Sunday Salon: Special Earthquake! End of the World! Edition

We were all awoken at 3:20 this morning by a 6.1 earthquake centered just a few miles from where we live.  It was big one. Not THE big one, but a big one.

It’s been so long since the last substantial earthquake, Loma Prieta in 1989 was 6.8, that I was starting to think we just weren’t going to have anymore.  Earthquakes, just another victim of climate change. Like rain.

We haven’t found any damage yet–it’s still to early to look for cracks in the walls–but all the stuff on our shelves was moved around and we’ll have to straighten all the pictures on the walls.  We did hear lots of sirens at first, but those have stopped, too, so I’m guessing no serious damage or casualties this time around.

Dakota insisted on jumping into bed with us afterwards but that’s probably just because she saw we were awake.  I was in high school living in Pleasanton when the Livermore  earthquake of 1980 hit.  That one was 5.8.  For days afterwards, one of our Bassett hounds, George, would suddenly wake, stand up and look all about the room like something was about to happen.  Drove my mother nuts.

In other news…..

The school year started well, at least the part of it that involves students.  The part that involves administrators school and district has my teeth on edge.

Do to structural changes the administration has made in the make-up of my classes and to schedule changes, I’ve had to abandon student book clubs.  They may have had run their course anyway, but after the mixed success I had last year and the changes in just about everything this year, they just had to go.  I’ll miss them. Literature Circles rule!!!

In their place I instituted Reading Races, a kind of competitive reader’s workshop model. Reader’s Workshop, along with Writer’s Workshop was all the rage when I started teaching in 1989.  Reader’s Workshop lets student choose their own reading.  They read during class and then write a response in a journal afterwards.  The teacher then writes a response to the student to establish a written dialogue about the student’s reading.  I love reading logs almost as much as book clubs.

But, with over 90 students during the day, there’s no way I can respond to everyone’s reading journal every week like I have done with smaller groups.  Since I still wanted to use reading logs, I’ve paired up all of my students with someone who wanted to read the same books they did.  I have just over 100 titles to choose from.  Instead of writing to me, they will write to each other.

To make sure everyone has read enough to write in their journals on Reading Race days, we have a 20 minute silent reading period before we write.  I project a countdown clock to let us know when 20 minutes are up.  Afterwards we calculate how many words we’ve read total and what our words per minute rate is.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s really fun.

Really.  Way more fun that it deserves to be.  Plus, I give out Red Vines.

I haven’t read the first set of reading race logs yet, but it’s clear to me that we’re going to have to do a lot of work on asking good questions. I’m hoping to train the students to ask each other good questions so I can let them write in each other’s logs without having to read all 90 more than once a month.

I should say that I intended to do this on the sly.  The regular program is much more “Common Core” and getting more “Common Core” all the time.

But an adinistrator came to visit my room while we were reading Friday. He’s always very impressed whenever a teacher has all the students quietly working so he was very impressed.  He liked the calculating afterwards, too.  If you can convince your administrators that you’re doing math in your English class, they’ll be very impressed.  Cross-curricular stuff is very “Common Core.”

So, word got around and the other 7th grade teachers may be having Reading Races soon.

Reading for pleasure lives to fight the Common Core another day.

Now, I’m going back to bed.  If the earth can keep still I may be able to get some more sleep.


16 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Special Earthquake! End of the World! Edition

  1. Glad you’re okay! So cute that Dakota jumped in bed with you! Coincidentally, I am currently reading the Simon Winchester book about the 1906 quake.

    Love the idea of pairing up your students for the reading log project. I hope they are nice to one another! :–)

  2. Whew! Glad you’re okay and that your clean-up involves only shelf straightening.

    Too bad about the book clubs, but I like the idea of Reading Races. Pairing up the students is perfect… not sure it’s humanly possible to keep up with all the journals yourself on a daily basis!

  3. Oh, very scary to be wakened by an earthquake. I am in Santa Barbara and this is the first I heard of it. We were wakened once by an earthquake (at least 20 years ago … all I can remember is going downstairs and sitting in the kitchen for a while and trying to calm down and being grateful it was not worse or closer).

    I like hearing about your classes and your plans for teaching. I was an avid reader all my life and I had some good teachers (many, many years ago) in high school, but the curriculum was way different of course and possibly did not encourage those who needed more instruction.

  4. Just heard about the earthquake this morning–I’ve been meaning to call my sister but she’s in the city so I’m not sure how much she felt there. Scary scary stuff! I hope that your house managed unscathed and that Dakota gains her bearings again soon.

    I’m sorry to hear about the book club but it sounds like Reading Races will be fun. Though I’m a terribly slow reader so…well… 😉 But, training your students to ask good questions will be invaluable to them down the road. Best wishes for a great school year!

    1. Thank you. I bet most of San Francisco slept through it since it was far enough away. We lost a picture which fell from the wall but that was it. There was a little damage around town but not much.

  5. Reading Races sounds like good fun. Look forward to the occasional update. My sister was wakened also at 3:30 with the earthquake. (Novato). Said the glass work in her place was all clanking and moving but nothing broke. Glad everyone seems to be okay. I was listening to radio reports from your area last night my time in Tasmania. Hope all bridges are okay.

    1. I work in Novato so I’ll hear all about it tomorrow. I heard there was some damage to an overpass that is almost on my commute route but even that may be open at this point.

  6. I would have loved Reading Races. I remember in 8th grade, we had a list of books we could read and I remember all those books more clearly than any other books we read in middle or high school. I don’t know why!

    Earthquakes are terrifying and I’ve only experienced one. I’m so glad you guys are all ok and that there doesn’t seem to be any damage.

  7. I remember earthquakes when I lived in Washington State, but nothing major. I’m glad too that you all escaped unscathed.

    I will just say again, while I had a fairly cool English teacher, I would love to have been one of your students.

  8. I loved reading about your technique with Reader’s Workshop, as I we’ll remember Writer’s Workshop from the late 80’s along with Whole Language. Now to meet Common Core we’re doing a technique called Close Reading (as opposed to Far Away Reading?) but it’s all a bunch of silly terminology for silly techniques. I, too, incorporate a Reader ‘s Response Journal, in third grade, and have forgotten about when I’d respond to each entry. You have a great idea in the students commenting on one another’s. Tomorrow is Teacher Work Day; you can think about us on the second story of a building with no air conditioning and send me happy thoughts. 🙂

  9. I will send happy thoughts. Reader’s Workshop used to go hand in hand with Writing Workshop back in the 80’s when I started. (89). Every time they tell me what I’m supposed to do with Common Core I think “This is Whole Language. Has anyone told them that they’re doing Whole Language?”

    The pendulum swings back and forth, back and forth.

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