Powerful Practices for Power Lunch

What makes a powerful Power Lunch experience? For some mentors, it’s the sharing of literature. For others, being a caring adult in a child’s life becomes the driver. Others enjoy the fresh air on the way to the reading session, and a break in a busy work week informs the experience.

Christopher Doerr claims all of the above as his motivation, and something more:  “I need to add that I really enjoy working with kids.”

This talented mentor from AT&T is in his fourth year of reading at Thomson Elementary, and in his second year reading with John, a fourth grader who is a “fantastic reader who is great at remembering details.”  Chris has a stable of good practices to share that have proven successful in engaging his students.

Check out his fresh takes on mentoring challenges:

On greeting a new student partner:  “My first student (a first grader named Misael) was new to the program, and so was I. Misael was scared and shy. I picked up the book upside down, deliberately. I said, ‘This is such a weird book!’ Misael looked at me and said, ‘Are you serious? You have the book upside down! This is how you do it!’ My action was an ice breaker, and things went on pretty well from there.”

On setting goals with your student partner:  “I read with John, who is into chapter books, so we know we are not going to read a whole lot of books in a year. Chapter books take some time to read! We really can’t set a number of books read as a goal – it doesn’t sound like much. So John and I decided to set a goal of how many pages we will read this year. At first John suggested an astronomical number, and I said let’s do the math – we’d have to read something like 100 pages each session to make that number! We decided that was not going to happen…so we discussed it further and set an arbitrary goal of 800 pages. Now when we see the number of pages in a chapter book we choose, if it seems like a lot, I can remind John that it will get us closer to our goal!”

On keeping the reading engaging:  “One thing I started to do with John that seems to work:  Any time we get to an incomplete sentence – where you have to turn the page to see how the sentence is completed – I stop and say, ‘How does the author finish the sentence?’ John says, ‘I would guess this!’, and then I guess. Whoever gets closest gets a fist pump. Now John is really paying attention to the story…and playing the author.”

Chris has some hopes for the Power Lunch program as it continues to grow. “I’d like to see it in every DC school,” he says.  As a multi-year reading mentor with the same student partner, he would like to see a fresh collection of books on the carts each year, to allow reading pairs to explore new material.  And he’d like to see the start-up activity change for second-, third-, or fourth-year mentors to reflect the existing relationship: “I don’t need to ask John how many pets he has or who lives in his home, but I’m sure there are other questions that are more meaningful for those of us who are already reading with our student.”

Clearly, Chris Doerr and other committed mentors can help take the Power Lunch experience to new levels.  Mentors, let us know what techniques work for you!