I love my job!! On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to model for my students how I am personally part of a much bigger reading community than just the four walls of our classroom. I frequently talk to them about my reading life, their reading lives, and how I want them to live the lives of readers.
I look at how many ways we’ve been able to break down the physical walls of our classroom, and extend into the virtual reading community; many of those experiences grounded in conversations I had with other book lovers via Twitter.
It was through Twitter that I met Susan Dee (@literarydocent), and discovered that we were both going to begin reading Out of My Mind to our students at precisely the same time. I teach in Ohio and Susan teaches in Maine. In 140 characters or less (multiple times!), we came up with a plan for how we could connect our two classrooms via Kidblog. As we each read this powerful book aloud to our students, we had them take the time to respond to the book on the blog several times a week, and then also respond to each other’s thinking. Their conversations were amazing!! We capped the experience off with a Skype visit between our two classes. They were so excited to put names and faces together, especially with the people with whom they had had rich online discussions. Their “in person” conversations were as thoughtful as their responses on the blog – so delightful!
It was also through Twitter that I met Laurel Snyder (@laurelsnyder), a wonderful author of children’s books. With the upcoming release of her latest book, Bigger Than a Breadbox, this past October, she was offering free Skype visits to classes who might want that experience. That was a no-brainer for me – I definitely wanted that experience for my students. Laurel visited us via Skype, but the way she set it up, if felt like we were right there in her living room, just chatting about her book and other issues pertaining to being an author. My forty-eight students felt so connected to this author who lives in a different place than they do. They were thinking and responding like readers in a virtual world.
This year, I have a different teaching situation than before. I’ve always taught in a fairly self-contained elementary classroom, but this year I am teaming with another teacher, and I teach two sections of 5th grade language arts each day. From the beginning, my goal was not to have them be two separate classes; instead, I wanted the physical walls to come down, and have them be part of the same larger reading community. I turned to my trusty KidBlog again. I’ve opened the virtual walls between the two homerooms so that they have conversations with each other about books, recommendations, our read aloud, and their lives as a reader on a regular basis, even when they’re not in the same room. KidBlog is the perfect tool to enable these ongoing discussions.
Recently, I became a member of the Nerdy Book Club (actually, I’ve been a member all my life; it’s just nice to have people organize it so well now!). I shared my membership in this club with my students, and then asked them what they thought it meant to be part of a book club. What great conversations ensued! From the obvious (“you get together and talk about a book”) to the more thoughtful (“it gives you a sense of what other people think about the same book you read”), the discussions have been thought-provoking. And how did I hear about the Nerdy Book Club?? You guessed it — Twitter again!
Hopefully, the message my students get on a daily basis is that we are all part of a global reading community, and to keep those communities alive, we need to actively participate in them. I really do want my students to be readers for life, both inside and outside our four classroom walls. Making that happen is why I love my job!!
Karen Terlecky is a 5th grade language arts teacher and one-half of the Literate Lives blog team. She also contributes to the Choice Literacy website. She fell in love with books at an early age, with her mom as her reading model. Hopefully, through her 28 years of teaching, she has been a reading model for many other children along the way. She is a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club!