Have you ever read a book where, after you finished, you just couldn’t stop thinking about it? I just finished reading Vincent and Theo and it has moved me. So beautifully written about a man who has been largely misunderstood. As I have been reading through this book the past few weeks, I shared what I was learning with my parents, my husband, and my walking partner. Van Gogh’s story is fascinating, and so much of it I didn’t know, especially about the bond with his brother. I didn’t even know Vincent Van Gogh had a brother.
When my students choose their own books to read, they not only bring in their experiences as a reader, but their excitement to share what they’re learning. It’s contagious watching their faces light up discussing what they are currently loving. Required independent reading is a mix of enjoying books for fun and demonstrating understanding of literary terminology. They’re reading for pleasure but also critically, to be able to write about characterization, author’s craft, imagery, tone. They’re creatively writing as well, adding background stories to beloved characters and epilogues in the author’s style.
Students write more, and I would argue enjoy it more, when they choose what they read. This year, I have tried to have less whole-text novels, (right now it’s one per trimester), and more choice novels. Whole class novels has its place in our curriculum, and I do enjoy the experience of going through a novel together; however, independent reading has my heart. Mini-lessons wrapped around a concept or idea that is embedded in students’ choice novels has made learning more engaging and interesting.
I put together a packet of my top independent reading activities if you’re interested. (Click here.) They are centered around mini-lessons, so you teach the concept, and then have students show their understanding of the concept using their independent reading book. Feel free to try this one and let me know what you think! [Character Trait Outline Form]
Happy teaching! xoxo