Yesterday I decided to do something new, and yet old.
I finally took out the anthologies that clog up my bookroom. I also took one of the rare teacher editions! We did some guided reading of the Phantom Tollbooth--I read aloud to the students, and we stopped to respond orally or in writing. I saw many more students on task and ready to participate. The responses weren't very deep, but it was a start. And they seemed to quite enjoy the story. In fact, I read another chapter from the actual book after we finished the excerpt in the textbook.
I did this with the middle class yesterday, and today we finished the story. My afternoon class started it today and it went even better, because I thought of more and better response prompts.
My first class, the highest (on grade) level, won't need to do this. But I think the other two classes will definitely benefit from all reading the same material, discussing it together, and responding to multiple prompts each day. My hope is that with practice, the students will be able to delve deeper into their stories and understand things better, as well as improve their writing. Not to mention discovering new authors and books and genres they might enjoy.
This is the first time EVER that I've used a textbook in teaching. I can't tell you the difference it makes. I think that content-area teachers take them for granted--excerpts already chosen for you, suggestions ready-made for how to use them and teach them, questions pre-written for writing and even vocabulary. These are things that English teachers usually have to make up by themselves, which is boring and tedious and not necessarily effective.
I hope to use it for a little while. Not forever, but to keep the kids in line and thinking.
Other things I want to implement in reader's workshop include Readers and Books of the Week, kind of like Reading Rainbow--choose two or three students per week who present a book they like, and read some to the class. Doesn't that sound fun and inspirational?