Teacher comics: From Divergent to The Book Thief…
I love utilizing sustained silent reading in my classroom. I’m good at it. Even so, there are pitfalls that students and teachers can fall into if they are not collectively careful.
One thing I see constantly during SSR time students doing is crutching out in a beloved genre and not allowing themselves the opportunity to branch into other types of books. A kid who loves Lord of the Rings could happily spend the rest of his/her life reading nothing but LoTR-style fantasy and never see anything else. While we can all be happy that student is reading, I also think we can agree it would be a shame if s/he never had the chance to try any other kinds of books. It’s like going to 31 Flavors and only getting Butter Pecan for your entire life.
Another thing I wanted to address in a sideways fashion is the amount of teacher passivity during sustained silent reading time. SSR should not be seen as a day off for teachers. They should be active in the classroom in all sorts of ways. I tried to show this with my interactions with Mika but there are all sorts of ways teachers can be invested in SSR time. I recommend regular conferences with students, but again that’s up to the teacher.
This run of comics ends with me recommending The Book Thief to Mika. While it’s not a sci-fi dystopian novel by any stretch of the imagination, it does have the dark themes and big concepts I believe will play to her interests. Being able to do make this kind of recommendation is the kind of thing a teacher can do only if they’ve had the time to get to know their students’ interests, an innate understanding of the student’s reading level, and honestly you need a good classroom reading library with a deep bench of choices for the student.
I have found great success working with students in this way… but you can see where this would be a tough thing to do in our current climate of “teach to the test” and “make do with less.” I’m thankful for the luck I’ve had in fundraising for my classroom library because on the whole, schools aren’t interested in sinking a ton of cash into classroom libraries.
…so takeaways from this week of comics:
1. Sustained silent reading couched in student interest is good.
2. SSR for students shouldn’t be a passive time for the teacher; they need to make themselves actively involved.
3. A strong classroom lending library is an asset to this kind of work.
4. Everyone go read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Hell, read I Am The Messenger while you’re at it, I like that book JUST as much as The Book Thief.