What I'm Reading & Teaching in February

January 31, 2021

2021 is off to a good start for reading and teaching! I'm on track with my reading goals, students finished an essay, and started literature circles.

2021 is off to a good start for reading and teaching. I didn't read all of the books on my January TBR list, but I did read 10 books keeping me on track with my goal of reading 2 books a week (and a total of 104 by the end of the year.

In my ELA classes, we wrapped on the nonfiction section of our "Facing Fear" unit with a crossover between an informational essay and a research essay. This was the second major writing piece my students have worked through this year and I used parts of the structure of the first one, a text dependent analysis essay, since that one was so successful. We kicked off literature circles last week.

Reading in February
In January, I read 5 physical books and one e-book, and listened to 4 audiobooks. I wanted to be more intentional about reading more nonfiction and adult titles, but the second adult nonfiction title I intended to read was a little too dry and serious for my current reading mood and really created a reader's block for me, so I think I'll let those intentions go this month. Here's what I'm hoping to read in no particular order:
9. Luck of The Titanic by Stacey Lee (young adult, available 5/4)

Teaching in February
The month of February is dedicated to the literature circles we kicked off this week. We started the anchor text for our literature circles, Freak The Mighty, the week before that. I'm playing an audio version of the book for students at the start of class to give myself a little breather between classes and the novel serves as a common text I can use for examples so that all students can understand (plus it's a great story that fits with our theme).

On day one of literature circles we used Freak The Mighty to practice selecting discussion passages and developing discussion questions, the two tasks students must complete to prepare for literature circle discussions (discussion are every other day and we alternate bringing a passage and bringing questions). Students also joined a Google Classroom specific to their book title (I find it easier to organize things that way) and reviewed their reading calendar for literature circles.

Moving forward this unit has a four day structure that repeats. On day one, I introduce or a review a skill from earlier in the year and students complete a short writing assignment focused on that skill. At the end of class they read and select a passage for the next day's discussion. My skill introduction or review is done using a NearPod that usually includes a short video explaining the skill in focus, a matching activity, and a short quiz.

On day two, I hold live discussions with each group. Group members share the passage they picked out and other group members respond to it. When students are not working with me, they are reading and answering questions in an online discussion group (a Google Doc shared with students in other classes who are reading the same title). As students share their passages, I use the "Save The Last Word For Me" strategy, letting all other group members share their thoughts before the student who selected the passage shares theirs. The questions in the online discussion groups are a mix of generic novel questions and text specific ones that I pulled from guides or created myself.

On day three, we play a quick review game focused on the skill from day one and complete a creative assignment focused on that skill. At the end of class they read and develop two questions for the next day's discussion. I rely on premade content on Quizziz and Kahoot! for the review games and edit them as needed. The creative assignments have all come from this list of ideas so far.

On day four, I hold live discussions with each group. Group members share the questions they developed. When students are not working with me, they are reading and responding to their peers' answers from day two in their online discussion group.

The four day rotation has been pared down from my original expectations of what we'd be able to work through in a day, just changed again thanks to two half day snow days, and will likely shift again as I continue to see what works virtually and what will work when some students are hybrid next week. This week I'm planning on trying out Jamboard to close out each class with a quick reflection on what students read that day. It's a fine balance of using resources I've previously used and tools that the students are already familiar, and finding new ways to engage students. I haven't decided yet how I'll wrap up our literature circles: an essay, a project, or both.

2021 is off to a good start for reading and teaching! I'm on track with my reading goals, students finished an essay, and started literature circles.


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