November 2, 2021

What I'm Reading & Teaching in November

Our whole class novel study will wrap up with an essay focused on how conflict helps to reveal theme. Students will also have a choice of projects.

Just when I though we were settling into routines, I had a nearly three week absence in early October due to Covid-19. Despite being vaccinated and being cautious as possible, the virus spread from my husband to one of my daughters to me and finally my other two daughters. Fortunately my husband and I had mild symptoms and my three daughters, all too young to be vaccinated, were asymptomatic. Teachers always joke that writing lesson plans is worse than calling out sick, but being sick, solo parenting while quarantining, AND writing lesson plans for 12 days definitely was a whole 'nother level of stress. We're gradually getting back in the swing of things at home and at school. This month will bring benchmark testing, the book fair, and Thanksgiving Break, and I feel like before I blink November will be over too.

Reading in November
I'm not quite sure how I managed it, but I squeezed in ten books this month. I read two physical books (one middle grade, one young adult) and the other eight were audiobooks (all middle grade). We started our whole class novel early in October, so independent reading time doesn't exist right now as a way for me to squeeze in more reading, but we'll get back into that routine this month. Since I met my goal of reading 104 books for the year (2 books per week), I upped that goal to 125 books.

Check out the titles I read in October and the books I'm planning to read in November.

Here's what I read in October:
1. Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne Morrell (middle grade fantasy)
2. The Racers: How an Outcast Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Challenged Hitler's Best by Neal Bascomb (middle grade nonfiction)
3. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (middle grade fiction)
4. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (middle grade verse novel)
5. Everything Within And In Between by Nikki Barthelmess (young adult fiction)
6. The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz (middle grade fantasy)
7. Moo by Sharon Creech (middle grade verse novel)
8. Starfish by Lisa Fipps (middle grade verse novel)
9. The Sea in Winter by Christine Day (middle grade fiction)
10. What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado (middle grade fiction)

I read three verse novels this past month and I have plans to read a few more this month so I can continue recommending those to students who are looking for quicker reads. Some students are intimidated by the length of a book, or embarrassed by a slower pace of reading. Verse novels are the perfect way to help them feel more comfortable and accomplished. All of the books on my TBR list are middle grade titles so I can keep sharing books I've liked from our classroom library with students.

Check out the titles I read in October and the books I'm planning to read in November.

Here's what I'm hoping to read in November:
1. Booked by Kwame Alexander (middle grade verse novel)
2. Rules by Cynthia Lord (middle grade fiction)
3. House Arrest by K.A. Holt (middle grade verse novel)
4. The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (middle grade fiction)
5. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (young adult)
6. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (middle grade fiction)
7. The Running Dream by Weddelin Van Draanen (middle grade fiction)
8. Allies by Alan Gratz (middle grade historical fiction)

Teaching in November
I started our whole class novel study of Pax by Sara Pennypacker a little earlier than I anticipated, so we'll be wrapping up reading in less than a week. This is my second time teaching the novel. Last year students were virtual during our novel study, so this year with students in person it is nice to see how much students enjoy the book. 

We started the novel study with a fun choice of projects. After learning about foxes through a variety of text and media, students write a children's book about wanting a fox as a pet or create a storyboard for a PSA about the dangers of having wild animals as pets. During reading we've worked through a variety of skills throughout reading including citing text evidence, characterization, figurative language and idioms, vocabulary acquisition, symbolism and allegory, irony, and making connections with other fiction, poetry, and nonfiction texts. We'll also end the novel study with a fun choice of projects. Students will choose music that matches key scenes in the text or reenact and photograph figurative language from the text. 

Throughout the novel, I use the sticky note method (from Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach by Ariel Sacks) to track students' thinking. Students complete three open response notes each night as well as one note focused on conflict. Those notes on conflict lead up to writing an essay at the end of the novel study looking at how conflict helps to reveal the theme of the novel. This is the first time this year that students will be writing a full essay. We've been building up to this with short writing assignments and students will also have lots of support throughout the essay process from me. You can read more about my process for teaching text dependent analysis writing here and find resources here

Last year students were working on their essays and project right up until Thanksgiving break, which meant that I was grading those over the break in order to have grades finalized for the end of the trimester. I will not make that mistake this year! Not only was it no fun for me to spend some of my time off grading, it also didn't give students much wiggle room if they needed additional time to finish. I'm hoping to spend those last two days before break celebrating the books we've read during the first Trimester and playing some games to celebrate all of our hard work.

During the time I was out, students did review some grammar content (we had been focused on simple sentences before I went out) and some quickwrites, but we didn't get to turn our two word sentences writing pieces into anything polished. Next year! We reviewed simple sentences again when I returned, which led into the idea of complete and incomplete sentences. We've now moved on to compound sentences. Next up will be introducing the idea of sentences with openers, interrupters, and closers. I've been pulling most of the sentences we've been studying right from our whole class novel, Pax, and I'm still heavily leaning on the ideas in ideas in Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style Into Writer's Workshop.

Our whole class novel study will wrap up with an essay focused on how conflict helps to reveal theme. Students will also have a choice of projects.

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