First, I just need to show you the note that accompanied the gift card. It perfectly sums up my class this year :) My goodness do I love them, and their parents for rolling with it!
I know that some people feel that gift cards are an impersonal gift, but let's be real! Teachers are not rolling in dough, so every little bit that we can put into our classroom that doesn't come from our own wallet makes us do a little happy dance.
I also think that a gift card leave the door of possibilities wide open, and the teacher can use it to meet the specific needs of their classroom. When I first saw the gift card to Amazon, I immediately thought of purchasing books to support my new Social Studies and Science curriculums (Having switched grade levels this year, my library of content area literature is wanting!) After the vacation, I started making a list of books with my school librarian, and was just waiting for some down time to open the computer and place my order.
Then, a few weeks ago, one of my students brought in a book from home to read during snack. The colorful cover caught the eye of the girl sitting next to him. She asked him what book he was reading. He shared that it was the third book in a new series he was reading. He started to tell her what it was about, and I don't think she blinked once during his entire explanation.
I have to say, the student had me on the edge of my seat too. His summary was enough to give me a good foundation of the plot, but he left me in suspense… he had hooked me! The girl he had been speaking with came right up to me and asked if she could go to the library to see if they had the first book in the series. Of course I said, "Yes!"
Wow! All it took was another student's enthusiasm over a book to get a kid out of her seat to run to the library. Hmmm… an idea was brewing!
In my Guided Reading Groups, I started checking in with students 1:1 while their peers were quietly working. I asked them about books they have enjoyed, books that they would recommend to a friend, and books that they would like to see in our classroom library. The response was overwhelming! There were so many books I had never even heard of before, that I actually started to feel like an inadequate teacher!
I made a comprehensive list of all of the books the students had recommended, and then it came time to make our purchases. We actually purchased them as a group, by projecting my laptop to the SMARTboard.
"Well, this book is cheaper from that vendor, but if you add the cost of shipping, it's more than if you get it for free with Amazon Prime."
"If you buy the whole series from this vendor, even though it's used, it's cheaper than buying them separately with free shipping."
"Hard cover will last longer, but it's so much more money! We could take good care of the paperbacks so that we can buy more books!"
Thank you students for the impromptu integrated math lesson!
We ended up purchasing 72 new titles for the classroom (some of them were an absolute steal!) Since some of the purchases were from affiliated vendors, it took about 2 weeks for all of the packages to come. I hid them in my closet until the last of the books arrived.
You should have seen their little faces the morning they walked in and saw the pile of all of their books sitting on tables around the classroom. They squealed, they cheered, and they did a third grade version of the happy dance.
Now, I needed to provide a bit of guidance for how to navigate 72 new books. How would the students know which books they would like? How did they know if they were at their just right level? How would they know if they would be too scary for them or not?
Well, I took a little cue from the neighborhood bookstore down the street. There is a small shelf in their store where each month, employees display book(s) they recommend. I have identified a few employees that seem to share my taste in books, so I follow their recommendations and am almost always pleased! It made me think, why not try this with my own kiddos?
Welcome Our Newest Monthly Activity:
With each new month, every student will select a new book to recommend to their peers. It's a very quick, but meaningful activity. Students have shown great respect for other's opinions, and are feeling encouraged to try new things. An awesome side effect that I hadn't planned is that students are now searching the school library to try books nobody has read to see if they would be worthy of recommending to others. The best part? It's all student driven!
Here are a few examples so you can see their recommendations up close.
We have designated the front shelf of our library to showcase these recommended books. Thankfully I took this picture before I opened the door to my classroom yesterday, because the books FLEW off the shelves! I can't wait to see what they recommend next month!
Time For A Giveaway
To celebrate some recent blogging milestones, I thought it would be fun to host a giveaway to help you try something similar in your own class! Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win your own $50 gift card for your classroom!