I began thinking about the All Write conference I attended last summer and the author's dinner. I sat at a table with bloggers and teachers whose passion is literacy. It did not take long for our dinner table conversation to turn toward books. We talked about books we had read and new releases which were in our never-ending to-be-read pile.
A few weeks later I began reading In the Middle by Nancie Atwell. In the book, she talks about a time she and her husband sat around the dining room table with some friends and "gossiped by candlelight" about a book. She compares her dining room table to a literate environment where people around it talk about literacy. She states "We don't need assignments, lesson plans, lists, teacher's manual, or handbooks. We need only another literate person."
I understood the connections between books and the dining room table, and I knew I had to bring that connection to my classroom. I knew I had to find a way for my students to pull up a chair and talk.
I gave each student a paper plate, but did not tell them what they were for. Now, I am not a "language arts and crafts" teacher, but this one time I wanted to give them a chance to be creative. I told my students they could use these plates however they wanted - they could draw a new cover, create a character or setting sketch, or just write a summary. The only requirement was that they used the plates to talk about their favorite book they had read this school year.
I was amazed at the artwork by my students.
Monday I covered my desks with table cloths to create a dinner table look and passed back the plates. My students pulled up a chair, sat around the table and talked books. We created a literate environment around the "dinner table." And the best part of this activity was that everyone came back with a few new books they wanted to read.
My goal was to place talking about books at the head of the table, and that was exactly what happened.