Education Opinion

It’s the Last Dance

By Donalyn Miller — May 28, 2011 3 min read
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If you peeked into my classroom today, it looked like it does on any random day. Nam, Alyssa, and Connor pull out netbooks to update their goodreads shelves or research titles and authors. A row of kids sit on the couch, reading. Paisley sprawls on the floor, surrounded by the remnants of her reader’s notebook, carefully taping the loose pages back into it. Brooke searches for a spot to scrawl a quote onto our Graffiti Wall. I chat with Michael about Rick Riordan’s newest book, The Throne of Fire, and debate the Hunger Games movie cast announcement with Sarah. Regan retrieves ten books from her locker. I can barely see her eyes over the stack she’s carrying.

It’s just another day in Room 1217.

The vibe is different though. The hum of activity in my classroom has an urgent quality to it. My students and I scurry to tie up the loose ends of a year spent reading, writing, talking, and learning together. One last review written. One last title shared. One last page taped. One last book read.

What will my students remember about our class? What will they take away from it? What will they leave behind? I want my students to commemorate what they have accomplished this year and plan for their reading lives into the summer and beyond. Talking with the kids today about our classroom, we decided on the following activities for the final days of school. Student-driven, with little prep or class time required, these culminating activities provide meaningful reflection and fun moments for our classroom community, as well as set the stage for more reading.

Recommendation Wall: On index cards, students will record book recommendations. Displaying students’ cards as suggestions for summer reading, I’ll keep the display for next year’s incoming students. While combing through notebooks and selecting books to recommend, the kids discuss scores of books they might read and reminisce about titles they have enjoyed.

End-of-Year Survey: Students have designed end-of-year survey questions and are polling each other about their reading habits, how many books they’ve read, and favorite authors and titles. Students may use edmodo to post poll questions, create a survey using Survey Monkey, or go low tech with a clipboard and pen.

Title Tally: I expect my students to read 40 books a year. Some have read 200. Some have read 20. All of them deserve to celebrate. Borrowing an idea from Penny Kittle, my students have calculated how many books they have read this year and drawn signs on computer paper showing their totals.

**I took students outside to pose with their signs in class photos today and shared the combined total for all three of my classes. My 103 students read 6,735 books this school year. A remarkable achievement, but what this reinforces to me is that children will read a lot more than people think they will (or expect them to read).

Whatever you do to recognize your students’ reading accomplishments, select activities that communicate students are not finished reading when the school year ends and that every reader has value to the class community no matter how many or what titles they read. Far preferable to award certificates and incentive prizes, which can be community dividers instead of community builders.

Some of you have finished the school year, and some have weeks to go. What activities and events do you plan for your students at the end of the year? Share your ideas! If you don’t have time this year to try an activity, we always have next year.

Kick off your summer reading and join Paul W. Hankins and me for our monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk, this Sunday, May 29th at 8 pm EST. Our topics this month: personal reading and writing plans and summer professional development.Participants in the chat always share loads of book recommendations, too.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.