I love helping students assemble their first book bag in the fall and this year was no different. Well, it was a little different, but I still loved it! Prior to assembling the book bags, I surveyed students, observed students, and read with students to get to know them as readers in September of fourth grade. I read their writing and learned what television shows and movies they like, what they like to do in their free time and what their hopes and dreams are for the new year. Most importantly, I talked to them. Talking with students, not just about their books in a reading conference, but about their thoughts and feelings about their learning, is the best way to support a student, not only in reading but in all aspects of learning.
I have been teaching for thirty years, and over the years I have been able to amass a large classroom library, so I was able to build bags for students, each with approximately ten books of varying genres. I am happy to share my books, despite the fact that I lose about ten percent of my library each year and need to replace it over the summer. I like to say that the books are “permanently borrowed.” The most popular books are the ones that I have to replace and Donut the Destroyer, by Sarah Graley and Stef Purenins will go on the missing list this June, I am sure! Here is a book trailer for Donut the Destroyer.
When choosing which student to get this book, I reviewed my notes and knew instantly who would love this story. We met together in a Google Meet and after reviewing his book bag, the student moved this book to the top of his pile. We agreed to discuss the book the next time we had a conference together.
Just as I thought, he loved the story! We discussed the basic narrative elements and then he told me what he thought the story was really about. He said, “This story is about being true to yourself and following your dreams. It’s about friendships and how sometimes, friendships change, but that’s o.k. It’s also about parents and how sometimes you have to just do what you believe in even if it’s different from your parents ideas. Your parents will support you if you tell them why you want to do something. At least that is what I think the authors meant when they wrote this story. It’s a lot like life.”
Wow. I was stunned. This was the FIRST book conference of the year and he NAILED it. The possibilities for this student and his reading journey this year are endless and I am so excited to be with him on this journey. I listened to him when he told me about his reading interests at the beginning of the year and I certainly listened to him in this conference. I have a feeling that many of my conferences are going to go this way and I know it is going to be a great year!