I'm thinking about the tools in MY arsenal...forms (both digital and paper), my GINORMOUS BINDER OF READERS, my "Conferring Apron," the fancy pens, my notebook, the numerous anchor charts plastered to my walls...just thinking about all of this makes my head want to explode!
But the best tools that I bring to my Reader's Workshop are the strategies I share with readers and the TEACHER'S MOVES that I use to build excitement around reading because, let's face it, without student engagement, you've got nothing.
This I know.
My well-worn copy of The Book Whisperer reminds me of the importance of passing my love of reading on to my students through my own personal enthusiasm about books and the magic that lies within them.
One of the most powerful Teacher Moves that I can possibly use to build excitement amongst my fourth grade readers is THE BOOK BUZZ.
This is one of those Teacher Moves that is so subtle at first but then snowballs into something that can really take on a life of its own in relatively quick fashion.
Don't believe me? Consider the hype that surrounded the Harry Potter books...or the excitement that Scholastic builds around its release of the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book...the energy that builds around reading takes on a life of its own. And "kid readers" fuel the fire!
So my question here is this: Why aren't we harnessing "The Power of the Book Buzz" more often in our own classrooms?
Here's a universal truth...If you "hype" a book with your readers and create THE BOOK BUZZ, you can create a book frenzy right in your own classroom.
Every time I read a book that I'm about to add to my classroom library, I share it as part of the day's mini-lesson. Inevitably, there's at least one student who wants to read the book before I shelve it. So the book is immediately passed on to the reader. There's always a kid who pipes up, "Can I have it after you finish it?" Here's where I post a Sticky Note to the back of the book and have students who wish to "have a kick at the cat" sign their names to the book. Now the book has a road map of where it's headed.
Elise Gravel's book is an interesting mix of sketches and creative writing, all rolled up into a neat little notebook package. I had fun picking through it, and I thought that my fourthies would enjoy her quirky sketches and amazing sense of humor.
I started by sharing this book during a minilesson about keeping a Reader's and Writer's Notebook. This is actually a fabulous example of what a notebook full of ideas could become!
My readers were intrigued. Fascinated. Enchanted.
Frenzied hands reached out for this book. Readers jostled one other as they reached out to put their names on the back of this book.
I intended to put If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel in my "book gutter." So far, this book only makes it's way back to the gutter at the end of the day. It is the first book grabbed in the morning and it is passed about so often, I know that I'm going to need to replace it sooner or later.
If there is a cluster of students around a table, it is usually because groups of them are marveling at the illustrations or laughing at the notes that accompany them.
Taking a nod from Donalyn Miller, I have incorporated the "40 Book Challenge" into Reader's Workshop. To add a little excitement to this challenge, I reached out to a few different authors to ask if they could help me out by contributing a signed book to our competition.
The first author I reached out to was Elise Gravel...who is amazingly awesome by the way. She responded to my request within minutes and sent this my way:
Oh yeah...Elise Gravel rocks our world. This book has been situated in a place of honor, just waiting for the first round of 40 Book Challenge qualifiers to add their names to the drawing. There's so much excitement built around Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere...my kiddos just walk up to it and gaze adoringly at the book with its unknown treasures inside (including a great autograph and personalized note from Elise!)...sigh.
So...if you aren't creating a Book Buzz in your classroom, why aren't you? If you are looking for 3 reasons, here they are (in no particular order):
- Book Buzz costs you nothing but 5 minutes of class time to get the whole conversation started...so it's economical.
- Book Buzz gets real kids excited about reading. (John Hattie ranks Student Engagement super-high his work, Visible Learning!)
- Book Buzz allows you to put HIGH QUALITY literature into the hands of students without them even realizing it! (Kind of like sneaking cauliflower into a tub of mashed potatoes!) Jack Gantos' book, Dead End in Norvelt is a fabulous book that consistently is checked out more than any other book in my classroom. Why? Because I created a Book Buzz with the book. It's an awesome Newberry Award Winner that is so well-crafted and enormously funny...but it competes for shelf space with lesser quality books. Kids need to know about books like this. It's up to us to share them...often!
Never underestimate "The Power of The Buzz!"