NONE OF MY STUDENTS have ever read, had read to them, or seen the movie version of The LIon, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I have vivid memories of my dad reading this story to me and it is a pretty awesome story about a pretty amazing place. I’ve been reading it out loud to my reading class, and they sit in stunned silence listening as the story unfolds. Today we read chapter three in which, if you aren’t an expert, is when Lucy’s brother Edmond goes through the wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia, too. Up to this point, everyone just thought Lucy was crazy. One of my students sighed in relief when Edmund showed up, and turning to a neighbor said, “Now, they will believe her.”
I haven’t read them chapter four yet.
SPOILER ALERT. In chapter four, they return back home, and Lucy gleefully tells the rest of her siblings that she isn’t crazy and that Edmund went to Narnia too. AND THEN, Edmund says, “What are you going on about? I never went to Narnia.” That’s what I’m reading to them tomorrow, and I can only imagine how they are going to react. I remember having to re-read that section myself because there is NO WAY that is what Edmund said and did. It was.
I love watching children fall into a book; when they get pulled in by an interesting story and they can’t wait to hear what happens next. One of my awesome admins heard I was reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to my reading class and said, “We have a whole set of it. They can follow along.” She delivered the pile of books, and sure enough, even though it is far above their reading level, written by an Englishman, and takes places in the 1940s, they are leaning in and reading it.
A good story is magic.
Last year, I ended every day with my reading class. My students were tired and all kinds of things have happened during all the recesses - someone wouldn’t let someone sit with someone else — it wasn’t a great time for reading. Now students arrive, fresh and open. We start each morning getting things sorted out — I call this start-up time. They make sure they have what they need for the day to begin. Each day, one student from each group is Captain. They get their official Captain’s badge, check reading logs, and make sure their team is ready to go. Then we read for ten minutes — all of us. The room is peaceful, and focused. I expected to have to spend a lot of time working on making sure that they read silently. I thought we would have to work our way up to reading for ten minutes. I was wrong. The pour over the books that we have, and I don’t have a ton in my room. They haven’t even had their turn at the library yet. None of this stops them, though. I walk around the room reading my book which currently is Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. It is young adult fiction but if you’ve never read it — you really, really should. It is such a well-told story. I plan to read it to my class AFTER we finish finding out what happens in Narnia.
Also, thanks to some great training I received this summer, my students are also ACTING OUT some of the stories that we are beginning to read in our OFFICIAL TEXT. Our first unit is about government, and it can be pretty tough. I had to do some serious heavy lifting to help my students connect to the text last year. This year, however, we have an end goal in site: They will be creating a brief tableau for the Living History Museum exhibit on Times of Change in America. If you don’t know a tableau is basically a frozen scene. We are already working on our acting skills which is a great break from the rigorous text we are trying to tackle. “I need to move around.” One of my students said on Monday after we’d been working for awhile. I loved how clear he was about his own needs, and how comfortable he was about sharing them with me. It wasn’t too long after his comment that he, and his classmates found themselves trying to walk across the room as though they were traveling through knee-deep mud. That five minutes of acting gave him the movement he needed to return to the complex reading task at hand.
I guess today was all about not just a love of books, but a love of a school that thoughtfully pursues the best way to support students. We are always refining our craft and even upending a familiar schedule to make room for what is best for our students. This community is fortunate to have such a gathering of thoughtful administrators, and I feel blessed to spend my days with all my coworkers, and our students. As we all strive to provide the best education possible for our students, they lean in, straining to achieve their secret dreams, and all of us just . . .
Keep moving forward,
P.S. There is a giant movement on twitter called #clearthelists. Teachers are posting their classroom wishlists on Amazon and strangers from all over are clearing out those lists. I’ve included mine here, but if you are elsewhere around the globe, see if you can support a teacher in your area.