When I was 10 years old, I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan.
One of our favorite picture books is Me…Jane. In this book, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of Jane Goodall as a little girl. He paints a portrait of a child who plays outside, watches animals, writes notes about what she sees, and reads books about things she finds interesting. Of course, knowing that Jane Goodall grew up to live a grown-up version of her childhood makes the book even more magical and whenever we read it, we are struck by the way Jane Goodall’s girlhood seems to embody what it truly means to be “college and career ready.” While the national conversation about college and career readiness seems to focus on things like close reading, lexile levels, and text complexity, we can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if more children lived their childhoods the way Jane Goodall did–exploring their passions in ways that give, rather than drain, them of energy.
Spurred to action by this question, we recently devised a simple two-part experiment where we asked children to talk about what they love and then invited them to read books about these interests. When children were reading books that were connected to their passions, we observed them clamor to read hard passages, naturally engaging sophisticated reading strategies. Those children who usually go to great lengths to avoid reading time begged for “just a little bit more time” to read. Students who professed to “hate reading” hugged books to their chests and waited in line to share with us the parts that inspired them. Not only was there a whole lot of happy in these classrooms, there was also a whole lot of productivity.
There is a strong cultural belief that hard work is the answer to everything that ails us. This belief has resulted in “close reading” of horribly dry passages, antiquated comprehension workbooks sporting snazzy new covers with shiny “Common Core Aligned” stickers, and a lot of tired (and bored) teachers and students. However, Jane Goodall’s life story, coupled with what we’ve witnessed when teachers tap into the interests and passions of students, make us believe that perhaps the more certain path to future college and career success is the one less often taken: joy.
This week we look at conferring. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Contributors, Choice Literacy
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris blog at Burkins and Yaris — Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy. They are also the authors of Reading Wellness, available through Stenhouse Publishers.
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Research, decide, and teach – Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan use Lucy Calkins’ wise advice in assessment conferences with children:
Katherine Sokolowski finds a consultation with a dermatologist is just the ticket for remembering what’s important when it comes to conferring with students:
Vicky Vinton makes connections between the lack of open-ended questions in classrooms and our fear of losing control:
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Franki Sibberson explains the value of Making Time for Individual Conferences, and the dividends longer conferences early in the fall pay all year long:
Melanie Meehan shares her Guiding Principles for Conferring:
In this week’s video, Ruth Ayres confers with fourth grader Ty about his personal narrative, and works to move him away from a “bed-to-bed” approach in his writing:
Max Brand confers with a struggling fourth grader who produces very little writing in Making Memories Stick:
In an encore video, Katie Baydo-Reed confers with an eighth grader as he previews The Wednesday Wars and makes connections to the main character:
That’s all for this week!