As we run, we become.
I went out for the track team when I was 12, and I’ve been running ever since. Over the years, I’ve gotten quite a bit slower — honestly, it now is “jogging” instead of “running,” and occasional “walking” slips in when hills get too steep. But I still say “running” because it makes me feel strong and good.
Running has been as much a part of me as working, reading, and breathing. Yet recently I began to dread running. My family had settled in a large suburban house. Large and roomy, it sat awkwardly at the end of a long lane leading from a two-lane highway. Living there, my running was a mind-numbing, unsafe endeavor. Every morning as the sun rose, I tip-toed out the front door and trudged down our gravel driveway to the highway. I ran two miles up the highway and two miles back. Same route. Straight east, turn around, straight west. Same thing. Every. Single. Time. Snow and rain and beating sun: I went east, and I went west. I curled deep onto the shoulder of the road when I saw cars, or concrete trucks, or semis, or whatever other lumbering vehicles were hurtling my way. Without making eye contact with the drivers, I lifted a hand apologetically as they roared past, feeling somehow accused of doing something wrong.
No wonder I’d begun to hate it.
I didn’t ponder it much. I just went on and did it — compliant, habitual, dutiful, and eager to fulfill expectations. That’s me.
Then in a surprising whirl of good decision-making, my family moved into town. We’re part of a quiet, quaint, hidden little neighborhood. I’m intrigued to find myself giddily enjoying my runs again; in fact, I wake up eager to lace my shoes. There are countless routes to take; there’s so much to watch and see. The traffic is ghostly in its absence. The streets are cobbled; signs pronouncing “Historic Building” adorn many homes and businesses. The coffee shop is full and bustling. People walk down the sidewalks holding the hands of their children or the leashes of their dogs. Tonight I met Lyn, hanging deftly to a wagging-tailed Bear as he sniffed and snuffled. Melanie stopped by and asked if I’d like to run with her next Monday. People sat outdoors at the local tavern, laughing and holding grilled sandwiches and drinking lemonade. No matter what direction I take when I set off, I’m refreshed and inspired by the things to see and think about.
That is exactly why we must give students choice and freedom in their reading.
If we force books upon children and insist they follow the same path their peers are taking, or worse, the same path we took as learners, we strip the joy and refreshment out of reading. Instead, we can let our students create their own path. We can ask them to choose their exploration. “What direction do you want to take today? What are you thinking about and caring about these days? Are there people you’d like to share with? Where do you want your imagination to carry you?”
Allowing choice and trusting students to make the right reading and writing decisions for themselves will inspire them to love their literacy path. We can’t force them up and back, east and west, on a boring, unsafe highway; we must give them cobbled streets, coffee shops, friends and strangers, and roads headed in all possible directions.
This week, we’re focusing on student learning partnerships. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help students build collaborative skills.
Amanda Adrian describes the “try it on” phase of helping students learn to confer with each other, and uses fishbowl modeling to help children develop conferring skills:
Paul Hankins writes about the many benefits of pairing older and younger readers in the essay One Book/Four Hands:
Christine McCartney provides suggestions for peer activities to boost interest and enjoyment of reading in Towards a Better Independent Reading Program from the Nerdy Book Club:
Pernille Ripp hears that dreaded comment from a student — “reading sucks.” She uses the comment as a catalyst for a provocative class discussion in Why Reading Sucks and It’s Okay to Talk About It:
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Beth Lawson spends a lot of time with her fourth graders helping them sort through what makes peer collaboration work in Finding a Writing Buddy:
This week’s video from Katie DiCesare’s first-grade classroom is a quick check-in conference with reading partners:
Quiet kindergartners can be a challenge to understand when they are in the beginning stages of learning social and academic norms. Andie Cunningham uses observation to understand five-year-old Sierra in Learning From Kidwatching:
We have a bonus video this week. Ruth Ayres confers with kindergartner Dalton early in the year, focusing on his illustrations to build storytelling skills:
New PD2Go: In this conference with second grader TJ from Sean Moore’s classroom, the strategies of backing up and rereading as well as attending to the “bossy e” are discussed:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard RF.1.3c: Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
That’s all for this week!