For those of you who’ve read this blog for a while, you know I host three after-school book clubs: a group of third graders, a group of fourth and fifth graders, and a group of sixth and seventh graders. One of my favorite things about leading these groups has been sharing books from my childhood with kids I love.
Yesterday was magic.
Though numbers were low, the discussion was lively. It was so exciting to hear my students really getting the story: the plant/growth imagery, the characters who started the story dormant/asleep and later came to life, much like their beloved garden. I didn’t have to press the imagery. They got it on their own.
I passed out notecards with various characters: Mary, Mr. Craven, Colin, Dickon, Ben Weatherstaff, even the garden, a setting that is almost a character. The kids found similarities and differences between the characters I’d never noticed myself. Their answers reflected beautiful examples of characterization and character arc.
As a former English teacher, I know it’s is easy to teach literary concepts in a vacuum, hoping kids pick up the ideas you’re presenting and connect them to the things they read. Now I don’t have the luxury of daily interaction with this group, and guess what? It doesn’t matter.* They are discovering the very things we discussed in class by reading broadly and intentionally. Knowing they need to come with some sort of opinion has pushed them to read in a way that looks for patterns, change, conflict, and growth.
Do they remember all those terms we discussed in class? Some probably, but not all. They understand the concepts, though, and our discussion has been all the richer.
Teachers, give your students room to explore books and draw their own conclusions.
Authors, trust your readers to understand.
*Though I must say their teacher this year is doing an excellent job!