Sunday, December 8, 2013

What's Next In The Queue?


Do you see this stack of books in the picture above? This pile of literature has been sitting by my bed since about March, and it keeps growing and growing. This seemingly innocent stack of books sits in my bedroom, taunting me every time I walk by. Perched along the wall, they look at me each and every night, reminding me that I need to turn off the TV or put down the iPad.

Some of these books have not been opened. Some of them, I've read the first few chapters. Some of them have highlighters stuck in the center because I was marking "a-ha moments" from the likes of Donalyn Miller and Ralph Fletcher. Made up of mostly young adult fiction and professional books, this is my "To Read" pile. They are the books that I've bought, but haven't quiet made it to yet. You see, I've been know to make trips to books stores on a whim. "Let's just see what they have," I say. "I'm not going to buy anything." 45 minutes and $45 later, I'm walking out of the store excited to get started. I get home, and all I do is add them to my "To Read" pile.

These all too frequent trips to the book store to see what's on the "Just Released" shelf are becoming an addiction. I need therapy. Or maybe just more time. Nope, therapy.

Two nights ago, I got this feeling that maybe I should get therapy by showing this stack to my students and admitting that I have a problem. Eleven year olds know how to solve any problem, right?! Yes, I needed to share this totem pole of stories with my class. Why? Because I wanted them to see that readers should always have a vision of what's coming next - a reading plan.

"Mr. Jones, it's kinda like the movies in my Netflix Queue," one student said.
"Well, Colin, I guess it is exactly like the movies in your Netflix queue."
"My dad won't let me delete anything from our queue at home."
"Bummer, Colin."

I felt this would be a good way to begin our discussion about creating a To Read List. After showing my stack to the class, describing the reasons why I bought each book, and explaining the reasons that I haven't read them yet (which some students said were LAME. "Hey, Pipe down, Colin!"), it was time for the kids to start thinking about what book they would put on their To Read list--their reading queue.

As the minilesson ended and reading workshop began, all I heard was the sound of pages in their reading journals being flipped, plastic book boxes on the shelves being dragged and the rattle and hum of chattering 11 year old readers discussing the books their adding to their To Read list. It was a sight to behold. It was evidence of our reading community growing stronger. Some students wrote down one or two titles on their To Read list. Others had enough written down to fill an entire page. (See the pictures of students holding their To Read books here). Either way, these readers were doing what readers should do--answering the question, "What am I going to read next?"

Whether it's books on Goodreads.com or episodes of our favorite TV show on Netflix, it's nice to have a plan of what's next. A look into the future to see what's on the horizon. It's fun to anticipate something, and I hope that my students will continue to anticipate their next good book. The perfect time for me to empower them is during my reading conferences with students. Going forward, I plan to end each conference with the question, "What's next in your reading queue?" "What's next on your To Read list?" "What do you plan to read next?" I think my community of readers will benefit from this small change, and they continue to add to their To Read list with the same tenacity as they did today.

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