A Fresh Start

It’s the middle of April. We’ve been together for 8 1/2 months. And we’re very, very comfortable with each other. What does this all mean? It means it’s that time of year.

Every Spring, a few weeks after the first crocuses bloom, my students, or more to the point, our learning, needs a rebirth. A bit of energizing. A little pizzazz.

We’ve been reading together for quite a while now. We’ve read independently, we’ve read in partnerships, and we’ve read in clubs. We’ve done read alouds, we’ve done small groups, and we’ve conferred.

They’ve searched my shelves, perused the book bins, recommended to each other. They’ve tried various authors, different genres, and new series. They’ve given book talks, visited the library, and reread favorites.

So today, it was time to try something new. Something different to build excitement. And recharge their batteries. And remind them how much they love reading.

Today we did a Read Around. Which, simply put, is an opportunity for kids to explore and discover books they might like to read. Setting up a Read Around is extremely simple. All you need is fifteen or twenty minutes and some books. Often, I’ll have my students do a Read Around when we are about to begin a genre study. Today we looked at fantasy books. But you can do a Read Around using any books you want. I’ve done Read Arounds with nonfiction, with picture books, and with under-read-yet-excellent-literature in the past. And each time, the Read Arounds have met with great success.

So how exactly do you create a Read Around? Just place piles of books at different stations around your classroom. It helps if you have a few titles that you’ve kept in hiding until this point in the year. Once the books are set up, I randomly choose name sticks and ask students to pick a starting spot for themselves. They bring their notebooks, turned to their To-Be-Read list page, and a pen. Then they begin.

Students look at book covers, read blurbs, discuss the books with others at their station, and jot down any titles that look intriguing to them. After a few minutes, I call time and ask each group to make their way to a new spot. We continue like this until all students have had time to peruse as many books as they want.

The results? Amazing! Suddenly, it’s September in April. Students have fresh TBR lists in their notebooks. They’ve joined together in impromptu partnerships and trios to read favorites together. One group chose three books and has a plan to read one after the other. Another group took the first book of a 4-book series and plans to read the next three when they’re done. One student ran up to show me the back of her book because there’s a picture of the sequel. Of course, I promised to order copies for her club if they decide they love the first book.

All in all, it was a banner workshop day. Two students were absent, but two partnerships told me they took an extra copy of the books they chose, in the hopes that the absentees will decide to read with them. Each group set a date to begin their new “on deck” fantasy book later this week, as soon as they complete their current independent reading. Every student is enthusiastically looking forward to embarking on a brand new reading adventure.

My next step? Just give them time to read. So tomorrow, we will be sure to devote a solid forty-five minutes to independent reading. Thanks to our Read Around, we are raring to go.

It’s the middle of April, and we’ve been together for a while. But we’re recharged, and we’re ready to read!

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