Yes, a wall of books. It took most students’ breath away, and teachers, too, who peeked in my room. I was inspired to try this real-life sorting activity and authentic book-talks because of pragmatic realities: having moved classrooms nearly every single year, I had had enough of putting books back on shelves by myself, never to have them handled again by students. So they were left in their boxes (we had school on August 30th and 31st) until that Friday afternoon, when I put boxes on every table, and then had students dump them out.
The sorting process started with background knowledge building of what a genre was, and then the over-arching ones. Already from student responses I could assess who came into the room more book savvy, and who is going to need some convincing. It was also interesting to note who stopped working because they were reading, and who stopped working because well, they stopped working. I didn’t call out the ones who were reading, but I did single out those who weren’t, saying that in my class, their brains were going to get tired from all that thinking they were going to be doing, so buck up, spunkies!
The lesson didn’t go totally as intended: class to class kept resorting what others had accomplished, and many just ended shifting one piles to the next. But, I will say overall, it was successful in that once we sifted out genres by table groups, it provided many opportunities to discuss why a book would be considered ‘mystery’ versus ‘realistic fiction’ and so forth. I would say historical and realistic were the trickiest overall. This was a week-long activity, with many stops along the way for further sifting and instruction, including a half-decent Power Point I found on the Internet, and no, John, it didn’t use Comic Sans!
Our students receive their laptops today, and so we begin our digital instruction–much more to say on this, but it’ll have to wait. I’ll leave this link in the meantime: http://www.educationrethink.com/2012/09/thirteen-thoughts-on-student-blogging.html