Being Ms. B

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 02 2012

In which the children like the book

ELA (English - Language Arts) teachers universally dream of a single phrase sprouting, unbidden, from the mouths of their students.


If it’s not a universal dream, it’s at least one of mine.

Anyway, this week, I heard the elusive phrase.

I have certainly heard it before, but generally because I was using a combination of a stopwatch and bribery to get them to push silent reading time just a little bit further.

This week I heard it without candy in my hand.  I heard it from sugar crashed children on the day after Halloween.  I heard it from high readers, I heard it from low readers.  I heard it from the sweetest kids, and from my most precious angels, too.

And my little, burned-out, grinchy, November heart grew 3 sizes.

So for this minor miracle of education, I offer the following belated thank you notes:


Dear Ghost of Ellen Raskin,

Thank you for writing The Westing Game.


Dear Jeff Woodman,

Thank you for the audio recording that I listened to 850,000 times as a child, inspiring my currently brilliant read aloud voices.  Although I could use some help on my Scottish accent…


Dear Parental Units,

Thank you for buying me this novel 13 years ago, packing it in my camp luggage, and convincing me that I would find it fascinating.


The ever grateful,
Ms. B


PS: How do I make it last???

2 Responses

  1. C

    I love The Westing Game!

    As for making it last, the best advice I have is what I tell my students: Nobody really hates reading. It’s challenging if you don’t know how and you’re reading something that’s too difficult for where you currently are which makes it *seem* like you hate reading. It’s boring if you’re reading something that you’re not interested. It’s always, always, ALWAYS wonderful if you find something interesting at the right level. The right book for you will turn you into a reader.

    So…more great books. Find out what your kids are enjoying about the book and find other books like it. I know that sounds ridiculously simple, but actually asking kids *why* they like the book can be so insightful. I always throw in journal entries that give me some insight into what my kids like, what they didn’t like, and what they wish we did more of or differently. I let that help guide the way the class runs. It’s also something that they’re pretty much always willing to write about so it gets them writing.

    Some of my favorite books from that reading level:

    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

    The Phantom Tollbooth

    A Wrinkle in Time

    When You Reach Me

    Half Magic (or ANYTHING at all written by Edward Eager)

    The Mysterious Benedict Society (probably too long for class, but an excellent book for a kid looking for a good, funny, mystery adventure)

    Anything by Avi, especially The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

  2. Ah–The power of literature. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as when a student realizes books are magical, and can take you places you never thought possible!

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Teaching by the arch

St. Louis
Middle School

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