We finished TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo in read aloud last week.
In the hush that follows the last words and the closing of the book, one student blurted out, "I need a literature circle!" In other words, "I need to TALK about this book!"
(Just try measuring THAT authentic response on a standardized test!)
So we had a sort of conversation where everybody gets to talk all at the same time and nobody interrupts anyone: they wrote responses to the open-ended starters, "I liked...", "I didn't like...", and "Besides the tiger, what else in the story was "caged"?"
Here's the good news. Not everyone understood the third prompt, but many students did. They knew that Rob was caged by his sadness, that Sistine was caged by her anger, that Willie Mae was caged by her yukky job.
Did I mention that they wrote these responses on their handhelds and "turned them in" when they were done by beaming them to my handheld?
More good news:
1. I have seven copies of THE WRIGHT 3 (by Blue Balliett) on reserve from the public library for a literature circle that will start right after spring break.
2. There are 6 fourth graders in my room who want to (desperately) and are able to (amply) read this book.
3. These students have had a standing literature circle appointment with each other all year long. They have read and discussed CHASING VERMEER, THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC, and THE BATTLE FOR THE CASTLE. Even though I am not doing my monthly parent-child book club in the evening this year for the first time in a VERY long time, I get just about the same emotional paycheck by reading with these six. And the kids get to talk more without their parents there. (no offense, parents, I have to make sure I don't take over the conversation, too)