How can it be mid-winter already? The first months of school flew by, and so many important things happened; sometimes evolutions and revolutions occurred and we were just too busy to notice. September was a busy month of building a community and establishing a supportive learning environment. October was a satisfying month with students settling in and visibly enjoying reading and writing workshops. November and December finally gave me a moment to pause and really reflect on my current community.
This year’s class is a very social group who delights in the closing circles of workshop, a time when students share books, projects, and challenges, bringing closure to our workshop sessions. Time always seems to be an issue for talking about our discoveries. This year’s group, more social than past classes, was distressed that more students could not share each day at our closing circle. One afternoon, right after a Poetry Friday session and before we headed to music class, one of my students asked: Since we all can’t talk at the circle each day, can we set up a way to share our current books in special ways? We each can figure out how to share our books on the blog. Or some other way . . .We can still share if we are not in a circle .
Her classmates echoed her comments and I listened, thinking about her question and their reactions over the weekend. On Monday I returned with a new idea for my students to consider. I talked about how important sharing was for readers and writers, but at the same time we only had so much teaching and workshop time each day. I reminded them that sharing could easily exist beyond our chat time in “the circle.” I challenged them to think about ways that students could share, and off they went working in teams to brainstorm, debate, and discuss sharing strategies that the whole class could use.
The results? My students invented Tuesday Trades. This book sharing process became another ritual in my classroom, all because one brave child was bold enough to ask for the chance to connect with her classmates. Here’s what happened.
When students asked for opportunities to share book recommendations, as a teacher I heard kids saying that it was important for them to make elements of their reading lives visible within the circle of their learning community. Kids need social opportunities to share their learning lives just like teachers, right?
When I asked my students to think about how we could make time for books recommendations, they thought about our classroom experiences with weekly rituals. On Mondays we take time to highlight nonfiction resources during a time called Expedition Mondays, and on Fridays we celebrate poetry during a share session called Poetry Fridays. Students decided we needed a ritual with choice elements called “Tuesday Trades.”
Every Tuesday, students unveil reading recommendations in a self-selected format. My kids borrowed the name from our school’s “Trading Post.” Each Tuesday during the lunch hour, volunteer parents host a book swap in the cafeteria. Students trade your books from home for new books. The event has been a great hit, so we revised the “Trading Post” idea to fit our needs in the classroom.
Nuts and Bolts of Tuesday Trades
Once the kids decided that each week our class would take time to share book recommendations following our morning meeting, I posed these questions:
How can we recommend books to one another?
How can we take time to find out about one another’s reading lives?
Here are the practical elements of Tuesday Trades we designed together.
When does this happen?
“Tuesday Trades” happens during a 15-30 minutes session, bridging the time between morning meeting and reading workshop.
What does it look like?
It’s a time when kids share their reading recommendations with one another. We start in a circle with kids sharing book recommendations face to face. Following our circle, the kids have laptops arranged around the room with their current book recommendations queued and ready for viewing. Like a museum tour, the kids wander and browse, solo or in pairs, viewing one another’s reviews and recommendations.
What is shared?
Tuesday Trades are book recommendations created any time during the week. Kids choose to create their book reviews during:
- Writing workshop when selecting a project
- Reading workshop when they finish a book
- Independent learning time (it is surprising how many podcasts and movies are recorded during indoor recess time too)
- Home learning (because a lot of learning happens outside of the classroom)
- Waiting time (with so many kids having iTouches, iPads or access to iPhones, kids are writing reviews as they wait or travel in their daily lives)
Kids typically work on their recommendations from Wednesday through Monday, and unveil them on Tuesday. Students are expected to share at least two recommendations a month, but the trend has been to write more than two.
Once the kids hammered out the collective ideas and expectations for Tuesday Trades, we worked on formats and ways to share reading recommendations. Here are the formats that are being used currently, but I expect this list to change and grow over time.
Reviews: Students Post Reviews on Our Classroom Blog
Lengthy reviews appeal to kids who enjoy a challenge. These writers that like to dig into writing and research; they write detailed opinions about why they like books. Writers look for Internet links to book trailers, other writers’ reviews, and info-links about the book or author to include with their reviews.
Top 3 Reasons Blog Entry: Students Create Quick and Short Blog Entries
We use “Top 3” as our number, but you can use whatever number fits the age and endurance of readers in your classroom. Write quick blog entries using our “Top Reasons” model, a writing format that appeals to the analytical thinkers. “Top Reasons” is a recommendation that starts with a purpose statement naming the resource and who might want to read this resource. The lead sentence is followed by three or more “top” reasons to read the recommended resource. The review ends with a closing persuasive statement. I liken this format to “business email meets David Letterman’s Top Ten list.” This format is favored by analytical kids who enjoy writing evidence lists, rather than a detailed conversation with the reader.
Racing Recommendations: A Dash Notes Review
Just like “Top Reason” reviews, some kids prefer reading and sharing quick bits of evidence to support reading recommendations. Some might call this review a list of dash facts or a haiku recommendation. This format appeals to kids that need to share ideas, but are not in the mood to commit to a lengthy review. This format also entices developing writers that struggle with organizing ideas on paper. Often this dash fact review is a seed for a bigger project down the road.
If You Like . . .: A Connections Review
This format appeals to puzzle-loving kids that enjoy riddles, analogies and logic problems. The kids present reasons for reading in a format with elements and evidence: “If you like (BOOK TITLE), then you’ll like this book (BOOK TITLE) because . . .
Short Shares: Oral Reviews Presented During Morning Meeting
Students record their review ideas on an index card and rehearse their presentations that fit into a one-minute format. Kids schedule a date to share their recommendation during our morning meeting time. In one minute, they present the best reasons to read this book. This format appeals to auditory learners, kids who like to perform, and kids that struggle with writing.
Listen To This: Podcast and iMovie Reviews
Students write a review and record it as a podcast or movie, posting their reviews on our classroom blog and class website. This format appeals to kids that like an audience. It is also an authentic way for teachers to sneak in fluency growth for developing readers.
Glogster: Links to Blogs and Websites
Students create e-posters using the digital tools available on this creative website. Glogster appeals to creative, visual kids interested in new creative tech applications. These are the same kids that communicate with words and images, giving power to both text and images. Students add important information boxes detailing the positive elements of this resource. Music and videos can be added. Many children enjoy adding i-movie versions of their reviews, recording their reviews rather than sharing them as written texts.
Read This!: Students Create Mixed Media Posters
Writers and artists who like to create postcards or posters with art materials use this format and recommend different kinds of literary genres, websites, and specific titles. Displays are presented during our Tuesday Trades time on a bulletin board outside of our room.
Children love rituals and routines in their learning communities. They also relish the freedom to make choices, and I trust in their ability to work independently. Just as children let you know when they are settling into rituals and routines, they let you know when they are ready for new ones. While giving children opportunities to write and share their ideas about reading resources, our ritual called Tuesday Trades strengthens our learning community. Just like the school’s book swap, Tuesday Trades supports simple yet powerful ideas — reading matters, choice creates inspiration, and connecting with other readers is vital.