Flexible Seating by Amy Marshall

guest post iconFlexible Seating and a Classroom Redesign – The Beginnings

The August panic arrived this week. It’s that tipping point in the summer where I’m worried that I won’t be able to get it all done – the fun trips to the beach, the must-do household tasks, the back-to-school planning. I even had my first back to school dream. In this one, I attempted to teach the importance of Shakespeare’s use of soliloquy to a group of fifteen year olds while at the beach. It didn’t go so well. So with my mind beginning to circle around the upcoming school year, I’ve decided to lay out some of the main things about which my mind is preoccupied.

Foremost on my mind is my classroom configuration. For many years now, I have been using reading and writing workshops with a theme based question. One element that is so important to me is collaboration. But for some reason, it’s a real struggle to get the students to do it. It always seems that once they have glued themselves to their seats at the beginning of the period I can’t get them to move. If the person sitting directly beside them isn’t ready to collaborate on a task, then they think it can’t be done. I was sure that someone out there had a solution and the research began. My discovery? Maybe it’s my classroom configuration.

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1: Starting point in August

In the early 2000s, a group of school architects, child psychologists, and educators began to examine the environments in which our students work. They claim that educators need to consider the classroom environment as the third teacher (with the actual teacher being one, and the content being two). Students get their cues about what is important for learning from the things that they see in their surroundings. So, if there are individual desks in rows, they believe that they should be working alone. If there are groupings of four, and only those, they feel that they must work with the people at their table. In Kayla Delzer’s article “Flexible Seating and Student Centered Classroom Redesign” (Edutopia, 2016), she goes on to further explain the role of flexible seating arrangements for the feeling of fluid collaboration.

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2: Starting point in August

After reading that, it made sense to me. While I thought I had a dynamic classroom, it was really only dynamic in my mind. To my students, it still pigeonholed who their collaborators could be and when that could happen. To make matters worse (at least according to the flexible seating gurus), I had a huge teacher desk that dominated one whole corner of the room. Many educators see this as a barrier to students feeling like the have ownership of the space. It sends the message, “This is my place that I allow you to be guest in.” I can only speak for myself, but when I’m a guest in someone’s home, I’m reluctant to move freely about, helping myself to whatever I need. Usually a guest waits for the cues from the host. I don’t want my students to feel like they’re my guest when they are in my room.

 

Enter the first of my two big experiments this year – flexible seating. Oh, what fun! I spent much of the month of June, measuring spaces, harassing the custodian for stools and tables, designing furniture I wanted my husband to build me. My colleague, who teaches math next door, became excited and started gathering her own tables and stools. It was a fantastic, exciting time – until I saw the custodian removing the desks I had marked as no longer part of my plan. Then my nice, big, safe teacher desk was wheeled away. The final thought of panic arrived as it dawned on me that I won’t have my beloved seat plan.

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The hope for September

So, here I sit in August, wondering if this experiment will garner the results that I want – to make students realize the value of assessing what kind of learning they need to do that day and choosing their setting accordingly. The fluidity of the workshop model will finally be mirrored in the fluidity of my classroom environment. I’m nervous, but excited. Maybe by October I’ll be begging the custodian to give me back my desks.


Amy Marshall teaches grades 9 and 10 at St. Malachy’s Memorial High School in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. She has experienced all subjects, and grade levels from kindergarten to grade 12, but her heart is in high school English. A member of the NCTE, she believes in the power of collaboration amongst teachers and learning from each other. In 2015, Amy was a recipient of a Book Love Foundation Grant to grow her classroom library.

Contact:  Email:  amy.marshall@nbed.nb.ca             Twitter:  @armarshall    

Try it Tuesday: Silent Sticky Conferences

A burning question I seem to repeat year after year is “How do I talk to more of my students one-on-one beginning on the first day of school?”

I know the value of making eye contact with the adolescents who enter my room. I know the importance of making them feel like they belong here — like they are in a place where they can be themselves, a place where they want to learn.

I confer regularly with my students — about their reading lives and their writing lives — but every year it seems to take me a while to get in the groove. You know, get all the procedures introduced and underway, get students interested in books (and sometimes reading itself), learn names, set up our writer’s notebooks and our blogs and all the different bits of technology we use regularly like Google Classroom and Twitter.

I know all of these things are important, but sometimes I feel like I miss valuable moments of just I-want-to-get-to-know-you in my rush to get everything set up so we can finally begin to learn.

I know myself well.

So this year — I’ve slowed the pace a bit. And my students and I are passing notes.

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On the first day of school, I asked students to write their names big and bold on one side of a notecard. (I use these throughout the year to select non-volunteers to speak up and share their notebook responses and to answer questions. You know, like the popsicle sticks with everyone’s name on them idea.) Then, on the other side of the card, I asked students to tell me what they think I need to know about them as a learner in relation to the reading and writing we will do in this English class.

Silent confer1Some of my students’ notes were telling:  Many of them lack confidence. Few of them like to read. A couple feel ready for the complex texts they will have to tackle. Some explained in very few words a need to feel validated and cared for and something personal and important to them as learners in my care.

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I responded to each student’s note with a personal note of my own, written on a sticky note that I returned the next day in class. One young man questioned as I walked the room passing them out:  “Miss, you wrote to all of us?”silentconfer2

“Yes,” I told him, ” and I need you to carefully read what I wrote. Let’s see if we can start a conversation about you and what you need from me as a reader and a writer.” His grin grew as golden.

Silent sticky-note conferences have been the norm in my class for quite some time. They bridge the gaps between face-to-face conferences, build relationships, show we care enough to pick up a pen and pen a few words of encouragement or instruction.

With class sizes of 30 (sometimes 30+) we have to find ways to talk to our students one-on-one often. This passing little notes method fulfills my need to touch base with students, and it fuels their need to be recognized, validated, and hopefully inspired.

If you haven’t invested in sticky notes this year, hurry to the store while they are still on the back-to-school sales. I’ve got a whole crate of them.

Next step:  We’ll eventually move into larger pieces of paper, so I want to teach my img_1845students to fold notes like I did way back in seventh grade before the advent of all this technology. Texting friends just cannot be as fun as all those little folded notes.

What are your ideas for more face-to-face and one-on-one conversations with students this year? Please share in the comments.

 

 

Stop, Celebrate, Revise, & Repeat by Amy Menzel

guest post iconNERD ALERT: I have no fewer than 89 “notes to self” regarding teaching ideas for the upcoming year.  You’re reading this, so I bet you can relate.  The problem (sorta) is that most of these ideas are brand new.  I mean, I think some of them are pretty darn good.  (For instance, infusing more Malcolm Gladwell into the curriculum is always a good idea.)  But in the cyclone of nerdiness, I often forget to note teaching successes of the past.  This means I’m missing out on the opportunity to revise some already solid approaches.

rememberAgain, I’m betting I’m not alone on this.  We teachers often get caught up in innovation.  And innovation is a good–no, a great thing.  But innovative educators have been innovative for years and careers.  We don’t always have to start from scratch.  I suggest we all take some time to stop, celebrate, revise, and repeat.

Step 1: Stop.

Think back to a lesson or unit that was especially successful.  I’ve just been thinking back to how I kicked things off last fall.  Prompted by this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, published last August, I composed my own written address to my new students.  I titled it, “Here’s What I Need You to Understand,” and shared it on the first full day of classes.  Of course, my message wasn’t the end-all-be-all, and I extended the invitation (eh hem, assigned students) to compose a written response.

Step 2: Celebrate!

Take time to acknowledge your awesome approach and relive that “Woohoo!  It’s working!” feeling.  For me,  this initial writing activity accomplished a few things.  First, it allowed me to share my philosophy with my students.  Second, it showed my students that I, too, am a writer.  And, third, it prompted our journey of written conversation.  I was pleased with my efforts, but thrilled when a student wrote, “Honestly, there are not many teachers who dedicate this much time on the first day of school to explain what they value and expect from their students.”  While I can assure this gentleman that there are, in fact, many teachers who dedicate a lot of time and thought into such efforts, I’m glad he saw me as one of them.  Success!

dac14c846c912159e8a8c0bf9ccf42f025e3897c420b7955c8277d82b1e5abecStep 3: Revise.

It’s time to take another look at what year-ago-me thought, reconsider, and revise.  (I can already tell you that I don’t love the wording of belief II.)  With any luck (and a whole lot of writing revision), I can make this fall’s class kick-off even more successful.  Perhaps I’ll also incorporate a conference into the student writing process.

Step 4: Repeat.

T-minus 30 days…


So what teaching successes do you need to remember, celebrate, revise, and repeat going into the 2016-2017 school year?

Amy Menzel is an English language arts teacher who has taught at Cudahy High School, Franklin High School (WI), Emerson College, Wheaton College (MA), and is excited to continue her career teaching at Waukesha West High School (WI) starting this fall.  She is a teacher-consultant through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Writing Project and holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College.  She wants (needs) to write more.

Making Workshop Work in 45 Minutes

Kerry wrote:

“One of the seemingly overwhelming hurdles I feel I have is to engage my students with only 45 minutes each day! Do you have any tips or tricks for me to do this?”

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Amy’s diagram of all the moving parts of workshop

So many teachers ask this question.  When one considers all of the moving parts of workshop instruction–reading, conferring, mini-lessons, booktalks, quickwrites, workshop time, choice–it’s tough to conceptualize how to fit it all in to any duration of class time.

 

What’s important to consider is what Penny Kittle referred to as the “currency of time”–what you spend your time on, and what will give you your biggest return for the investment of that time, is equally as important as what you DON’T spend your time on.  You can make workshop work in any time period, with or without all of these elements in one class period, if you invest your time wisely.

What’s most important for our students?  What is the most valuable use of our time?

Time to read.

Time to confer.

Time to write.

That’s it.  If I have those three elements in every single day of workshop, I feel our _Time_-_is_money_095207_.jpgtime has been well spent.  Every workshop classroom will–and should!–look a bit different.  That’s one of the most valuable things about workshop:  not only does it provide for student choice, it gives teachers autonomy, too.

Here’s what I responded to Kerry:

“What I did when I taught those shorter classes was essentially break up my typical workshop into two days, plus I had lots of activities that I always did on certain days of the week.  Fridays, for example, were free-write Fridays in writer’s notebooks, and every Monday always had a sentence study lesson to learn grammar.  We always started with 10 minutes of independent reading, then moved into EITHER a mini-lesson or a quickwrite, then had either a reading or writing workshop.  We had a long workshop every few days or so applying the previous day’s mini-lesson, which they only had a short time to practice the day before.
So, let’s say I’m teaching Macbeth:
Monday: 10 min Independent Reading, 10 min sentence study (using a mentor sentence from the text or a related thematic text like a poem), 15 min mini-lesson on some aspect of whatever part of the play we might be reading that day, 20 min of reading the text with a directed reading activity (close reading type of stuff)
Tuesday:  10 min IR, 15 min mini-lesson or quickwrite (maybe a journal prompt on the nature of evil or something), 20 min reading of the play
Wednesday:  10 min IR, 5 min reminder of yesterday and Monday’s mini-lessons, 30 min reading of the play
Thursday:  10 min IR, 15 min vocab activity, 20 min directed reading activity (discussion, etc.)
Friday:  10 min IR, 10 min free write, 25 min reading of the play
I’d do that for about 3 weeks until the unit was done. (I try not to let a unit go longer than 3 weeks.)
Let’s say I’m teaching narrative writing:
Monday:  10 min IR, 10 min sentence study (using a mentor sentence from a model narrative), 15 min mini-lesson on a writing skill, 20 min writing time (content creation day)
Tuesday:  10 min IR, 10 min mini-lesson follow up, 25 min writing time (lots of revision or tweaking here)
Wednesday:  10 min IR, 5 min reminder, 30 min writing workshop (lots of one-on-one conferring with a combo of content creation and revision)
Thursday:  10 min IR, 10 min vocab activity in notebooks, 10 min writing mini-lesson based on previous day’s workshop, 15 min tinkering workshop
Friday:  10 min IR, 10 min free write, 25 min writing time (straight content creation)
Those days were PACKED.  There was really no free time, so kids who were absent, kids who had questions beyond workshop or conference time, etc. really had to come and see me outside of class (after school, lunch, etc.).  And, there was a lot more homework…we just didn’t have time for everything during 45 minutes.”
How do you make workshop work in any duration of time?  Share with us in the comments a brief outline your daily schedule, please!!  It will be invaluable to see the variety.

Every Opportunity on Day One and All Year

Every Opportunity

You’ve probably seen this video. When I watched it this afternoon, it had over 8 million views. If you haven’t seen it, I challenge you to watch it. Then, think for a bit about where you see yourself. I did.

And it’s humbling.

As I start a new year with new students today, I want to remember the me I want to be every single day — the adult with the smile who takes the time to greet each student with a genuine hello, the teacher with a voice of care and concern — even when I’m tired or frustrated or worried about something completely unrelated to school. I want to show every student that they matter — because they do.

We teach students as much by our actions and attitudes as we do by our instruction. We know this, and we love children — that’s why we went into education in the first place, or at least I hope it is.

So today, when my students come to my door, I’ll be there to greet them. I’ll talk to as many of my juniors as I can. I’ll look into their eyes and invite them to think and write and share as much as they are willing to about their lives.

How will I extend this invitation? You guessed it. Our first response of the year will be to this Every Opportunity video. I’m eager for the conversations.

Building community on day one and then working to strengthen community every day throughout the year.

I’d love to hear your ideas for building classroom communities that work to ensure all students feel seen and heard. Please share in the comments.

 

Keeping it Simple: Setting Up a Writer’s Notebook

Teresa wrote:  “I have a few questions about how your students setup their writing notebooks. What are the sections in the notebook, and how many pages do you have them section off for each? Also, does one composition book usually last all year, or do they have to get another one at semester?”

I met Teresa at a workshop training I conducted this summer. She’s getting ready for her school year to start, and I am glad she sparked my thinking about how I will have my students set up their notebooks this year. This is it:

First of all, and you probably already know this:  it’s hugely important to have students personalize their notebooks.  So during that first week of school, my kids will be using scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, and whatever to make their notebooks into something that represents their life or their personality in some way.

I’m thinking of having students email me three photos from their phones, and I’ll get those printed (since I doubt many would do that on their own), and they can use those photos to decorate inside and outside the covers of their notebooks. It’s also a way for me to build a contact list of all my students. Doubling up on purpose there.

Last year I skipped this important step of personalization, and it was a mistake. Students must take some time to make the writer’s notebook their own — it can make all the difference as to the care they take regarding ideas and writing they put into that notebook.

Now, to get to your question –the notebook set up:  For years I’ve made it complicated — so this year I am simplifying. Thanks to some discussion I’ve had with Shana about our writer’s notebooks, I finally have a plan for this year.

Since the focus of my instruction is to advance all readers and writers, I need to make sure my students know that their writers’ notebooks will be the tool we use to measure their movement. So on the very first page, I ask students to write big and bold at the top:  My Reading Goal for my Junior Year. Then I ask them to draw a square in the center about the size of a standard sticky note.

“Write your goal in the center,” I tell them, “How many books will you read this year?”

Most students write a goal of 4, 5, or 6. They don’t think in big book numbers yet — they are used to reading (sometimes) the assigned texts in their English classes. They don’t know about reading volume or choice or the engaging titles in my classroom library — yet.

I model and write my reading goal in the center of my square on the first page of my notebook:  37. My students gasp.

Then, I show them the list I’ve kept of the books I read this summer — and the stack of books I pull from under the table. “I read all of these just this summer,” I say and watch their eyes grow real wide.

“My goal for you is that you will read many more books than you think is possible this year. Let’s set those goals a little higher.”

Sometimes during the same class period, sometimes a day or two later, we read our choice books for ten minutes and then calculate our reading rate. (# of pages read in 10 minutes times six equals how many pages you can read in an hour for that book. Multiply that number by three (the amount of reading I expect my students to do each week) and that equals your individual reading goal for the week) We draw little charts of the Reading Rate formula at the bottom of our goal page right there in the front of our writer’s notebooks.

After we calculate reading rates, we often have to return to goal setting. Students realize that if they plan to meet the expectations I have for them, they will read many more than the four-book-goal they originally set for themselves. This discussion often leads into important discussions about reading volume and how it leads to fluency, vocabulary development, more background knowledge on a variety of topics, and improved writing skills. This is where I start the mantra that I repeat over and over throughout the year:

The only way to become a better reader is to read. 

Next, in our writer’s notebooks we move into our plan as to how we will reach our reading goal. First, we have to have a plan. Readers have a plan. They listen in on conversations about books. They become familiar with book titles. They come to know topics and genres they like to explore. A big part of helping students come to love reading is helping them identify themselves as readers. So many of my students do not know how to do that.

An easy way to start identifying as a reader is to walk the walk of one. We make a plan, and our plan looks like a “What am I going to read next? List.

We make this list on the back of our goals sheet. This is where we write down the titles and the authors of books we learn about through book talks, talking with peers, exploring the bookshelves, etc — all books we think we might like to read throughout the year.

This list serves as an accountability piece. If students’ lists grow, I have one way to measure their involvement in our reading community.

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I like the idea of having students include genre and start/finish or abandoned dates. I can learn more about a reader at a glance.

We also need a “What am I Currently Reading List.” We keep this list on the next page — right across from our TRN (to read next) list. This way students see how to transfer a “hope to read” into a “now I’m reading.”

Students record the title of the book, the author, the genre, the date they started the book, and the date they finished it or abandoned it. If they abandoned the book, which is absolutely fine — there are too many awesome books to suffer through too many we do not enjoy — I want short notes about why the book is being abandoned. I model statements that may work here. “It was boring” is not one of them.

“The narrator annoyed me because he seemed like a whiner,” or “I thought this book would be an engaging story, but it’s really a non-fiction book about information I don’t really care about” are both appropriate “I-am-abandoning-this-book notes.”

This list serves as an accountability piece. As students lists grow, I can see at a glance the titles and genres they are reading. I can see the start and finish dates to gage if their reading rate goals match with the dates recorded on this list. I can see where I might need to confer with a specific student about abandoning book after book after book — just from a scan of their CRL (currently reading list)

We need a space in our notebook for Response. We skip a page after our CRL and label this section of the notebook for what it is. This is where we will write our thinking. We will respond to a variety of texts: videos, news reports, poems, articles, stories, etc.

This is where we will deposit our initial reaction to and thinking about provocative things. This is a place for our quickwrites, our thinking on the page. We need a lot of space here, so in a composition notebook of 100 pages, we will reserve at least 20 for this section. (And we may need another notebook all together in the second semester.)

This serves as an accountability piece:  are students engaged in the writer’s community? Are they giving a ‘best effort’ at capturing their thinking on the page? Are they showing revision moves in their quickwrites? Are they playing with language like I’ve suggested as they develop their thinking and writing abilities?

Now, to really keep the set-up of the writer’s notebook simple, we just need three more sections:  reading, vocabulary, and writing.

Reading. In this section, we will record notes from reading mini-lessons, academic words

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Low-stakes student writing about her reading life. We can learn a lot about a student’s reading and writing this way.

that live in those lessons (and highlight them), tips on reading strategies, and our writing about our reading that we will complete on occasion.

This serves as an accountability piece:  Are students engaged in the reading community? Are they doing their part to advance their reading abilities? Are they competently writing about their reading?

Personal Dictionary. I used to give lists of vocab words for kids to student and then take a quiz over. Little authentic learning took place around those word lists. A much more authentic and useful way for students to learn vocabulary is for them to generate their own lists. Ask them what they do when they encounter words they do not know as they read. They’ll tell you: They skip them. No more.

We capture words we do not know in our choice reading books, and we record them in our own personal dictionaries. I ask students to record five words a week. They list the date of the week, then the title of their book (even if it’s the same book a few weeks in a row). Then they make a list of the five words they found in their reading that week, define them in context of how the author uses the word, and write down the sentence in which the word is used. We do this week after week, collecting words throughout the school year.

This serves an accountability piece:  If students are not reading, they will not have any words to record. If students are not reading a complex enough book for them, they will not have any words to record. I can help students determine if they are reading a book suitable for their comprehension abilities if I take frequent looks at their personal dictionaries.

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What started as a brainstorming activity to think about topics, lead to opportunities for discussion with this student I would not have had otherwise. Students reveal their lives to us in low-stakes writer’s notebook writing.

Writing. This is consistently the greatest chunk of our writer’s notebook. In the writing section, we craft a variety of writing territories. We take notes on writerly moves that we learn in mini-lessons and from mentor texts. We practice imitating the craft of our favorite writers. We take notes on grammar and mechanics. We practice sentence structures and the moves of writers we study as a class and in small groups. We build a tool set here of craft moves we can experiment with in our own writing. And we brainstorm and draft in this section of our notebooks.

This serves as an accountability piece:  Are students engaged in the writing process? Are they giving their ‘best effort’ attempts to create a toolbox of tools to use in their writing? Are they understanding the writing mini-lessons and practicing the application of those skills? In their drafts, is their thinking evident? Do they have strong ideas that will carry a piece before they every work on revision and craft?

And that’s it. Our writer’s notebooks are set up — with sections labeled and homemade sticky-note tabs to separate each section. These notebooks become gold. They are precious to the learning that takes place in my workshop classroom. Not only do students have one central place to keep notes and ideas. They have a personal place to practice their craft and write.

The writer’s notebook– and all these accountability pieces– mean relatively easy, though sometimes time-consuming, formative assessment for me:  I can choose to check the whole of student notebooks say every three weeks, or I can choose to check a section (I usually choose this option.) Either works to see if students are engaged in the workshop classroom and advancing readers and writers, which is my ultimate goal for all students all year long.

See more on writer’s notebooks by searching the TTT categories.

Please share your ideas for the set up for writer’s notebooks. I’d love to know if you think I’m missing something important that will further advance my students’ learning. And I wrote this post without having access of photos of each step. I hope the description will be enough.

Top Books for Reluctant High School Readers

return and talkThis summer, we’d like to return and talk about some of our most useful, engaging, or popular posts.  Today’s post, written by Jackie in 2015, shows us some great possibilities for back-to-school booktalks.

Please return to this topic and talk with us in the comments–what are some hot titles you’ll booktalk as we return to school this year?


IMG_2877“I’m not a reader.” I hear this multiple times during my first weeks of conferencing. The non-readers are easily identifiable; their body language alone speaks volumes of their disdain for books.

“You just haven’t found the right book,” I tell them, and they smirk, knowing they’ve heard that statement before.

The first week of school is a vital week of matching students with books, and while I itch to recommend titles, I hold back, giving my freshmen the independence and freedom they so desperately crave in high school. Too often students blindly accept recommendations without so much as a thought to the contents. They lack self-awareness when it comes to their reading interests or style, which is why those first two weeks are essential to not only organizing but also empowering them through choice.

Throughout the week, I book talk popular titles, engage in “speed dating” with books, and provide ample free time for students to explore our classroom library, but I also get out of their way. Instead of telling them what to read, I model ways to find a strong candidate, considering reviews, awards, contents, genres, and summaries.

While the majority of the class tends to quickly settle into their books, there are always stragglers who remain convinced they’ll never enjoy reading. These students sometimes grab the first book they see off the shelf, and oftentimes these books are too dense, difficult, or in some cases “boring.” That is okay! I settle into conferences with these students, getting to know their hobbies and eventually handing them two or three books that might pique their interest. In the end, they still choose what to read, but in the process they might require some initial guidance.

IMG_2870Regardless of who picks the book, the end result remains the same—to find a plot that envelops and consumes students, forcing them into the story. Here are some of my number one titles that tend to break down the shell of even the most reluctant readers.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve already had three students read this book, one of which is Leah, a gamer and self-identified non-reader. When I asked if she has ever had a favorite book, she thought for a second then said, “I think this one might be the only book I’ve ever really liked.”

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Adrian initially picked a sequel to a book he read last year. “You must have liked the first one then?” I asked.

“Not really,” he replied. “I just didn’t know what else to read.” The next day he picked up The Compound, which is full of the fast-paced suspense he craves.

Paper Towns and Looking for Alaskaand basically everything by John Green.

I chased Emily up the stairs for this recommendation. When I asked her which one sparked her interest in reading, she said she couldn’t remember which had sucked her in. She just knew that despite her protestations at the beginning of the year, by the end she “loved them both.”

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Damion had only ever loved one book and he was bound and determined not to like any in my classroom; that is until he came across this futuristic, survival story. Upon sitting down beside him for a mini-conference last year, he looked away from his book briefly to say, “Ms. Catcher, I’m at a really good part and I can’t talk right now.”

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“I’ve had people give me ‘dark’ books before, but they aren’t dark at all,” Sarah tells me. I hand her three options, one of which is Gone Girl. Three days later she tells me, “I’ve spent my whole life hating books, and you’re the first teacher who ever found one I actually liked.”

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I book talked Unwind second this year. It’s a given crowd pleaser because of its twisted plot and graphic scenes. The fact that I only have one copy of my four originals is a testament to its popularity.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Carter claims he hasn’t read a book cover-to-cover since third grade, but he has fallen in love with Chbosky’s classic on teenage life. He said to me today, “Ms. Catcher, I love that this book talks about real things, things that are actually happening to us.”

“That book is only the beginning, Carter,” I said

What books do you recommend for reluctant readers?  Which titles are most popular in your classroom?

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