Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reading All a-Twitter

This week my Reading for Pleasure students have read (no writing -- a fundraiser for our all-school project let students buy days of reading bell-to-bell with no Reading Logs) and talked to each other. They've teased,  recommended books, asked questions of each other.

The have also interacted online with authors of the books they're reading. They've gotten a glimpse of the social power of reading, something they did not believe when they entered my class in August.

So many teens believe reading is a nerdy, solitary activity of people who have no lives and can't interact with others. They don't understand a reader's very real need to talk to someone about a book she love. We can and do talk to each other in each class, but I've always searched for a better way for all of my students to talk to each other about books.

I'm still new to twitter and I know I don't understand all the power of this site, but I've begun using it for my own purposes.

I tell my students my mission in life is to prove to the world how brilliant they are. But I need their help.

I created a twitter hashtag for us to talk to each other about books: #northr4p. I encourage cellphone use during class IF kids will tweet about their books. I retweet each entry, thus proving to the world, at least the world that follows me on twitter, that my kids are brilliant. Students tweet quotes from the books, their progress and responses, and they tweet pictures...of the room, of their books, of them reading their books. They share pictures of their favorite lines in books.

I follow several authors on twitter and will copy the authors on the conversations we have about their books. Ellen Hopkins had a long conversations with Shaylee and me about our favorite was a rich back-and-forth discussion with a hero. Shaylee told me she tried to explain to her mother how very special it was to talk to Hopkins by asking her how SHE would feel if she could talk to Nora Roberts! Mom got it.

Daniel and I tweeted back and forth in class as he finished MockingJay by Suzanne Collins. We talked about how we felt about the ending, and if it was appropriate. We were in the same room, but having a great conversation. Ryan, who happened to be next door replied to both of us that HE wanted to join the conversation too! Now, my students DO have permission to tweet in class...I doubt if Ryan's teacher knew he was attending one class, talking about another.

Cheryl Rainfield can be counted on to respond with pleasure and honesty to my students. Logan was touched that Rainfield was excited that she'd finished her book.

Recently I attended National Council of Teachers of English and brought home 65 pounds of books. Among the treasures was an Advanced Reading Copy of a book that won't be published until April: Barry Lyga's Game, chilling sequel to his book, I Hunt Killers. Several of us had read the first book and gobbled the second. As we shared, in class, and on twitter, more students became interested in the series and put themselves on the waiting list for Killers. Alas, I only had one copy. JT saw it, with Kylie's name on it and begged to read it during class. He dutifully returned it, and is waiting his turn.

There started a funny running exchange on twitter between one student in first hour, another in fifth, their teacher, and the author. JT exclaimed to the world that I took the book away from him...I replied, copying Kylie and Lyga, telling her to read fast and him to write fast...that we needed the third book. Lyga replied to us all coyly, pretending there won't be a third.

When I got a copy in the mail Friday, I took a picture and showed JT he'll have his own copy Monday. Kylie has challenged him to a race.

Hopkins and I talked last night about text complexity in her books, and our frustration with Accelerated Reader programs that reduce literature to numbers.

Twitter has added an element to my classes that was totally unexpected. Kids talk to each other, to me, and to the authors of their books. Some authors respond; many don't. But we still reach out. The immediacy shows students reading is totally social...that we DO talk about our books, and now that exchange can include the authors who are so generous with their time.

This semester will be over in a few weeks...a new group will come into my class. I absolutely KNOW we will continue talking on #northr4p, now not just across class periods, but across semesters. I know it because former student, now out of school, are tweeting their books to us. This will be my reading community, even after I retire.

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