Friday, May 21, 2010

What the Kids Are Reading

After two days of subbing I'm exhausted but happy.

Yes, you read that right. The school called me yesterday morning and asked me to fill in for my daughter's class so I ended up teaching both my children two days in a row! Fortunately, both of them were excited to have me in their classrooms. The sight of Jasmine jumping up and down with joy when she saw me at the teacher's desk will keep me smiling for days :)

My son's 5th grade class is currently reading Heartbeat by Sharon Creech and wouldn't you know -- the book is in verse! It's a great addition to my reading list for Caroline's Novel Challenge. I borrowed an extra copy from the teacher and I'm about halfway through.

It's interesting to hear 10- and 11-year-olds reflect on the story. What I see as simple, spare, beautiful language, they see as simplistic, literal and sometimes strange. They were quick to point out metaphors, personification and rhyme but were surprised when I suggested that some passages might mean more than they thought. Yes, the main character likes to run, but maybe she's also trying to run away from things that she really can't escape. And while scenes with the forgetful grandfather are funny, I tried to show them the undercurrent of sadness that comes from watching someone slip away before your eyes.

In my daughter's 2nd grade class, they are reading How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell, one of my favorite books for younger kids. After the 2nd graders wrote a summary paragraph, they drew pictures to illustrate the chapter we'd read together. What a riot! But figuring out the point of the chapter was a challenge for some kids.

Being in the classroom was a good reminder for me that it's so important to look at your writing through the eyes of a child. Phrases you think they'll understand can confuse them. Context doesn't always clarify the meaning of a word, especially when the words are being read out loud by an expressionless beginning reader. While a teacher or parent might be there to help them understand what they're reading, what happens when they read alone? Will your words make them want to read more, or will they put down the book in frustration?

There's a chance I might sub for the first grade teacher who is on call for jury duty this week. I'm almost hoping I get the call. Kids have so much energy. I love their curiosity and enthusiasm. And being a sub is almost like being a grandparent: you go in and have fun with the kids and they're on good behavior because it's a welcome change from the every day. But if I don't, I'll have plenty to keep me busy. I'm a bit behind on my page count...


Caroline Starr Rose said...

How fun your boy is reading HEARTBEAT. It's always interesting to her kids' perspectives.

Kelly Polark said...

I am impressed that the fifth grade teacher is using the book in verse with the class! I'm glad you are having fun subbing!
I even try out my poetry or picture book manuscripts on classes, too, to get their reactions. To see what works and what doesn't. They love it, and I get direct feedback from kids that aren't my own! :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Lucky you, and lucky kids to have you to help them find the treasures in the words.

PJ Hoover said...

Great choices!
my son just started the last Harry Potter TODAY!

Unknown said...

I'm glad to hear you've been having such a wonderful time as a substitute. :D

Janet Johnson said...

I haven't read Heartbeat. Add it to the list!

How to Eat Fried Worms . . . GREAT Book! Good reminder about seeing books through kids eyes. So easy to forget that.

You almost make me miss substitute teaching. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Happy Friday, Sherrie! I have an award for you at my blog today! :-)

Theresa Milstein said...

I just found you through Shannon's blog. It's a little scary because:

1) I sub
2) I write
3) I have subbed my kids classes
4) My kids are in the 5th and second grades

I'm going to have to follow you now.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

My daughter is in 2nd grade and I'm looking for some fun summer reading books for her. I'll keep the second one in mind :) Thanks!

Jackee said...

How very cool to sub for your kids! I'm impressed with the class book choices.

And I wish I had flies on the walls of classrooms to know if I am writing those sentences that my target age can understand. There's such a spectrum of reading comphrension that it's a difficult skill for me to learn.

Good luck on word count catch up!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

It was funny and sometimes shocking to hear the kids I talked to when I had my book store. Their ideas of the classics they'd just read made me feel as if they had gotten them from a Bizzaro world library!

We write. But what do our readers think we've written? Roland

lotusgirl said...

I love hearing kids' opinions of books.

Lori W. said...

You sound like you were born to teach! Great reminder to see things through the kids' eyes. I read two alternate book openings to fourth and fifth graders this a.m., and they totally got one, but not the other. Good thing that writer revised.

beth kephart said...

What an inspirational force you most assuredly are—there, with them, and here with us.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Such an interesting post. Reading with the kids and discussing books from their perspective has to be really insightful. All of this, I'm sure, will help you as you write. What a great opportunity for you!

Anonymous said...

It must be a great experience to listen to the kids discuss literature. It must be enhancing your writing. Win/win for everyone involved!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I'm adding that one to my list. Caroline sent me some others, so yay! I can get to reading novels in verse too.

Candyland said...

That's cool that you subbed for your kids! But you're cool. If that had been me and my

Riv Re said...

I read Haertbeat a few years ago. It was a great book, with an interesting plot.

Creepy Query Girl said...

That's so great that they're reading a book in verse! And woah, 'How to eat fried worms'- I had COMPLETELY forgotten about that one. And I know I read it but it but I was probably the same age as your daughter...

Vivian Mahoney said...

I love this! What a great experience. Your kids probably got a kick out of it.

BTW, it's been awhile since I've been here. Sorry. Love your new look.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Caroline: A kid's perspective is SO different from an adult!

Kelly: I was impressed that she had them reading this book, too. I'll have to try one of mine in class sometime :)

Tricia: Reading with the class was fun, and eye-opening as a writer.

PJ: My son loved the Harry Potter books. They're kind of the standard by which everything else is judged for him!

Stina: I never expected to enjoy subbing as much as I did :)

Janet: I'm enjoying Heartbeat, even more since I can talk about it with my son.

Shannon: Thanks! I'll zip over there!

Theresa: Wow -- maybe you're my long lost sister!! Nice to meet you!

Cindy: HTEFW is great for 2nd graders. Hope she enjoys it!

Jackee: I'd love to be a fly on the wall at school, too! The reading comprehension is hard to gauge unless you're around it. I'm so glad to be getting that exposure!

Roland: I like that -- the Bizzaro world library. I know quite a few kids and adults who read there :D

Lois: Yes, their honest opinions are invaluable.

Lori: Ha! Just a few years ago I would have been terrified in the front of a classroom!

Beth: Kids inspire me. They're so much fun to be around :D

Tara: Subbing has definitely been a win/win!

Elana: Definitely add it to the list. It's a good one.

Candy: I don't think I would have wanted to have my mom teaching me either!

Riv: I'm enjoying it so far.

Katie: Our family actually listened to Fried Worms on tape during a road trip and loved it. It's one of those stories with something for everyone.

Vivian: Nice to see you again :)

Carolyn V. said...

I bet you are the best sub! You are always so excited. =) I love that! =)

storyqueen said...

Heartbeat sounds soooo good! A lot of kids who don't like to read will read books in verse because the text on the page does not look overwhelming.

Love That Dog is a big fave at our school.


Tana said...

I remember How to Eat Fried Worms! OK not actually eat them but the book, you get it right? ;) Now, I'm really interested in Heartbeat. I've been looking to track down a book in verse and you've done all the leg work for me, so thanx! Have a great weekend!!!

Laura Pauling said...

How fun! How to Eat Fried Worms I don't think will ever be outdated! :)

Unknown said...

Hearing kids talk about books IS such a great reminder to look at writing through the eyes of a child. :)

Sherrie Petersen said...

Carolyn: The librarian came and told me that the kids were really excited to have me there. I'm SO glad because I remember not liking subs as a kid!

Shelley: I've heard good things about Love That Dog. Guess I'll have to read that one too :)

T.Anne: I've thought about cooking some up for my kids, maybe in cornmeal like they do in the book :) Glad I could help you find a book in verse!

Laura: Fried Worms is one of those books that appeals to everyone.

Cindy: Yes, I'm glad to be getting their perspectives.

lisa and laura said...

That's great! It sounds like you have a great group of kids. I've been scarred by subbing when I used to teach. During our free period, we used to have to cover other teachers' classes because there was a sub-shortage. But your stories make me feel like I need to give it another chance!

Carrie Harris said...

That's awesome! How fun that you got to spend time with your kids AND get the inside scoop on their reading.

Going to go read How to Eat Fried Worms now. Haven't read it in forever!

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