Pull Up a Chair!


Reading conferences begin today. We’ve been in school for two weeks, and I’m anxious to start. A handful of my students have already read two books, some have completed one, and others are plodding through that first one.

I’m using Remind and trying out the new Chat feature. I was skeptical because I didn’t want students abusing that, but, so far, it’s been amazing! On Monday evening of this week, from a self-professed non-reader, I received this message:

“Non-reader”: I’m just finished my book.

Me: Are you serious, _____? I’m so proud of you!

“Non-reader”: Thank you

I talked to him the next day. He’s a student I had in 8th grade, and he’s now a junior repeating his sophomore English. I knew he’d read that book in 8th grade, but I also knew he had not read a book in three years. I stopped him in the hall on Tuesday and asked him, “Well, what did you think of the book?”

He replied, “It was great!”

“You read it in 8th grade, right?”

“Yes, but I really understood it this time,” he replied.

You see, it’s ok to read a book more than once. They remember that reading “rule” from my eighth grade classroom. Granted, this book, The Barrio Kings, by William Kowalski was a mere 138 pages, but for, this “non-reader”, he finished a book before most of his peers who claim to be readers. What a boost to his morale! He’s already on his second book. I can’t wait to talk to him today about how it’s going.

I had another student message me last night. She’s in my Honors English III class, but guess what I’m finding? These students who elected to be in Honors English don’t consider themselves readers anymore either. This particular student is new to me. I didn’t have her in my 8th grade class, but I’ve already grown to love her renewed reader spirit. Here’s pieces of her message to me after finishing We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:


Me: And?! On a scale of 1-5…

M: Definitely a 5!

She goes on to tell how she couldn’t believe how the book turned out and what she was actually reading wasn’t what she thought she was reading. All the while, I’m nodding and saying, “YES!” because I read the book and know how she felt. And then….

Me: I’m so glad you stuck with it. I think it’s brilliant!

M: Wow! I’m so glad I picked this book as my first. I, M_____, (who hated reading), want to read a lot more.

Me: Awww! Really? I would have no idea you hated reading.

M: I used to, yes. I am guilty. BUT, only because I didn’t like the books I was reading. But now, it’s getting easier for me and I really love it!

So, with the help of Remind, I have figuratively pulled up that conferencing chair with two of my students already. Today, after they finish their Membean quizzes, I will literally pull up my chair and ask questions like “What’s going on in your book?” “On a scale of 1-5, what would you rate the book right now?” “You’re close to being finished. It’s a long weekend. What do you have on your ‘To Be Read’ list?” “Have you noticed any of the Notice and Note Signposts?”

I love this part of my job. It’s really the icing on the cake. It’s a time to connect with a student and find out more about how I can motivate him or her. It’s somewhat magical.

I do like magic, especially the magic that exists when that reluctant reader finds that “just right” book.

Individual reading record sheet 3rd week 2014-15

About Katrina Gonzales

Having taught almost 30 years, I have a wealth of knowledge to share about the field of education---some good knowledge, some not-so-good knowledge, and some knowledge that might just blow your mind, or not. I decided to name this blog "Mining the Magic" as a tribute to those magical moments that surface often unexpectedly in the classroom. After this much time in education, however, I realized that those magical moments are never random; lots of planning, hard work, and the establishment of a community of learners precludes these extraordinary, and seemingly magical, times in the classroom. Currently, I "mine" the "magic" in Room 320 at Sonora High School. In the past 29 years, I've been known to teach Early Childhood Handicapped, 8th Grade ELA, self-contained elementary, and even adults as a consultant at Education Service Center XV. While I am turned into a claustrophobic mess at the thought of actually spelunking in a natural cavern, the lovely formations that occur in the classroom fascinate me. It's with this eye for a "jewel" with a student that I set out to explain how to "mine the magic."

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