What are you focused on?

This summer I discovered an amazing young adult series that started with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I devoured that book and immediately went to the bookstore to buy Catching Fire – the second book in the series. After I finished that in a day (and told all my reader friends that they MUST read these books!), I went online and googled Suzanne Collins. I discovered her website and learned that there was a third book coming out soon. I preordered it online and went on to be a Facebook fan of The Hunger Games site – while I continued to tell anyone that would listen how good these books were. I had great discussions with friends who had already read the books since none of us could stop thinking about the characters and the stories. My mom’s book club even decided to read The Hunger Games based on my excitement. I’m sure many of you have similar stories like this, where you have discovered an excellent book or author and went on to learn as much as you could about them, while sharing them with anyone who would listen.

I started thinking about the kids I teach. Am I sharing my enthusiasm for books and authors? Am I telling them how I stayed up all night reading a book that I couldn’t put down? Am I encouraging them to have a favorite author and to share about the great books they’ve read lately? Am I telling them about my conversations with friends about books we read? Am I showing them what readers do in the world – googling a book, becoming a fan of an author on Facebook, calling up friends and telling them they MUST read a great book?

We want all of our children to be readers.  We want them to be able to choose books, read them, and understand them. We want them to love books as much as we do. We want them to have a favorite author and recommend books to their friends. We want them to see how being a reader can help them succeed in the world. If this is to happen, then we need to model what readers do in the world. We can’t get caught up in levels or numbers that may give us valuable information as teachers – but aren’t necessary for kids to focus on. While kids certainly can have a goal like “work on making my reading sound smooth” and be able to articulate this – we don’t think they need a goal like “get 100% on my comprehension test” or “be a level 10”. When we ask a fifth grader what he is reading we want him to tell us a title or favorite author, not “level 40”. It’s up to us to determine what we focus on in our classrooms. And what we focus on is usually what we get.

(Oh, and if you haven’t read the The Hunger Games trilogy – you MUST!!)


Katie & Pat


  1. I love your passion about this book, Katie! (I’m going to have to check it out….) I have the same feeling as I read articles in magazines or newspapers or websites from time to time. The one that moved me today was a tribute in today’s Washington Post written by a platoon leader about his young interpreter in Iraq. I don’t want to give it away, but it is a very moving story — I was thinking it might be appropriate to share with upper grade or middle/high school students.

    I do occasionally clip an article from the paper or bookmark stories on the web like this one today. Stories that move me deeply or make me laugh or strike me for the lilt of the author’s words….. but how often do I take that next step to share it with students? When I have, it’s such a great moment. Kids respond to their teacher’s enthusiasm and passion. And maybe, just maybe, it makes a difference…

    Here’s a link to the story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/27/AR2010082702133.html

    And here’s to a great year — may we share our passions powerfully!

  2. Jill –
    Thanks so much for sharing that story. I just read it and was deeply moved. I, too, think it is worth sharing with students. Many middle and HS students are drawn to non-fiction and finding things in the newspaper like this is a great idea.
    Have a great year!

  3. I teach first grade in Medina Ohio. It occurred to me over the summer that much of my time during school is spent listening to stories about things my first graders have noticed. Yes it took 18 years to figure out that my focus ought to be noticing. We notice the habits of good readers and writers, we notice how scientists develop a hypothesis, we notice how sometimes things balance and how water can be a solid, a liquid or a gas.
    So this year we are doing even more purposeful noticing. At the end of each day, during our closing meeting, each child is telling the rest of us what they noticed that day. They can talk about what they notice about themselves as readers or writers, what they notice about their new classroom, or what they notice about any of a thousan topics that cross their minds each day.
    And what I notice is, that after just 5 days of school, they are expert “noticers.” Maybe even better than they realize.
    Thanks for asking,
    Cathy B.

  4. I too found The Hunger Games at Sam’s last year and picked it up, read it and raced back to buy the 2nd book in the series Catching Fire–love, love, love this book and can’t wait to read the 3rd. It’s so funny that you posted this because a friend of mine that I passed my books on to and I were just raving about this series at school last week! =-)

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