A good book and freedom to explore

The start of the school year has been flying by. I have really enjoyed getting back in front of the students, talking books and trying out the things I have been working on this summer to improve my practice.

There is a lot of information out there on how to start the year. Should we focus on relationships, set our expectations, go over syllabus (yawn) maybe a mix of all three? This year I made the choice to forgo discussion of a syllabus. I can talk about what we are going to do as we do it, I will post the syllabus and email to parents if they need it but I have come to a place in my mind where a syllabus is nothing more than an outline and outlines belong in emails.

So what did we do to start the year? We introduced ourselves, we talked about our passions and one interesting fact, then we talked books. We went over the library expectations, I surveyed their reading interests and we wrote 6-word memoirs. Next class we read, we talked BHH and we used mentor texts to springboard our writing. I have no need for meaningless games when the work we do is meaningful.

Yesterday I received a note thanking me for making Social Studies fun. Past students asked to come a deliver book talks when I was ready to introduce the concept to my new classes. I have had countless books leave my library to go home with smiling students. We laughed at Penelope the T-Rex and her problem eating classmates and we silently listened as our peers shared their golden lines from 100-word stories and Rambling Autobiographies. The students questioned if we were working because time was flying by.

I forgot how it felt to see students discover they are readers and writers. The moment I asked a student if I could borrow one of their lines because I loved it so much I wanted to put it in my book and when the struggling writer realized that it is not about what they can do today but what they will do with work. When a student lights up because you liked their story and asked them to expand a different part to explore other ideas. When a student just wants to tell you about their day, the books they read over the summer and the ideas they have for a writing a list on how to make a sandwich.

It is the start of the year. The groundwork is being laid.

We are readers and writers.

Now we grow.

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