By Hook or By...Book

Thursday, July 3, 2014
by Your Curly Pal, Lori

Texas friends, had I not spent time in different districts listening to different teachers all saying the same thing, I would be afraid to pose this question. But I have, so I'm not.

Did you feel like you didn't read as much with your kids this year? Like you haven't been able to read books with your kids in a few years?

You're not alone. It's just where we are right now and it is not necessarily a comfortable place to be. For many of us, reading a good book with our kids can be the crux of building a solid relationship with our students. I'm not an advocate for not reading with your kids. So today's Relational Realities focuses on providing skills-based instruction using an accessible text that has beautiful heart lessons. Did you get that?

  • Skills-based
  • Accessible
  • Heart lessons!!! 

That last one is hard to come by! I recently had the privilege of working on a curriculum writing team and building a brand new class for struggling students. We used The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch as our first semester anchor text. If you haven't read this, it is a beautiful little book that is full of little nuggets of insight that kids can truly digest and even talk about. For this class, we knew that relationships would be key. Instead of killing these kids with test prep (because what good does that do?), we have decided to open the year with this book and utilize it for skill building AND relationship building. 

Here are a few things I love about this book.
  1. It is a literary non-fiction piece. With this genre, you can teach expository skills--like thesis statements, purpose, and argument. But, because of it's artistic nature, you can still easily teach symbolism and figurative language.
  2. It's great for quick writes. Quick writes are a great way to begin your year because you can begin to build a bank of informal writing that can be developed.
  3. It is great to teach sentence structure and grammar. If you open your year with it, you can easily complete your grammar foldable using this book as your anchor text.
  4. It lends itself well to excerpts. If you read our blog often, you know how we feel about a good excerpt! The book is a bit pricey, so I don't expect that you would be able to swing a class set, but you could easily teach with only certain chapters.
My two favorite chapters:
  • Chapter 16--"Romancing the Brick Wall" Teach symbolism and provide kids early in the year with short answer question practice. Depending on how you move about it, it could be completely discussion based. This is also a great opportunity for a quick write about obstacles. What a way to start your year! Jotting down a list of obstacles and then quickly writing about something that you've overcome or something that remains an obstacle can be a powerful starting point for a kid. And, if you build in opportunities for kids to share their writing, then you are building a community of readers and writers. 
  • Chapter 28--"Dream Big" Here Randy talks about the importance of big dreams, even if they sound absurd or unattainable to others. This is another great moment for a quick write. And you're killing two birds with one stone because you're still able to complete that grammar foldable! You've got them reading and writing. There is a lovely reference to Neil Armstrong that students could later reference in an expository essay. This is also a great place to teach thesis statements and author's purpose.
Truly, there is so much that can be pulled from this book. Give this little gem a try. By hook or by crook book, we will build strong relationships!

Let us know your favorite relationship-building books. We'd love to hear from our curly pals!

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