This year for my reading comprehension group, I wanted to use an interactive notebook again, but I decided to format it differently than I did last year. I knew I wanted to make sure that the information that was stored in the notebook was useful and used by the students during our work and our thinking. Some of that would come organically, so I decided to set up the notebook in a way that allowed for that to happen in my lesson planning and during the lessons as it came up.
ALSO, I had a flash of PURE GENIUS this summer in a parking lot that helped me determine the theme I would be using. I was walking into Target (SHOCKING!) and noticed a cart rolling across the lot. It had come from an elderly couple who were loading their car. I could see them staring at the cart knowing they were unable to chase it down and stop its trajectory. I grabbed the cart, asked if they needed it anymore, and put it away when they said no. They were so grateful for this little nothing act that didn't really take anything out of me, but meant a lot to them. I had such a great feeling for the rest of the day! I thought, this is what I want my students to feel! How can I bring this into the classroom? I realized that we read and hear about stories like this everyday. I could easily find short stories, articles, poems that related to this theme. I could incorporate reading skills and extend our reading into actionable tasks that would give students the same feeling I had that day in the Target parking lot. Hooray!
What that means, is I'm going step by step this year. Instead of having my whole year planned with articles and stories, I've got ideas in place and I'm pulling them in as the work develops.
To start the year, we talked about the thinking readers do when they're reading and came up with annotation marks to match that kind of thinking. (We did this last year too, but based on what we thought as opposed to the skill we were using.)
I chose to read "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes with the students because the story is something students can relate to. They can understand why the boy (Roger) tries to steal money and they can also understand why the woman (Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones) punishes him and then takes care of him. They did some excellent thinking as we were reading, which we categorized based on our "Reading is Thinking" page in our journals. My favorite was when a student said he thought this took place in the past based on the way the characters were talking and I got to yell about how he made an inference and used his brain and the students thought I was CRAZY but I was so genuinely excited! IT WORKED!
I also picked the story because at the end, Roger feels like he didn't really get a chance to give Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones a proper "thank you" before he leaves and he never sees her again. She does a really powerful thing for Roger and teaches him a lesson we can imagine sticks with him for the rest of his life. When we finish the close reading of this story, the students are going to write thank you notes as an extension. For this work, we're going to write to someone at school, but throughout the year, I'm going to have them revisit this idea (assuming I remember and they enjoy the task) and write thank you notes to other people of their choice that they can deliver on their own.
I have high hopes for these tasks and I hope the students find meaning in them beyond school work!