It's Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres' blog to read others' celebrations.
This week I am celebrating the power of a good book.
For the last several weeks, I have been making my way through the first Unit of Study in the 4th grade Units of Study for Teaching Reading. I went to see Lucy Calkins speak this fall, and I jumped in with both feet to the first unit. I have been busy working through the unit but also trying to bring it into the workshop routines I had already established. Like any time a teacher tries something for the first time, it has been slightly rocky for me, but I love the language and the ideas in the minilessons and I will continue to work with the Units of Study this year with the goal of starting with them from the beginning of the school year next year and getting a better start. The best thing about this unit is that The Tiger Rising is the read aloud and the book that all the lessons are centered around. We have spent a lot of time analyzing Rob and Sistine and the way the author describes them and the decisions that they make.
Yesterday, we were four chapters away from the end of the book. My students begged me to finish the book. So, I scrapped the minilesson for the day and we read. We read intensely. The atmosphere in the classroom was focused and silent. Anyone who has read The Tiger Rising will know that some intense things happen in those last few chapters...I won't spoil it here. Suffice it to say, I started crying while reading the chapters. My students were crying too. We had an intense moment of shared vulnerability while reading a particularly emotional scene. And then, a few students who were uncomfortable with this, started trying to make fun of those students who were crying. I was able to take this moment and make it into a lesson about the power of literature to make us feel. I talked about the way that Rob's feelings about missing his mother made me think about how I felt when my father died when I was young. I talked about how it was amazing that books have the power to help you bring out some things that you might have locked away in a suitcase the way Rob did. As we finished reading the book, the class got quiet again and soaked up the mood of the story. If someone had come into my classroom at that moment, they would have seen a handful of students with red-rimmed eyes and all students silently listening with rapt attention.
We are not finished with the unit yet. We will be analyzing some of what happens in the book to see if we can find some themes and the evidence to back them up. But these students will remember the afternoon that Ms. Payan and some of their classmates were choked up and touched by a powerful story. I cherish these moments and celebrate sharing the power of literature in our lives.