Monday, August 3, 2009

19 down, 11 to go...

It's day 19 of 30 here in summer school in the clink. I know what you're thinking: HAH! Sucks to be you! I used to think that any teacher who has to work during the summer must be either broke or psychotic, or both (ooh, bad combo). While I'll admit to being somewhat financially challenged, it's far from a miserable existence here in SummerClink 2009. I've decided to do a completely freestyle approach to literacy, taking into account my students' individual preferences. Here's a rundown on what each of my boys are reading/thinking/doing in my reading workshop:

Danny: My most willing reader, my most agreeable student in general. I sometimes wonder what on earth got him into a place like this. Anyway, Danny is totally into Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief series. I just went out and bought him book 4 of the series, The Battle of the Labyrinth. You should have seen the look on his face when I pulled it out of my book bag this morning. He immediately opened it up and started reading, but then strangely, he put it down. I said, "Let me guess. You don't want to blow through that book during reading workshop time, and you'd rather read something else now and save this for when you're in your room." "Um, yeah," he said. So I brought out a big, hardcover Mythology book from the "ology" series. It's part book, part scrap book, part pop-up book. But not babyish. Just interesting and cool. I thought Danny would find interesting the Greek mythology stories that are so closely linked to the storyline in The Lightning Thief. From what I saw, he digs it.

Sha'Vaughn: Another very willing reader, but one who is somewhat hampered by the medication he's on for behavioral issues. It's really hard for Sha'Vaughn to stay awake in my class, but he manages, and it's probably got to do with the fact that I bought him the first two books in the Pendragon series. He loves them. We talk about the plot, the characters, the predictions he makes and the visualizations he sees.

Mauricio: Mauricio is yet another willing reader, but his attendance in my class has been affected by his behavioral issues during second shift. Mauricio is bipolar, and this condition takes him to incredibly angry places at times. When his behavior is good, we read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. We read it out loud to each other, which is such a powerful way to read a book. In fact, it was Maya Angelou herself who said, "Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning." I really look forward to Mauricio's class time. We just finished chapter 6 of IKWTCBS, in which she describes a fanatical churchgoer she witnessed as a young girl and the hilarious way her brother imitated this woman. Mauricio and I were both laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks.

Jimi: One of my youngest, and less willing readers. Jimi declared to me months ago, when he first arrived on the unit, that he wouldn't need reading because he was going to be a pig farmer in the Dominican Republic when he grew up. He was really obstinate, Jimi was. But I think that over the past several months, Jimi has really matured, both as a young man but also as a reader. He shows a greater ability to comprehend, both text as well as greater life issues. Jimi had struggled with decoding earlier in the year, but he has really improved in his fluency, decoding and comprehension. I think he still wants to be a pig farmer, but he's warming up to the idea that even farmers need to be literate. I'll support his dream however I can. We read shorter texts, excerpts from longer texts, and different forms of electronic media, like podcasts, blogs and wikis. He likes street literature, and he loved a book called Black & White that he read in another class.

Dominic: Dominic is still here. Dominic is my oldest student, and he recently took his GED test. A huge, huge step for him. Dominic had been reading The Yankee Years for some time, but when he finished that we really focused in on preparing him to take the GED writing test. Dominic finished the test about a week and a half ago. The day after he took the test, he found out that a dear friend of his was gunned down and murdered. Dominic has withdrawn considerably, and I know that his future rides on his GED results. I fear that if he does not pass, he will go back to his former lifestyle, the one that got him into this place. He's going to find out his test results any day now. Until then, we've been relying on the NY Times Bats blog and any related Yankees online literature to get us through. That, and Scrabble.

James: My newest student, my least willing reader, and one with comprehension levels lower than I have ever seen. James is my biggest challenge. He has great difficulty remembering anything he's read. Even from one paragraph to the next, from one sentence to the next. I believe he has a pretty severe learning disability. Until that gets figured out, I turn to short stories, word games, puzzles, and anything else that's fun to keep his interest level up. We have to work on his comprehension, but that task has to be approached carefully and in small doses. James comes from an urban/street background, so anything in this genre will be good for James - as long as it contains a message of non-violence and redemption. Suggestions welcome.

That's my classroom in a nutshell. SummerClink 2009. In eleven days, I'll get a chance to do my own free reading. Maybe even on a beach...

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