, we would try a graphic novel or a fiction book. We talked about our options - everybody books (picture books), biographies, or even a magazine.
3rd-5th grade students were then directed to locate a character and a format challenge book and decide which one they would take home this week. They brought these to me and I took their picture with their book of choice. They told me which kind of challenge book it was. This served as a great check-in and assessment - did they understand what they were looking for?
We spent two weeks breaking down walls in our reading, but I wasn't feeling done quite yet. I decided to spend one more class challenging ourselves in one more way.
I have a wonderful volunteer with a background in marketing that loves to create displays in the library. She does a beautiful job and I question why sometimes her displays are not touched.
This winter I had several questions along the lines of, "Mrs. Garland, can I take one of those books?" which led me to realize that students aren't aware they can take these. Of course they can - they are there for just that purpose (but they didn't realize it). I realized I need to give them permission to go shopping in our display areas or better yet, create an activity that will send them in.
This part of our "Reading Without Walls" challenge was about our display books. I numbered several thematic displays and students were instructed to visit each section, handle the books there and choose one that they thought they might enjoy reading. Their mission also included identifying an idea for a future book display.
- Now I have a list of what they would like.
- They know the books are there to be touched and checked out.
- The display shelves were empty.
I even extended this challenge to the staff and asked teachers to take the challenge. Staff members chose a challenge and had their picture taken to be hung on the bulletin board. I wanted to build a community of readers and show our students that we do this too.
What did "Reading Without Walls" do for us? I asked.
According to my students when we read without walls we
- learn new things and facts
- think other things
- find new favorite books
- might really hate the book
- get nervous
- get excited
I will check in with students periodically to see how they are challenging themselves as readers. In future weeks I will reference our great work and discoveries made these weeks and see if we might be able to expand on our challenge.
I love that the entire school community took part in this challenge and together we are breaking down walls.
For more about our challenge see my blog http://listenconnectempower.blogspot.com/.