Saturday, October 29, 2011

Little Things

from Ruth's blog

     Recently in her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes., Ruth asked about looking for the little things (teaching in writing workshop/writing/life itself) that make a difference in a big way.  Two other bloggers answered Ruth's question, both showing in unique ways how many little things permeate our lives positively but until we look, often go unnoticed.  In her blog, Living, Christy describes all the little things that meant something good to her in a day.  And Deb, at Coffee With Chloe, writes both a poem and prose that shows the importance of the little things called SMILES.  
When I supported writing in many different ways during the week, workshop included work in all the genres, in both writers notebook and in draft work.  I kept a special notebook where I recorded small examples of writing I thought was good.  I kept track that I was pulling examples from all my students by simple checkmarks on a list.  Then, every day I posted GOOD WRITING examples on a white board I kept just for this.  I didn’t post names, just the words.  It became one of the first things I saw students look at when they came into the room.  They looked for their words, sure, but they also commented on other’s words, as in “read this, it sounds so good” and other positive remarks.  It was a little thing that actually became easier as I moved into the rhythm of doing it, and it lifted the student’s words to a higher level.  It showed them their words could be models and could please others.
 I have found one way of doing something similar with my teachers.  We don’t meet often in a group, but when we do, I find ways to mention ideas and words that I remember each one doing or saying.  I hope it makes a difference in their teacher lives too.
There is an old song titled Little Things Mean A Lot, and the first of the lyrics are:

Blow me a kiss from across the room
Say I look nice when I'm not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot

The rest of the song is here.

    It’s meant to be a love song, but isn’t that what we’re doing after all, embracing so many things to show we love them, and that makes a difference. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

One More Time For Autumn

Poetry Friday this week - with Diane Mayr from Random Noodling)

         This Moment Fills Me

So, I am driving back home with my husband.  
This October seventeenth was chilly and gray and I asked did
he notice the wind soughing through the trees, sending
the leaves through the air, swirling and twirling
along the street, into the gutters and against the windshield?
Late autumn had appeared too soon, and I wished to hurry home
to bring in wood and build a fire and make soup. 
Because of the darkening sky, my thoughts leapt into To Kill A Mockingbird,
remembering Harper Lee’s Halloween scene with the children: 
shadowy woods, wind there too, blowing through the trees,
moving the dead leaves about
with a hand unseen, but felt.  And then Bilbo popped in and
that time early in The Hobbit,
moving off with the dwarfs to the adventures Gandalf had laid out for them,
away from the fields and woods so familiar, the harvest in.
I place myself too into a time of darkness and chill one Halloween
when my fairy costume was covered by a wool coat, the weather
uncooperative on that All Hallow’s Eve for a little girl wishing to be pretty.
That evening now mostly cheer and candy for little children  
is not far from now, that time that seems to turn the season and we say
goodbye to autumn with its trick and treat summer days,
to harvest home and leaves and rakes and squash. 
Colder nights will come, and woolen throws will be upon us,
And we will stay inside and read stories as the outside sleeps.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall is loss for some, gain for others

Among all the beauty, I must write this time about the pumpkins I have so faithfully nurtured this summer, through drought and so on. They were small, but they were beautiful to watch grow and flourish. Ah, nature!

I had planned to make a beautiful pie,
and even the jack o’ lantern will have to wait.
Although the net said to leave them long
my pumpkins have suffered a terrible fate.

The fault is those animals that live out of doors,
and although we’ve been know to feed them
peanuts and corn and all manner of fruit,
they’ve taken my pumpkins and eaten ‘em!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Connections If You Look!

Tuesday Slice of Life is at Two Writing Teachers!

      I thought at first I would only write about my visit to see my son and daughter-in-law and grandson, but there happened to be more connections in this trip than just seeing them.  We had a wonderful long weekend and I had lots of time with my grandson, even played a little pitch and catch football with him as we've done since he was very young.  We saw many things that were both fun and interesting.   
       Perhaps it happens to lots of us, but the terrific thing that happened were the connections I made because I read your blogs.  So-thought I'd write a little poem about it all, and add in the photos, too.  

       I wonder how many connections students can make if we ask them to start looking?

Making connections serendipitously
is always a pleasure -
to me.

We traveled to Lubbock
first time on this plain, to
that Red Raider city of so little rain.

We visited my son and his wife and their boy
that grandson I speak of
so often with joy.

Now finally, at last, we are really here,
and seeing them in their new home
was simply great to be near.

Soccer games for my son
were cheered long ago.
Now it's football and kicking and whistles-great fun!

I ran to take this photo most
as this hydrant caught my eye,
recalling a student blogger's post. 

Tam's post about windmills
was great fun to read.
They were here too; wind is the feed.

We drove out of town to look for and find
fields and fields of cotton growing;
Elsie's post came to mind.

Write your stories and then you share them;
the connections sometimes grow.
Our visit held more than I imagined!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fun Visiting Family But Then We Say Goodbye

Poetry Friday this week is with Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup

My grandson, in the season!

As some of you know, my son, daughter-in-law and oldest grandchild, a dear grandson, moved away this year.  We have seen them several times, and taken my grandson on an annual trip to the ocean, but still it’s not the same as having them five minutes away.  Today we’re traveling to see them for the first time in their new home.  I’m so excited to be there, to see their workplaces and school, where they work and where they play.  It will be a good trip. 

As I was reading some old journals, I found this poem that I wrote after this same son and daughter-in-law moved out after staying with us for a few months while a house was being built.  Although of course we were happy for them, but even then, the house seemed too empty.  Change is hard no matter what the good circumstances.

All the friends who carted cardboard boxes,
lines of clothes on plastic hangars,
dresser drawers, and the ones who grunted bearing
out the tables and the bed
the washer and the stove,
all are gone.
They took their pay of salami and cheese on rye,
tall bottles of Bud
and thanks very much we owe you big time!
My son walks through the empty garage
carrying the last bits, the cold stuff—
ketchup, mayo, mustard
two packs of juice, a lime.
He turns, leans to give me a kiss.
Thanks Mom flies at me and he leans
toward his wife, squeezes her shoulder,
says Let’s go.

I begin to sweep the garage, and make the floor

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Where's Papa Going With That Ax?"

The Tuesday Slice of Life can be found at The Two Writing Teachers Blog.  Check it out!

Some years ago, I discovered and read a biography of Beatrix Potter and loved it.  It was enlightening to read about her solitary life and how difficult it was for a woman to find a way to publish a book during the time she lived.  I was hooked on biographies of children’s writers, and have read quite a few through the years, some biographical and some autobiographical.  They are useful when I want to tell stories about writers and their lives to my students, and it is inspiring to learn how other writers have lived their writing lives. 

The latest biography I have completed is one I want to share, The Story of Charlotte’s Web, by Michael Sims.  I have also lately been re-reading an old poetry book/memoir by Richard Peck, titled Bee Tree and Other Stuff.  I mention it because I’ve found some parallels between the two books, mostly that both authors appeared to have much influenced by farming and growing up surrounded by nature.  In his book, Peck writes a lovely poem called Old Gray Barn, and then writes, “Barns hold memories as sweetly as they hold hay.”  It’s so exactly the sentiment that I read in the chronicling of E.B. White’s thoughts about the setting of Charlotte’s Web
Nearly every nature experience in White’s life seems to carry him to the point of writing about a pig that could be saved by an industrious spider.  In this biography, the author shows the childhood of White as much influenced by his freedom to roam outside and to spend time observing all kinds of animals in places near his home.  As a very young child, White spends time in the stable, its basement, and in the barn nearby, befriending all the usual animals there like the horses and dogs, but also the unusual, like mice, birds and spiders, and learning that he hated the rats and the deeds that they did as much as he loved the other animals.  It is here as well that he begins a lifelong interest in spiders. 
As the book moves through White’s life, it shows the further development of his interests in nature all the way to the writing of Charlotte’s Web, even though he continued to live much of the time in New York City, and as many of you probably know, writing for the New Yorker magazine.   The biography leads the reader to Charlotte’s Web, but through a path that shows such details of White’s life like his shyness in things romantic, his family life, the beginnings of his career as a staff member of the New Yorker at its birth, his marriage, and the idyllic farm where he lived so many of his happiest days. 
There is much to be shared with our student writers from this book.   White’s actions were interesting, like taking a year studying spiders before he even began writing, and still another year he waited for the book to settle so he could look at it with fresh eyes.  And we ask our students to finish a piece in a few weeks!  The biography chronicles his thoughts, false starts, revisions, and worries about Charlotte’s Web.  It describes his notes where he sketched the barnyard, adding some paper because he runs out of room.  It is fascinating in its depth of showing the way of writers working, thinking, messing about, but oh, so seriously for the story.  White is quoted from his notes:  “It is a straight report from the barn cellar, which I dearly love, having spent so many fine hours there, winter and summer, spring and fall, good times and bad times.” 
Perhaps the book is too long to use as a true read aloud, but parts would be terrific to share in different workshop lessons, or during writing sessions for inspiration.  The story says that White did not always give advice, but that he once wrote a college girl that she must “remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.”

Finally, Andy (as he was called in adulthood) White said, “I write largely for myself and am content to believe that what is good enough for me is good enough for a youngster.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Take My Hand

Here – take my hand.
Allow me to hug you,
warm you,
help you.
We can talk.
You seem so alone.

You hide at the wrong end
of binoculars-
so, so far away.
Will you return,
gain better sight of possibilities
or continue your retreat?

Please let me
hug you,
warm you,
help you. 
We’ll talk.

I miss you and
wish you would
come back.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Thank You to Paul Zimmer

Find all the other writing about poems with david elzey at FOMAGRAMS for Poetry Friday!

Sometimes I come across a new poem that I enjoy, and more than once it has turned out to be one by Paul Zimmer.  His poems are sometimes about the ordinary day’s events, and in his writing he gives such great notice to them.  It’s something I want to ensure my students know is important to write about, those little things they know. Zimmer's poems help me teach that.
When Zimmer recreates a small moment, of events or feelings or a remembered conversation into a poem, he honors that moment in the words, as he does in this poem:

  Bach and My Father

Six days a week my father sold shoes
To support our family through depression and war. . .

Find the rest of the poem here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lessons Learned At My Staff Retreat

Tuesday Slice of Life can be found at the Two Writing Teachers blog

   I believe our new head of school must have been a very good teacher because we had our first staff retreat with him last Thursday evening and all day Friday, and it was a memorable experience.  I had fun with colleagues, playing and working.  I learned something and didn’t feel too much pressure to work or think fast.  We came away with goals completed and plans for next time.   There are good parts I can bring away from the days to apply to any lesson.

   On the retreat, we have the pleasure of spending the night in a beautiful place at the YMCA of the Rockies outside of Estes Park, Colorado.  They have several kinds of places to stay according to the group’s size.  We stay in what is called a family cabin.  Just imagine a regular-type cabin—rustic fireplace, wood beams and walls, leather sofas and chairs—but one that houses fifty plus people.  It has the beautiful mountain views, so special in the fall, elk roaming through the land outside the cabin(s), chipmunks, and lots of mountain birds.   Most staff members leave right after school ends on Thursday for the two-hour drive up, but some of the administration staff have gone earlier to take the food for snacks and all the meals.  All the rest of us provide the drinks we wish to have and to share.  We have read a few articles in preparation for the coming day of conversations on Friday, are excited to be a part of this important work we do on this day, only wishing it was more than one day.  It’s important for teachers to give students lead-time to prepare for the work planned in class, especially if there is content to be read, studied and considered.  Also, even for a lesson within one class period, giving students time to think before discussing or answering questions posed – wait time – is critical for ensuring every student has a chance to get ready for an activity.
  Thursday evening is relaxing and fun, time to sit with staff members we rarely see for long conversations, to laugh and play games, for some to bring their guitars and sing with us, to relax and enjoy each other for the hours we usually don’t have during the regular school week.  We are fortunate to have this opportunity.  We rested our brains for the more difficult thinking to come.  Even in a short few minutes at the beginning of a lesson, offering the chance for the class to share personally or to celebrate a special something helps to relax the brain to get ready for its next workout.

   Friday morning, all of us gather for the work of the day.  In the past we have had a day of conversations about the asynchronous qualities of giftedness and meeting those challenges, racial and economic diversity-when we developed a rubric for self-evaluation, and writing-when we spent the day experiencing the beginning of a staff writing workshop (which I had the privilege of leading with a colleague).  Today we will tackle a new topic, one that has been chosen as a priority for the year, creating a new model for professional development and evaluation.  We were given an agenda well ahead of time so we would know what to expect of the day.  Although there are times when changes are appropriate or needed, keeping to an announced schedule helps everyone keep on task and to get ready mentally for what’s next.
   The meeting for the day held three parts, with every staff member included, divided into groups of about twelve.  We had challenges as icebreakers, getting to compete for the prize of a standing ovation by the losers.  Because of time constraints, this might be similar to the sharing time discussed earlier.  But when there is a longer period of time available, even at different times during the year, it is important for the class to play together, with different people and in different groups.  Building community in shared experiences is important for successful learning to take place.
    We had quiet reading time to read and annotate articles concerning recent research that show the attributes of current and successful models of professional development and evaluation.  This gave us additional topic knowledge as a reference when we talked.  If all must be done in class, teaching students how to prepare for an activity (read and annotate with sticky notes, highlight key points, familiarize oneself with available materials, etc.) and giving time to prepare is important for optimal success. 
   We met and brainstormed lists of different traits that were thought to be important to include in our model, and then we argued, explained, talked some more, found examples, and finalized the list.  Each group had a designated facilitator, who then reported the group’s conclusions to the larger staff when we gathered after each session.   Each person in the individual groups contributed to the conversations whether new staff or veterans.  The facilitators chosen were mostly new staff.  Giving students in a class experiences with new kinds of groups, or random groups with different people taking leadership roles changes the dynamic of the group, offering chances to those that don’t always contribute.
     Finally, all the notes were written, reports given, and our head gathered the notes from each leader, with the purpose of synthesizing the notes from all the groups into some kind of whole document, to be examined and discussed again at the next staff meeting.  At the end of a lesson, it’s good practice to end with the future plan, what will come next. 
     At our school, what’s good for the staff is good for the students, and vice versa.  There is an emphasis to giving lots of choices at school, which I have written about in an earlier post here.  Personal input will occur during the final goal-setting for each staff member, just as each student is considered unique in consideration of personal needs and wants.   The retreat days gave us the time to reacquaint ourselves as a community, and to devote quality time in determining what will work best for the culture of our school and for each staff member.  WE HAD A GOOD TEACHER!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Found - New Ideas

Because of the other blog I’m writing, and because my students are getting into the swing of blogging and showing ‘who’ they are and what they believe is important and being creative about it, I have begun to gather ideas for my blog from them.  Very useful!  One of my blogging students just shared a link to help get writing started called  You need to sign up; they give you a word and one minute to write about it.  You can share your writing and if you do, you may see what others have written.  It’s fun, and I am using my first WORD to write my post today.  That word was “iron” and I feel a bit old because when I peeked at the other writing, not one person wrote about this kind of iron. 
I remember the last time it was important for me to iron shirts that made a difference and that was in my early marriage when my husband needed five white shirts for each day of the workweek.  These were stiff, Oxford cloth, and 100% cotton shirts, very wrinkled!  I dutifully sprinkled, rolled, and, because my mother told me to, put them into the refrigerator for a short while to make the ironing easier.  As I remember, too, there was a method to ironing these shirts.  Start with the collar; go to the cuffs, then the sleeves, and on to the front and finally the back of the shirt.  Move quickly, be sure not to hold the iron down too long to prevent scorching (hard to wash out), and hang up quickly.  Because I wasn’t working at the beginning of our marriage, early in the year, we had very little money, so my husband worked two jobs.  He was a weekend, overnight DJ at the local college radio station.  Not only did I have to learn to stay overnight by myself, which I had never done, we had rented a house whose backyard was adjacent to a cemetery.  Friday and Saturday nights weren’t very social for us.  My husband worked and I did what I could to stay awake as long as I could because I was scared.  I remember ironing more than those shirts just to pass the time.  I listened to records and ironed.  Possibly by 3 or 4 in the morning I was so tired I went to bed, and, exhausted, slept until my DJ overnight husband came home. 
The next year I started teaching and my husband was able to quit the DJ work.  We had more money, so I was able to pay a woman to iron the shirts.  I remember that I paid her 25 cents a shirt.  It was a big deal to me and I was grateful, but I wonder now how she managed, even then when everything was so much cheaper than today. 
The picture of course is a pair of irons from a great grandmother.  I really didn’t have them in my early ironing days.  Maybe if I had, they would have reminded me to be more grateful to have something that plugged in and heated up all by itself. 
And in a broader sense, isn’t it absolutely amazing that women have done and still do all the tasks they take responsibility for?    How many verbs can you think of?    My list is ironing, baking, washing, vacuuming, sweeping, sewing, spinning, weaving, knitting, nursing, caring, bill-paying, computing, working, child-rearing, animal raising, gardening, canning, cooking, driving, coaching, and on.  And finally, these verbs do not include others that describe tasks at a paying job. 
I’m grateful for this  It took me to a part of my life I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  Aside from the shirts and the overnight loneliness, it was a special time, my first year of marriage.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Poets Always On The Lookout

Poetry Friday is at Great Kid Books.  Go there to read all!

      Through the years of teaching, it's been delightful to write poetry with my students, sharing beautiful words, the freshness of each poet's voice waiting for readers to delight in a find and thus making it their own at least for a little while.  Sometimes I've asked students to write about the process itself, the challenges and triumphs when they find ideas that satisfy.  And, I have a few poems that I use to show that published poets do that too, write about the process of receiving or finding ideas.  Lawrence Schimel uses weather to show how ideas arrive in

             Cloudy, With A Chance of Poems.

                 The Weatherman predicts
                  a partially sunny day.
                  But the Poet doesn't care
                                         Read the rest of the poem here.

       If you write poetry, do you ever write about how those ideas end up on your pages?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Every Poet

Every poet
has a reason
when they write -
to show the feeling.
Behind each word
find hidden thought.
Let the message
be finally caught.

If it's anger,
fearing, pleasure,
allow the words to
be the measure.
In your heart they
pump right by.
Through your body
feel them fly.

They jangle every
nerve to send
a laugh or sob;
the poem ends.

The words come smashing to a stop.
The poet's words have finished the thought.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time Warp

one of my old pots from my grandmother

        My husband and I went to a Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, and among other good things, we bought enough green beans to fill a large pot, along with some onions and new potatoes.  It’s a dinner that we have in the fall once or twice, enjoying the freshness of the vegetables and the memories that go with it.  Both my husband and I grew up with family members who gardened and canned, so we have eaten all the garden dishes you can imagine.  As I prepared the green beans (or snap beans, as they are sometimes called), I remembered…

I’m sitting here on the side porch outside the kitchen with my grandmother and mother and Aunt Carol, all of us with a sheet of newspaper spread across our laps, snapping green beans into old pots, getting them ready to cook and can.  I’m wearing one of my grandmother’s aprons, even at ten, happy to be included in this special woman’s group doing important work.  Aunt Barb is in the kitchen, washing the canning jars for the pressure cooker, waiting for the beans.  My brother and two cousins are in the wooden playpen at the end of the porch.  All toddlers, they are standing and sitting, throwing toys over the sides, watching to see who might get up to give them back.  They won’t last long in there; they’re too big and too curious, want to be wandering around the porch, picking up lost beans and any other little thing that catches their eye.  They like to sit on the swing, too, but when up, will soon crawl down to move somewhere else.
 Snap, snap go the beans; plop go the ends onto the paper.  It’s so hot in the kitchen, and will only get hotter as we work most of the day. The weatherman says it’s going to be near 100ยบ and with the humidity in Missouri, although we started early in the morning, it’s already warm and still.  Fans whirr in every room, but only stir the air.  Aunt Barb comes to the door pulling her apron up to wipe her face.  “Whew,” she says, “I’m about to melt.”   My grandmother says, ‘I’ll come in to take over,“ but “no,” my aunt replies, “It’s all right, I just wanted the little cooler air out here on the porch.  How are you all doing?”  Mom says, “lots done, more left to do.  Your vines gave so many this year, how many plants did you plant?”  “I did the whole row this time,” Aunt Barb says, “we ran out in late winter and I want enough to last.” 
We snap and rustle in our seats, tired of sitting, wishing for a cool breeze from round the corner.  My grandmother tells me not to break the beans into so many little pieces, “just two or three” she says.  Aunt Carol is quiet, puts down her beans and stands up, stretches.  She’s pregnant again, and already uncomfortable.  We’re all so excited because she’s expecting twins.  I am thrilled to have twin cousins to add to the two I already have, but my Aunt Carol is little, and since I don’t know exactly how having babies works, I worry about her.  I make a secret promise to visit often to help her do the housekeeping.  Mom puts more beans in my newspaper and I go back to work, thinking about the later afternoon when I can lie in the swing on the front porch to read.  I have a new book called Anne of Green Gables that the librarian suggested and I am looking forward to starting.  It’s September and I don’t have much homework.  I’ll have the whole rest of the day to read.
It’s quiet, and “Snap, snap, snap” is the only sound.  Even the babies are quiet.  We are intent on our job, and I am content to be here.  I look up to find my mother looking at me, smiling, with a prideful smile that keeps me going.  Soon the jars of green will be lined up in the kitchen pantry, cooling, then divided up among the families.  They did the beets a few days ago; it’ll soon be time for the tomatoes.  Later on in the fall, the best day arrives:  we’ll gather to peel bushels and bushels of apples to make apple butter with other family members, Aunt May and Aunt Belva, Grandmother Rohlfing, and nearby neighbors.  That’s another memory of women and work and making the food to last through the winter.

not on the porch, but now on a patio, no one here but ghosts of the past

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Beginning Lesson for Literature Groups

     First of all, I want to say that I have had the pleasure of being nominated for the second time as a Versatile Blogger.  Thanks to Tammy of Klinger Cafe for this honor.   I have met many wonderful and dedicated and smart people while blogging.  It would be great to have a reunion sometime where we could all talk in person.  Maybe someday?

It was a pleasure lately to teach a lesson to one of the middle grade classes and for one of the teachers I work with.  A goal this year is to find ways to aid teachers in improving student independence in their writing and reading.  One of the ways I’ve found productive is to begin a lesson by letting students help create some parts of the lesson, and then we practice what we have learned.  This time we created a chart of behaviors to help prepare for literature circles.  Students contributed ideas and then I added some.  This type of lesson aids engagement with the lesson, giving the teacher and me a chance to see how much the group knows so we can plan lessons for the future.  The chart listed two parts:  actions when we read and actions when we discuss. 
First, I asked the students to imagine themselves reading their independent reading books the previous night.  What did they see themselves doing?  They began with thoughts of the environment (comfy chair, quiet place, no distractions) and then I asked them to consider what the thinking is like as they read pages in their books.  What kinds of self-talk happened as they read?  They answered with good ideas that I would have on any list:  I wonder about things, I imagine what’s going to happen, I make pictures in my mind, I look for clues to the next ‘thing’, I sometimes stop to share something exciting with my mom, I question and I figure out words from the other words.  I added seeing connections to our own lives, asking a question like “what does this remind me of?  I was pleased that the list was a good one, although I realize that not everyone might have created such a comprehensive list alone.  Continuing to check the students’ skills in reading will be important, and continuing to re-teach some behaviors will be needed also. Class sharing of different ways that others self-talk while they read is an influential factor in the learning for these middle grade students.

           After the discussion of the first part ended, we moved onto the next question:  What do they imagine when a good discussion about a book is occurring?  This went rather quickly and students were ready with the appropriate behaviors:  take turns, use eye contact with the person speaking, listen carefully so that you can add to what is being said, don’t just wait to be able to speak, and ask lots of questions.  I contributed one action: to come prepared by having read the assigned reading.  Students seemed to think that of course would happen and didn’t even need to be included.
Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz of the Two Writing Teachers site often speak about being deliberate in teaching specific strategies for many things teachers think students need to know.   For example, in this post, Ruth discusses the need to teach students strategies for how to write in different areas of their work.   To prepare well for a new activity, it is important that parts important to the success of that activity be identified and taught before starting. 

         The final part of the lesson was practice of the behaviors on our list, but a bit different because I was reading aloud and students had to listen.  I chose a short story titled The Picnic, by British author Penelope Lively.  It begins as a rather bland family story about a picnic, but the author carefully injects certain words and phrases that can soon be interpreted as just a little out of character, and the reader/listener begins to realize that this story is not all it started out to be, not all what was predicted at first.  I have used it often for writing and reading lessons, and found it in an old anthology of stories titled To Break The Silence, edited by Peter A. Barrett.  You can find it used at Barnes & Noble here.  There are other stories of interest in the book too. 

          Students listened and held up their hands when they had a thought about a behavior that would have happened had they been reading to themselves.  More students shared during this part of the lesson.  It sounds a bit challenging, but really the students joined right into the fun of pretending to be reading alone, and using the strategies we had discussed earlier.  And at the same time, they questioned and considered parts of the story, as they would have in a small group. 

        All this took a bit more than an hour.  We shared a good story, considered behaviors important to enjoying reading with a group, and had a good time.  It was a positive beginning to book groups in this class.  Follow up lessons using the text of the story with it in the students’ hands will be a next step.