I had a very important conversation with one of my small groups this week.
It's one of my higher groups (DRA 60) and they're in the middle of Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games. They're mature enough for it and they picked it because it sounded interesting.
At our first discussion, they set up their notebooks to keep track of characters, settings, vocabulary words, etc. They were excited.
But slowly over the course of our next few meetings, their enthusiasm for the book changed. They could answer the comprehension questions, analyze characters and were fully participating...but they weren't enjoying it.
So we had the conversation about how we were truly feeling about the book. I gave them each a post-it to respond on and sent them away from one another. I stressed the importance of honestly giving feedback about the book.
When I collected back the post its, three of them didn't want to read it anymore because they simply weren't enjoying it. One still wanted to finish the novel.
So I pulled them back together and we had the important conversation: it's okay not to love every book you read. It's also okay not to finish every book you start.
They looked at me completely bewildered. I went on to explain that sometimes there will be books that you have to read the whole text, even if you don't like it. I went on to explain that our small groups were different. I wanted them to enjoy reading and to interact with literature. I wanted them to fall so in love with these characters that when we were done, they would miss them like old friends. I wanted them to become entranced with the author's word choice, to be so absorbed in their books that they simply don't hear the timer when it goes off and it's time to clean up. I want them to love reading and want to discuss literature.
For that to happen, they have to be making connections with the book they're reading.
As an adult, if I'm not feeling strongly with a book and I'm over half way through, I'll stop because I'm just not that into it. I wanted my students to know that it's okay to do the same.
I told them they gave it an honest effort (13 chapters). I told the one who wanted to finish that he would keep it until he was done and let him know what students would love to discuss the ending with him.
We are meeting again on Monday for our final conversation about the differences in the tributes' attitudes toward the Games and what it means before we switch to our new novel:
As a grade level, we ran out of time with reading The Lightning Thief. So I'm going to start my group toward the end of the novel. That will be a tad strange for me, jumping right into the end of the book but I think they'll be okay.
From there, we'll continue on through the rest of Rick Riordian's mythological series.
I haven't done the Percy Jackson with a small group yet and I'm excited for this new opportunity! I know they loved reading it out loud, so I'm hoping we have the same great conversations in our small groups :)
After our conversation, the look on their faces was priceless: relief. I told them I wish they would have addressed their concerns earlier because I don't want them to struggle to like a book they simply don't. That's not my goal for small groups.
I want them to love reading. I want to mold them into life long readers.