Good evening!

Today in class I had the students set goals for their upcoming reading MAP test. We spent a little bit of class time discussing why the MAP test was so important and how their score affected them as a student. We discussed that these scores are what helps teachers place students in advanced classes and that these advanced classes can earn them Advanced Placement credit later in high school which then means less college classes they are required to take. I also shared with the students that this test allows me to really see how each student is progressing individually with their reading skills. It breaks down each student into reports for me so that I can help them reach their potential. Therefore, if a student does not take the test seriously it makes it a lot harder for me to help them in the classroom because I have to figure out exactly what gaps they are having.

We also had some “business” that we had to finish in our Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN). I will post some pictures of what these notebooks look like in the next few days so you are able to see how we are using them in the classroom. My hope is that by spending time setting these up the students will be able to quickly find the pages that they need and realize how helpful it is to keep everything organized. Today we had to tape in a few pages, such as how to select a “just-right” book (we discussed this yesterday in class) as well as a page that listed all of the genres of books on them and gave a brief definition of the genre. I hope that this will help students as a reference tool for book talks each month.

I gave the students a “To Be Read” TBR list yesterday. This is an acronym that I did not make up and have found as a common acronym in several of the book blogs that I read. This is where students can keep a running list of books that they are possibly interested in reading. I am so happy to see students quickly filling up these pages! I have been discussing a lot of books in class and will share a new book every day with the students. If they are interested in reading more they can check it out from my classroom library or even add it to their TBR list. The goal is that during the book talks by other students they can keep this TBR list out too so that they can add books their peers recommend. Their peers are the best advertisements for books! It also then allows them to discuss the books with one another after they read them.

I have a few things I realize I need to clarify about the book talks and I apologize for not being more clear in my letter home.

The monthly page limit can be reached through multiple books. My intention is to meet with students individually twice a month so that I can talk to them about the other books that they are reading that they might not be presenting for their book talk. This is a quick assessment that will let me know whether or not they actually read their other books.

“Age appropriate books” can be difficult with middle school students. I understand that some parents are okay with their student reading books written by Stephen King or Veronica Roth. I fully support your decision to permit or not permit a student to read a book. As mentioned before, if I feel that a book might not be appropriate then I will ask the student for a parent signature saying they are okay with their book choice. I always like to air on the side of caution and make sure that the lines are open between the parent and teacher.

I have also been sharing a few books with the student that fit into the realistic fiction category. This genre is very broad and many books fall into this category as well as others, such as historical fiction, romance, dystopian books, etc. I have read some of the books that I am showing the students in class but not all of them. The books that I have compiled to share were selected as great books by the American Library Association (ALA) (great website if you are looking for books: http://www.ala.org/) and some have even won awards. The problem is that some were categorized as best for 13 and over and some were just labeled as “middle school.” I have reiterated to the students that they need to be aware of what their parents are comfortable with and to make sure they choose an appropriate book.

The reason for my sending the letter home and asking for the parent signature is really in lieu of doing reading logs. I find reading logs to be tedious in middle school because I feel like students dislike having to write down every time and day they read (some forget to do this while others just can’t keep up with the papers) and I think it is tedious for the parents to have to require a signature. Because of this my letter home was simply to make sure that the lines of communication are open and that I expect them to be reading at least 20 minutes a day and that you were also aware of this expectation too. This is really nightly homework for my class. With that being said, the students will have a book log to keep on hand to write down the title of the book they are reading and how many pages they read each day. This will let me know if they are meeting the page requirement and will also allow me to see what books they are reading. If they “abandon” a book they can still count the pages that they read. I can pick-up pretty quickly if they actually read their book or not through our independent discussions. This will also help them to set their goals for each month on their own page limit goal (some will probably easily exceed my limits I have set!).

We have gone over a lot of information in the past two weeks of school and things should slow down as we get into the routine of reading/writing workshop, independent reading and book talks. I feel like the more organized I can get the kids right now the better off we will be for the rest of the school year.

2nd & 5th hour are MAP testing tomorrow, Friday, and Tuesday, September 3.

3rd & 7th hour are MAP testing Wednesday, September 4th and 5th.

I anticipate that after the craziness of MAP testing next week we will be able to take off with our reading workshop and book discussions.

Don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you have any further questions or concerns. I try to get back within 24 hours.

Homework:

2nd Hour: Summer reading essay is due Friday, September 13.

3rd, 5th & 7th Hours: Parent signature on reading expectations & Summer Reading project is due on Tuesday, September 3! (5 days!)

~Mrs. Finley

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