May 31, 2021

What I'm Reading & Teaching in June

There's just a few days of school left and just enough time for some reflection and fun. Here's what I'm be doing in my classroom and my TBR for June.

May was not much of a teaching month between administering our school's benchmark tests (NWEA's MAP testing) and then our states standardized tests. This lull in classroom planning and grading made May my best month yet for reading. But that doesn't mean nothing happened in my classroom! Students did finish up a crossover research and narrative writing assignment and will finish their last novel unit this week. I have just a week and a half of school left in June to squeeze in some reflective activities and some fun.

Reading in June
In May, I read everything on my May TBR list; I am finally getting the hang of creating a monthly stack of books I want to read without hesitation. I'm still working on balancing genres, but did pretty well with that this month too; I read six YA titles (one was a collection) and six middle grades titles (two were nonfiction and the other four were audiobooks). I'm almost a month ahead on my goal of reading 104 books for the year, so I'm feeling pretty good about that too.

Here's what I'm hoping to read this month:
2. Walls by L. M. Elliott (young adult)
8. The Line Tender by Kate Allen (middle grades)

Teaching in June
My students just finished their final novel of the year; they had a choice between two parallel novels, Life As We Knew It and The Dead and The Gone, both by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Because of all of the testing in May, this novel unit was much less structured than the whole class novel or literature circles I did with students earlier in the year. We had a lot of informal whole class discussions about the two books because although the characters and specifics of the plots are different, the general events and issues are similar enough. Students enjoyed getting to hear about what was happening in the other book and comparing the characters' experiences.

To wrap up the novels, students will have a short and creative assessment that will hopefully be the perfect mix of structured and open ended. I'll ask students to focus on the thoughts the main character is having in the final chapter of the book. Students will choose three key words or phrases to represent the character's thoughts and then pull three pieces of evidence from the text to support those choices. Students will also add at least three images to reinforce the key ideas and text evidence. To support my special education students and lower level readers, I created a word bank of key words they could choose from. This is my first time using an assessment like this, so I'm hoping it is something that students will be successful with and not something that turns out to be much more difficult for students than I intended.

Despite all of the challenges in teaching and learning this year, I want students to reflect on everything they've accomplished this year and give me feedback so that I can make changes for next year. After grades are in, I'll have students complete an anonymous survey about their favorite unit, assignments, and books as well as the structure of my class and classroom. The other reflective activity I'm trying out this year is for students to create a virtual portfolio. They'll choose four of their assignments to show off, write a reflection paragraph, and then decide who they'd like to share their portfolio with. If the idea goes well this year, I would love to build it up next year into an in person event for families to attend (I can remember doing something similar as a sixth grader).

Each year, students are given a summer reading assignment, so I'll be previewing Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, the novel students will be reading as rising seventh graders, and passing along Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds to my incoming sixth graders. The "work" attached to reading is to send me an email reflecting on the character and conflict and making connections with the book. I also ask students to answer some fun questions about themselves. The summer assignments are not graded, so I like the email format which doesn't make a big show of who turned it in and who didn't. It is also a great way to preview students' writing skills and start connecting with students before the school year begins.

On the very last day of school, I've set up a summer themed mini-Olympics, similar to what I did the day before winter break. Students will create teams and compete in six rounds of activities, some are word or logic puzzles and others are games on Kahoot!, Quizziz, and Blooket. Since some of my students are remote and some will be in person, I'll use breakout rooms on Zoom to allow students to work together. And that'll be a wrap for the 2020-2021 school year!

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There's just a few days of school left and just enough time for some reflection and fun. Here's what I'm be doing in my classroom and my TBR for June.

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