Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Where Does the Joy Go?

Credit: NPR.org
Christian Robinson/Courtesy of Penguin Random House Publishing
Yesterday afternoon, I conducted a podcast with a few 4th and 5th grade students. It was after school. Excited and nervous, the kids volunteered to stay.

For just under an hour, we discussed the picture book Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson.

What strikes me about the experience is that all four students spoke about content, text features, and personal connections. They extracted specific quotes from the text in order to make a point. They referenced how the illustrations worked with the text. They brought up simile and metaphor.

Most of it on their own.

What I am left with are discoveries compounded by questions--each its own slippery slope. I realize that I wouldn't have to test these kids. A conversation revealed just how much they understand about a book, reading in general, and analysis...because they could talk about it. If you listen to the podcast (15 minutes in length) you will hear the students make inferences. You will hear them use support for their positions. And you will hear their curiosity.

However, more importantly, you will hear their empathy and joy.

What will happen to their joy? In the time between 4th grade and when they reach me in 8th grade, what will happen to the joy I heard? I saw it. I sat around a table with it.

Will it stay? Or will their joy get snuffed out...extinguished...by pressure, by the loss of time, by mounting responsibilities...like so many young teenagers report to me again and again and again?

If you listen to the podcast, you will hear me ask these four kids make a promise to me...to not forget their joy, to not let it go, And to come and see me when they make it to middle school. Come tell me about your joy and the books that you love.

I hope they do.


  1. Oh, wow. I love that you made them promise that to you. I hope they keep their word.

    I recently watched a class of first graders write opinion books about their collections they had brought in from home. They were so excited, so eager, so happy. I wondered, "What happens to this?"

    Is it the school system? Is it age? Is it the structures we put in place?

    Tough questions.

  2. Books are made to be things you test over. AR points, free pizza with Book It, reading logs and thought journals. The more you read, the more connections you make on your own by the sheer fact that you have more to compare. Kids are lead to believe that reading is a chore to be endured. Why else are they bribed to do it through "incentives"?

  3. Having worked nearly my entire career with middle school readers, I believe the joy is most often still there. It is just a matter of crafting activities, asking questions, and helping students find texts that bring it to light.

  4. I hope to come back to listen to your podcast. I've really been trying to infuse joy in my classroom because even in third grade, it starts to slip under the expectations and "school work." I love the name of your blog and your posts are always interesting!