I remember vividly the first time I ever taught about recipes in my classroom. It was towards the end of the year, when I was teaching 4th grade (ok, I don’t remember the exact year–maybe 2006?–but I do remember the kiddo!), and during a reading conference a kiddo was struggling with finding a book that was a good fit for her. For some reason I was thinking about how what she really needed was a plan–a recipe–for how to find a good book for her. And since that first conference so many years ago, I’ve found that this lesson is one that almost every kiddo (and probably some adults, too!) could find helpful. I went back to look at when I had written about it here, and I found this post from about 4 years ago. Rather than try to explain the whole thing again, I ask you to take a few minutes and read about it from back then. Really, I’ll wait. It won’t take long. Just come back when you’re finished and I’ll tell you about how it worked in 2nd grade the other day (See? Told you all kinds of kids could benefit from it! I think I’ve used it in every grade level I’ve taught over the years, and even for myself!) 🙂
Are you back? Well, like I said before, this issue seems to come up every year and now that I think about it, maybe that speaks to the lessons I teach at the beginning of the year on how to choose books. I wonder why they aren’t “sticking” and why kiddos eventually need this secondary explanation of “good book” recipes. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they change so much as readers over a given school year (especially if they are younger readers, or struggling readers making big gains) and so the books that were just-right or “good” for them in August are certainly not the same for them in March. I guess like anything else, as well, just telling them once probably isn’t enough. Perhaps I should find a way to incorporate book choice lessons into every unit that I teach. In many ways choosing a just-right fiction book is very different from choosing a just-right non-fiction book anyway. Oh, and I feel like I should mention that my definition of “just-right” book doesn’t have so much to do with a level as it does with student interest, motivation and desire. All of that other stuff can be worked on once you help them find THE book for them. Many times the kiddos who first need my recipe lesson are ones who don’t really see themselves as readers yet. They don’t really know what to do when they’re standing in the aisles of the school library or looking at the buckets in our classroom library and need a hook to get them started. That’s really what I’m thinking about when I help guide them here.
Ok, well, just like it happened in that example from 5th grade many years ago, I had a conference with a kiddo the other day who needed some guidance to find his version of a good book. We talked about books he has read that he really liked and what it was about them specifically that he liked. We used those things as our “recipe” and wrote them down:
This now becomes a shopping list when he’s in our classroom, the school library, the bookstore, the book fair, the county library, etc. The big idea is that if he knows what he likes he knows when he’s found it. This is a HUGE idea that kids often miss. They so often just wander through the shelves not really knowing what they’re looking for, expecting that they will just know what it is when they find it. It’s like traveling to a new place without a map AND without really knowing your destination. You will NEVER get there.
Well, after this first conference, I ran into two other friends in the same day that needed the same lesson and so it quickly got moved to my “everybody-needs-this-as-a-mini-lesson” list. I then showed everyone in Rm. 202 the plan the next day by sharing my own example:
Not everyone is necessarily ready for this right now, but everyone had a go at trying their own list and we will tweak over the coming days as they practice using it for book shopping. The great part is that it is customizable, personal, and specific to each reader. And it can be easily changed as they change as readers. LOVE!