Big Book Ideas: Digging Deep into Reading

Thanks to Penny Kittle’s inspiring professional development in June of 2015, I was enticed to implement her idea of Big Book Ideas in a few different classrooms. She writes about Big Book Ideas in her book Book Love. When writing in the Big Book Idea books, a person is writing from a theme perspective in a notebook that is shared with others over years. Penny refers to these books as;
 
“The meat of a Big Idea Book is your thinking. I want you digging for what is beneath the story you’re reading. You chose this book (this theme) for a reason. You can see how it connects to what is happening or what is explored in the book you’re reading. You might connect the ideas or situations in the book to something in yourself or another book you’ve read. You might take the ideas in the book and go farther with them… thinking as you write.” Page 13
 
I was really curious how students would write when they have choice and need to think of their book from the perspective of a theme. I wanted to try these theme book with a few different classrooms in the grade 7 and 8 range. Four different teachers opened up their classroom to me to see how students responded to the concept of Big Book Ideas. Since starting this project my learning have been:
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  • Students have to think much deeper when they are writing from a theme perspective.
  • Effective use of comprehension strategies needs to happen when writing from a theme perspective, because a student needs to understand the book at a higher level.
  • It is easy to slip into telling a summary of the book rather than explaining a theme in relationship to inferences made about the book.
  • Very few students in the middle years automatically consider what the different themes are in the books they are reading.
The journey thus far has been wonderful because it is really pushing students to think critically about the books they are writing about and be more reflective when they are reading in order to make connections. Also, it has encouraged me to be more explicit about themes in books when I am doing a book talk or talking about a book with a student.