Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Meeting the Challenge

Every school year I make a vow to blog on a more regular basis.  I usually start out the year well, but before long I am posting less than once a month.  That's why I was excited when I saw the "20 Day Blogging Challenge" on Kelly Hines' blog, In The Trenches.  Even if it takes me two months to accomplish, I will be way ahead of where I am now.  So here I am on New Year's Day, hanging out at Caribou Coffee, writing my first post.

Day One:  Tell about a favorite book to share or teach.  Provide at least one example of an extension or cross curricular lesson.
We start back to school tomorrow.  Right before winter vacation we finished reading The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Spear.  This is definitely one of my favorite books.  Tomorrow we will begin reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  I love these books, but I only do the first one with the class.  When I choose a book for read aloud, I usually look for books that are part of a series or by a great writer.  When I am sharing a book with the class, students look for additional copies and other books by the author in our classroom or school library.  It is one of the best ways to hook a child into wanting to read.

Key for me is great character development, and a well crafted plot.  The Harry Potter books definitely have this going for it.  The first time I ever read this to a class, I remember that when I would reach for the book, students would hush each other with "Sssshhh!  She's going to read."  I had one little guy in my class who asked his grandma to buy him the second book in the series,  "The Chamber of Secrets".  I know this boy had never asked for a book in his life, but he loved these books.  All year he kept that book on the corner of his desk, pulling it out to read when he had time.  The Harry Potter books are magic!  What teacher wouldn't like that?

One problem I do have when I read the Harry Potter books is that I often have a student who is not allowed to hear them, due to religious reasons.  When that happens I just pull out one of my other books on tape for them to listen to in the hall.

I like to focus on the character development.  It is a great opportunity to discuss character traits and how we can identify those traits by the the things the character does and says.  Sometimes I have students take notes as we go.  Here is a document I may use.  Feel free to use it if you wish.

I love the way J. K. Rowling uses language.  Character names reveal a lot about them.  I always like to do a lesson about how the author names some of the characters and the text books that the students use. We talk about meaningful parts of words.   A perfect example is the villain Voldemort.  My high school French helped me to identify that "mort" means death.  I point out words in English like mortuary and mortgage.  We used the dictionary to look up vol and found volition which can mean power.  Voldemort = power of death.  Is that how Rowling came up with the name?  I don't know, but I find it very interesting.

l have these books on tape.  I love hearing them read by this wonderful actor and reader.  If you have never read the Harry Potter books, give them a try.  The movies do not do it justice. 


  1. Hi, Barbara, and welcome to the blogging challenge. While I no longer teach ELA, I am going to start including read aloud time in my social studies class. I believe each teacher should help foster a love of reading in our students. I'm sure your students will love sharing Harry Potter in your classroom.

  2. Thanks, Paula. To this day, I still remember books that were read to me during Read Aloud time in elementary school. Often those were books that I wouldn't have selected on my own, but they definitely contributed to my love of reading.