It's happening. I've had a good long stretch of summer since our extended school wrapped up, during which I unplugged my brain from the nitty-gritty of school life, and now that's winding down to a close. This past week, I spent two busy days putting my classroom back together. I enjoyed being in my space, walking through the annual ritual of making it ready for a new year and new kids. I liked returning to the same space as last year (I moved going into last year, so last summer's work was unpacking, reorganizing, starting completely from scratch), and finding ways to refresh it and make it new. The new spot for my calendar alone brings me probably too much satisfaction, not to mention the new bulletin board I created from nothing by fastening cork roll to the wall. Boom. So, the space feels homey and peaceful and fresh...and open, ready to be filled by my small people, with their voices and belongings and projects. And now that I have that in place, it's time for me to spend some time with these questions :
What does life in the Liberatory Library look like this year? How will we fully participate in education as the practice of freedom? What will I do to create space for liberatory education? What can I do (or not do...) to make our life and work together more liberatory?
Early this year, I was given a magical gift from a magical person. The kind you didn't know you wanted or needed or even existed until it appears in your life. This magical person said, I have a little something for you, I saw it and thought of you. When she realized we wouldn't see each other for a little bit, she put it in the mail for me, even though we live in neighboring towns. So one day I got a package on my doorstep, containing this:
I read through it slowly and gradually, and just now finished. It's amazing, in so many ways. I want to put together some thoughts about it, for myself, and for my classroom.
In case you're looking for one book in particular, or if you're looking for all the books...here they are! And if it's included on the list, then I'm recommending it whole-heartedly.
I love #bookaday!! And I'm so totally not finishing a book every day, but I'm reading a bunch (almost) every day. As we wind through August, I have a nagging bit of worry about how I'll translate it to the pace of the school year, because I don't only want to be reading seriously in the summer. But for the moment? Reading in the summer is so. Good. Here comes my second batch of books.
My summer book-a-day has been really great, and I'm already thinking about continuing it past the summer. So far I've read 20 books in 23 days, which absolutely smashes any of my previous summer reading. A good chunk of them were picture books, and a few were middle grade graphic novels. It's not a race or a contest, but I'm having such a good time. Here's a round up of my middle grade reading so far.
Every spring, our fourth grade hatches chicks. I always took my class to visit the chicks in someone else's class, but we never hatched our own until last year. Even then, my coteacher did most of the chickening. This year I was solo again, so this was really the first time that I was the official chicken mama. It all began like this, with a dozen eggs in our incubator, and twenty-one days of patience.
This is the outline to the writing fiction unit I adapted and designed this year. Here's the post that explains it and includes photos, this is just the nuts and bolts.
So, this summer I've jumped into the #BookADay challenge and I'm SO INTO IT. It's recharged my reading life in a way that I badly needed. In the busy clutch of the school year, I just fall away from reading, and fall into habits of mindlessly watching TV or scrolling endlessly online in the evening. But man, do I respond to a challenge, and do I love filling out a chart! (I assigned myself the same reading log I gave my kids for the homework, and my geeky self loves filling it out every day.) I decided to interpret #BookADay for myself as reading a book a day, if not finishing a book a day. That made me feel like it's an achievable goal. I've been on my pre-summer-school break for six days now, and I've finished three middle grade books, and I'm working on another, plus Happy Teachers Change the World (which is incredible, more on that later).
I'm all about this version of #BookADay. And. I also want to supercharge it with SO MANY PICTURE BOOKS, because it's fun, and because I want to win my own #BookADay, and because I want to go into next school year with a ton of new mentor texts options. So on one of my free afternoons this week, I took myself to my local independent bookstore, and pulled myself a stack of books. Spoiler alert, it was wonderful.
(And in case you're worried about my bookstore, after reading this stack, I bought three books for my nephew's birthday, plus Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova, since I started the series earlier in the week and fell in love with Brave. More on that to come, too.)
On to the picture books!
One of the ways I'm lucky to live in my little self-contained world (meaning my class is self-contained special ed, combining at least two grade levels every year) is that I have a lot of freedom with curriculum, and my administrators have been pretty open to me doing what works for my kids. One thing this looks like is adapting our reading and writing programs. We've been following a workshop model for just a few years now (and I LOVE it), and use a boxed curriculum (SchoolWide Writing Fundamentals) to guide our teaching. Overall, I like it a lot, and it includes some excellent mentor texts. (I have a lot more thoughts and feelings about the curriculum, but I want to get down to the point of this post now!)
That being said, when I pulled out the 3rd grade level kit for fiction writing, I was underwhelmed. Also, it just didn't seem to match where we were as a writing community. While it was about writing fiction, most of the gathering work was about drawing on your personal experiences, and my instinct was that it would lead to a lot of personal narrative pieces...which we'd already done. My writers were ready to try something new. Also, the unit as written was an author study of Patricia Pollaco, and her books are lovely classics...that don't reflect my students very well, and felt a little dated to me.
So I decided to venture forth on my own, and make something that would energize my writers.
I think this event (the kid-centered portion of it) initially came across my radar because the Scholastic facebook was promoting Selina Alko and Sean Qualls' appearance to do a reading of their (really lovely) new book Why Am I Me? And when I dove into the listing on the Brooklyn Book Festival site and saw their was a panel with Ellen Oh, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita William-Garcia, and Gene Luen Yang, my decision was made. I texted it to my best best friend (the one who already met Rita at our local bookstore), saying, listen, I know this event is in Brooklyn and breaks the two rivers rule (we live in New Jersey, so anything in the outer boroughs involves crossing two rivers in some kind of way, and requires careful consideration and a really good reason why), but check out this panel. She immediately wrote back, "I would SWIM to Brooklyn for that panel." Excellent perspective, friend! We didn't swim, we just took the PATH and the subway and it wasn't bad at all. The adventure, however, was a Best Day Ever kind of day.
Writing about practicing literacy and freedom with my small humans.