June 30, 2021

What I'm Reading & Planning in July

Summer is for reading and recharging. Here's my TBR for July and the reading choices and writing instruction I am considering for next year.

School is out for the summer and those last few days of teaching in June weren't half bad. After sweating through two field days (thanks hybrid schedule), we spent our last few days in the classroom reflecting on the year and having fun. Students created a virtual portfolio and completed an end of year survey for my class. On our last day of class, students "competed" in a series of summer themed challenges. It was definitely a school year like no other and I'm interested to see what next year will bring.

Reading in July
I read all but two books on my June TBR list. I read 7 middle grades titles, all of which were audiobooks. I also read 3 young adult titles and 1 professional development book that I plan on finishing today. I decided to start including the titles that I did read the previous month in these blog posts because it is usually more than what I set out to on my TBR list.

So here's what I read in June:
1. Walls by L. M. Elliott (young adult, available July 27)
5. Blended by Sharon Draper (middle grade)
7. The Brave by James Bird (middle grade)
9. Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai (middle grade)
10. Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Rivera (middle grade)

More time in the car driving my oldest daughter to and from camp plus the back and forth from the beach plus more downtime at home means I've had more time for audiobooks. During the school year when I'm tired, I get in bed with a book, but I'm finding I'm doing less of that during the summer because I'm better rested and less stressed. Tracking the number of books I've read throughout this year and the format of those books (physical versus audiobooks) has really helped me think about my reading habits and ensure that I'm not spending too much time doing less important things (yes, I'm talking about you social media). In July, I'm hoping to read a few more adultish titles plus two PD books that I want to lean on during my writing instruction this year.

Here's what I'm hoping to read in July:
2. Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson (professional development)
3. Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson (professional development)
5. The Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda (young adult fiction)

Planning in July
Immediately after school let out, I spent a week at the beach with my little ones, enjoying being able to just be mom. Now we're in the swing of summer, which means some time at camp and with their summer sitter for my girls and long weekends at the beach. The days when my girls are occupied, I spend working through my teaching resources, making plans for next year, and thrifting for books.

One of my first summer tasks, especially after this year, was to do a clean up of my Google Drive. I have an archive folder where I put all of the folders I won't need next year, but might want to reference at some point. Then I organize everything in my ELA folder, labeling and color coding things so they are easy to find and access. One thing I did this year that I haven't done in the past is to make copies of excellent student work samples and save them in the folders with the assignments. I know I'll be thanking myself for that next year.

Another of my first summer tasks was to review the novels I used this past year and submit any changes so books could be ordered for next year. In Trimester 1, my theme is "animal intelligence" and all students read Pax by Sara Pennypacker, which I'm keeping for next year. I'm considering replacing it with Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly, but not ready to create an entirely new whole class novel unit just yet. 

I am also going to keep the parallel novels from Trimester 3 tying into the theme of "dealing with disaster." Using Life As We Knew It and The Dead and The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer meant students still had a choice in books, but they were similar enough that we could have whole class discussions that still made sense to everyone. That was perfect for the end of the year when we did a lot more just talking about our books and less assignments. The change in genre (the rest of my titles are realistic fiction and these are science fiction/dystopia) is also nice.

For my literature circles with the theme of "facing fear" during Trimester 2 this past year students had 6 choices: On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer, Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes, The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz, A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée, and Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. There weren't any titles that students didn't enjoy, but as I reflected on the list I wanted to replace some of the titles to better allow students to learn about identities or experiences other than their own. I also wanted to make sure my choices didn't center around racial trauma or potentially reinforce stereotypes. 

As a result I decided to drop On My Honor and Black Brother, Black Brother. I will still offer The Only Road and Under A Painted Sky because I have copies left, but I'll phase those out. My new additions will by Tight by Torrey Maldonado, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez, Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (I used this title as a read aloud this year) and Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai. I imagine this list will continue to evolve year to year as I read more middle grade books and as new titles are released. The new mix of titles still ties in to "facing fear," but more specifically the fear of "othering," which will allow me to incorporate purposeful discussion around our experiences being the other or othering, and being upstanders and bystanders.

My big mental project this summer is to think about how I'm going to build by writing instruction next year. Pre-pandemic, I was working on building students' writing skills with personal writing assignments, mostly inspired by Linda Christensen's work in Teaching for Joy and Justice and Reading, Writing, and Rising Up. I want to get back to that this year, but also work in Jeff Anderson's use of mentor sentences as a way to "teach" grammar in the context of the writing we are already doing. The first step will be reading the two books of his on my TBR list. Hope you are enjoying doing whatever it is that makes you happy this summer!
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Summer is for reading and recharging. Here's my TBR for July and the reading choices and writing instruction I am considering for next year.