On Whole Class Novels

I was forced to forgo them when teaching in Harlem. Our ELA lead forbid us to teach whole class novels and it was a struggle for me, bcz it was all I knew. Before teaching under her leadership, I used to have my students read 2 books a year, teach the content of the books, and a few skills— like summarizing, visualizing, inferencing. Other vital reading skills like asking questions and making connections would be taught with non-fiction.  Allowing students to read independent novels opened a whole new world, the world of individual conferencing with each child on a daily basis. Through conferring, I learned how intimate and personal learning how to read is for our children, especially children who do not value reading. Collectively, my students finished over 40 books that year. .

But monitoring independent reading was a challenge this school year because 1) we didn’t have books 2) they silently rebelled against my homework assignment of reading 15 pages a night. Me, being a firm believer in, “If you fail, I fail.” could not just stop at, “These kids can’t read. They don’t do homework.” I had to rethink everything! So here we are in March, starting our second books of the year. I wouldn’t let them quit their first independent books, even though it took them 4 months to finish! I changed their nightly reads to allow them to set their own page goals/time goals. I allowed them to help me craft homework assignments so that they would actually have ownership in doing them.

But that was for my 8th grade classes. My 7th is struggling with showing their readiness. They haven’t mastered the skills or my strategies, yet. So we are going to be reading, “Number the Stars” together so that I can, explicitly, model the skills/strategies. Im not saying they can’t, I am meeting them where they need me to... by mid-April, they’ll be independent again, reading books of their choice!

Next year, I’ll start with a whole class novel, then small book club groups, and then shift to independent novels for my new kiddos. But I already know, I’ll have my current 7th graders in 8th grade, so they will be ready to read, independently, on day 1!