One of my biggest challenges this year has come during a reading group that I have been leading every morning with 7 second graders. My group is constituted of ‘high readers’ from the class—kids who have a more advanced proficiency with their reading skills. While their aptitude is awesome and exciting— for some reason being a high reader in this particular scenario also means being smart, quick witted, outspoken, and easily bored. These kids plow through chapters during silent reading and get irritated and frustrated with others during group reading because it goes much slower.
I have experimented all year with different ways to keep these kids satisfied and engaged—trying different strategies to let them excel independently while at the same time showing them the importance of patience and balance. My latest ‘victory’ came in the form of exposing the kids to a wide variety of book styles and genres. We read a book called The Homework Machine, which was about a group of fifth graders who invented a machine to do their homework for them. I knew my second graders would love it. The book is written in diary format, so I assigned all of my kids a character to read, and they got so deeply into the roles! They loved the book because they could relate to the kids in the story and the way it was written was fun for them to read—especially as a group.
When we finished that book and began transitioning to the next, I was worried it would be a let down. They were so excited to read aloud for the last book and I didn’t want them to be bored and disengaged with another story that wasn’t so outgoing.
I presented Because of Winn-Dixie to them one morning soon after we had finished The Homework Machine, and what followed was a series of moans and groans. The cover of this book was all wishy-washy, the text was small with no interesting format, there were no pictures to look at, etc. I tried to explain to the kids that this book was a classic: I had read this as a child and remembered loving the story. I told them that it may not look that exciting, but we had to give it a try. Well, we are about halfway through the story now, and my group is loving it! I asked them a few days ago what they thought of the book so far, and a summary of their answers would look something like, “at first I thought it was going to be really boring, but it’s actually really funny!”
I am so excited that they are learning to love books of all different kinds, both old and new. And at the same time, I am learning how to work with them to make the experience of the story the best it can be! I could see that they were benefitting so much from reading aloud during The Homework Machine, and now during Because of Winn-Dixie we have had more independent reading, as they seem to enjoy this story more on their own. It has been a give and take for all of us, and I am happy to be learning, growing, and enjoying the wonder of books all year long with them!