Last fall, I watched a video called “Mr. Sharp Loves Reading.” I loved it and shared it with my children’s literature class immediately. I decided I needed to find out more about this teacher who would jump on desks to proclaim his love of reading. Lo and behold I discovered that he was just a short ways away in Battle Creek. I sent him an email and thus began a friendship that included our classes skyping together, meeting up in person at NCTE, and me (finally) starting this blog.
Today I got up early and headed south to visit Colby Sharp and his 4th grade readers & writers in person. It was amazing to talk with each of them about books, authors, and writing. I took some photos to document my morning in this vibrant and lively reading culture.
Making visible that this class is a reading culture: A chart of just some of the books they have read together throughout the year.
Classroom Library photo 1/4 - This favorites shelf features: Mr.Schu's shelf, New Titles, Our Skype Friends, and Graphic Novels.
Classroom Library photo 2/4 - some tubs have books grouped by author, series, theme, and genre.
Classroom Library Photo 3/4 - Tubs of narrative fiction arranged by author's last name. On top is the Babymouse tub (bright pink) and a tub of Biographies, the current focus of study during reading.
Classroom Library Photo 4/4 - these tubs all feature non-fiction books sorted by topic.
This chart is hanging on the wall above the non-fiction books and reminds students about text features and reading strategies that are specific to informational text.
Setting clear and explicit expectations for reading workshop time. I especially like #6 - "Understand that reading is thinking" because it sets the expectation that doing something enjoyable (see #2: You may not read a book you do not like) can also involve thinking. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Mr. Sharp and his class are friends with some pretty amazing folks - this board features notes and drawings from authors and illustrators that they have met, skyped with, and/or exchanged notes. Because of those relationships, the students have had the opportunity to talk with authors about their writing processes; including pre-writing, revision, and editing.
The class is currently reading, talking, and learning about biography as a genre. I shared one of my favorites: What Charlie Heard by Mordecai Gerstein about the American composer Charles Ives. The illustrations in the book are amazing - before reading it, I played a bit of Ives' music for them.
I came away with some lists of books suggested by students, a renewed faith in the power of individualized reading in classrooms and teachers who believe in what they are doing.
Follow Mr. Sharp on twitter @colbysharp and check out his blog Sharpread.