A Five Star Rating

5 stars of 5 stars

100% approval rating

2 thumbs up

Reviews. In the plugged in, wired world we live in, a person could review anything or anyone. And people do. As a member of Goodreads, as an online consumer, as a teacher, I find myself living via reviews. As a teacher, especially,  I’ve discovered the power of the positive review.

January 3, I welcome my seventh grade homeroom students back from their holiday break. As we chat about their vacation and the holiday, a small voice from the middle of my room asks if I have a “Schmidt’s Pick” for them.

I pause, a smile creeps across my face, and I reply, “It’s the first class of the month; of course I do.”

Later that morning, I ask a class of eighth graders if they want to read first or if they want the “Schmidt’s Pick” first. A young lady in the front of the room adds her voice to the fray, saying, “If you hadn’t told us about Extraordinary, I wouldn’t have found my new favorite book.” I smile at her and glance around the room, noting that Extraordinary has passed from this student to another, handed off as they walked into the room.

The following day as one of my seventh graders is entering class, she pauses at the door to tell me how great Enchanted Ivy is, that I was right it is unputdownable, and she finished it and passed it along to another student in the class.

January 5, The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, the Schmidt’s Pick for January, is available for check out from the class library. 8:10 AM the bell for the start of the day rings. As I stand from my desk to move to the door to greet my charges, my door flies open. An eighth grade boy runs into the room. Panting, he asks if The Alchemyst is still in my library. I suppress a huge grin and tell him that he’s the first to come for it. The expression on the boy’s face changes from worried to ecstatic, and he hurries to the class library to grab the book. After he exits the room, three more students show up looking for the book. They leave disappointed. The following day I note a number of copies of the Alchemyst in class, some from the school library, some from the county library, and some from Borders.

The grin I suppressed was a huge grin in the face of the naysayers who claim teens don’t read. They do. I have proof. Year after year. Because the phenomenon that I describe here is not unique to January 2011, this group of students, or my school. I’ve taught in different schools for the last 18 years, and while some groups are more difficult than others, they all come around because of the review. The students trust my review.

As a teacher, I think this is great. And then I realize something. How do they know to trust my review? How do I know to trust a review?

On Goodreads, I find myself following the reviews of people who have similar reading interests as mine. These are people who have reviewed books I’ve read, and I found myself agreeing with their review. Goodreads is probably the easiest online site for me to trust a review. Many of the people I follow on Goodreads have become virtual friends, and as we discuss what we’re reading, I’ve grown to trust their thoughts about what we’re reading together, so I trust their reviews of books we’re reading separately.

On Amazon or like sites, I find myself reading countless reviews of products to cobble together a decision as to whether I’m going to buy a particular product or not. I find myself dismissing some reviewers and looking closely at others. As an adult, I have literacy experience under my belt to know how to do this. But do my students?

As I start the new calendar year and move towards the second half of my school year, I’m thinking more than ever about information literacy. How am I teaching my students to evaluate reviews? How am I teaching my students to review books? And finally, how does this skill translate to their current lives and future lives beyond my classroom?

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