Words That Matter

In the Fall I heard Kathy Lundy talk about something that she often (possibly always) did with her students.  She asked them all to share things with her that they had read and loved.  Students would copy them out of books/magazines/liner notes/whatever and pass them to her.  She didn’t ask them why.  She didn’t ask them to prove, justify, or support their choices with evidence from the text.  She just wanted them to actively look for writing that spoke to them. 

It was one of the greatest things that an educator had ever shared with me.

Kathy asked her students to read and connect.  Not for her, but for them.  

Taking a page from the Kathy’s book, I asked a bunch of students at one of my SWST schools what I should do with an Indigo gift card that I got for Christmas.

“We’ll make you a list sir.”

True to their word, here’s what I got:

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I told them that I had already read The Giver (yes, grade eight students recommended a Newberry Medal winner to me). 

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I told them that I had already read the first book in the Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief (a pretty great introduction to Greek mythology).

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So what’s next?  

The kids said “read either The Fault In Our Stars or Divergent”. So, I went to Indigo and pulled them both off of the shelf and took a peak inside.  I was very skeptical of The Fault In Our Stars, but when I opened it, I saw this:

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Sold.

Today I walked into a different class with my book and right away kids started asking me about it: “What page are you on?” “What do you think?”

There’s something powerful about Kathy’s way of connecting with students.  Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no real catch.  She’s not deceiving them.  She’s not tricking them into reading or using a Jedi mind trick to get them to do a book report.  She just wants them to pick out some words that mean more to them than others.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education published a great monograph on student voice about a year an a half ago.  It connects nicely with Kathy’s idea:

“Educators are diligently working to find harmony in this way of working so that they can continually engage and motivate students. In these relationships, educator and student learning and efficacy are growing. In the words of an educator participating in a provincial collaborative inquiry, ‘A shift in the teacher-student relationship occurs when the teacher is listening, respecting the child’s voice. The child talks more and begins to share ideas more confidently. Finding the balance is critical, and requires ongoing reflection.’” 

If we’re to build trusting and reciprocal relationships with our students, maybe talking about "words that matter” with them is a place to start. Not only does it encourage students to read critically and with purpose, but it also plants some pretty beautiful student voice and reciprocal teaching seeds.  

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