3 Steps to a School’s Successful Summer Reading Program

literacy, professional resources, reading, summer

Right before summer vacation begins every year, teachers urge their students to read, read, read. Not only do we want them to keep up the reading skills they’ve built up over the year, but we also want them to enjoy the freedom to choose and read whatever they want! I’m not a fan of incentive plans or book lists because I want students to build their own reading identities. But then, how do we promote summer reading for summer reading’s sake?

Although I participate in plenty of meetings with teams where we brainstorm ideas, my ideas often hit me much later, which is exactly what happened with my summer reading plan. But when that lightning bolt of inspiration struck in the middle of a sleepless, pandemic night, I knew it was “the one”. I hoped my three step plan would boost summer reading like never before.

Step One: Parents as Teammates!

The problem that inspired my three step plan was: Why don’t students DO summer reading? I had a few hunches. My first hunch was that parents didn’t realize how summer reading affected students. So the first step in my plan was to educate families. I created an eleven minute info session for families that covered the who, when, where, what, and WHY of summer reading using Loom:

As an incentive for watching the video, I did a reading swag bag raffle. They submitted their reader’s name(s), and then I used a random name picker to choose three winners. For the swag bag, I ordered a few things (sunglasses for summer reading, stickers for tracking their summer reading on a calendar, multicolored pen, and the coolest magnetic cardinal bookmark/pen) and made the rest (reading bracelet, reading stickers, and three stamped, reading-themed coloring page postcards).

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I recruited my boys to help assemble the swag bags.

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and even learned a new skill: How to make homemade stickers. This is totally going on my résumé.

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I delivered the bags to the winners in the last week of school, and I got some great photos of them wearing their summer reading sunglasses or notebooks decorated with stickers!

Step Two: Build “Books to Read” Lists!

With parents covered, I tackled my other hunch: Students didn’t know *what* to read. How could I add to their “Books to Read” lists? I had several solutions, but this first one was, by far, my favorite.

Kid lit is my preferred genre. If you ever find me reading on vacation (ha! I have young kids, so I rarely read on vacation!), it’s almost always a middle grade novel. They’re my jam. And as a #classroombookaday ambassador and Ruth Culham devotee, I can never say no to a good picture book. It’s seriously a problem. This is all to say that I know a LOT of kids’ books! I decided to offer book recommendation consultations to families and their readers. They filled out a Google Form, and I scheduled a time for a quick Zoom to interview them and their readers. As an active seeker of joy and to make this Zoom special for kids, I decided to dress up as a fortune teller so that I could “see into their book-reading futures”! I used my Professor Trelawney costume from my Harry Potter Club stash, and I nearly bought a crystal ball. Seriously.

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After getting to know the reader, I created a list of books that I thought the reader would love based on their reading interests. I shared a list with them and also a recording of me talking through the list so that they would have a brief summary of each book.

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I had GREAT feedback about this service! Parents and kids LOVED it. But I only reached forty-four kids. What about the 350 others? How could I get them ready for summer reading by arming them with a list of books that they want to read? My answer: create “Getting Ready for Summer Reading” units for grades K-5. I ended up making two units: one for K-1:

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and one for grades 2-5:

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For both units, students created a summer reading journal to record books they wanted to read, books they read, a summer reading goal, and summer reading progress monitoring. To kick off their “Books to Read” lists, I started with a book talk before the minilesson in both units. Towards the end of both units, students created a book talk on Flipgrid, and students were encouraged to watch as many as possible to build their “Books to Read” lists.

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I’m THRILLED that at the time of this posting  (July 16, 2020), the book talks have been viewed 2,798 times!! That is incredible! And some students have been adding book talks over the summer! I’m so, so proud!

On the last day of the unit, we celebrated by creating a book nook at home, decorating a summer reading book bin, hosting a digital book tasting, or creating a PSA about the importance of summer reading:

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Some students emailed me photos of their book bins, which I loved seeing (and I couldn’t resist recommending a couple books to them in my response to them!)! Making this unit was something that kept me sane in the last weeks of crisis teaching last year because it was full of joy and student-centered. I hope that it becomes a staple end-of-the-year routine for years to come!

Step 3: Maintain Reading Contact Over the Summer

To personalize motivation, I plan to send postcards to as many students as I can halfway through the summer. I’m going to DIY the postcards using empty packaging and glueing on a reading-themed coloring page. This artist has a collection of free reading-themed coloring pages (scroll down to “Words and Quotes Coloring Pages) that I’ll use for the postcards. I’ll inquire about books they’re reading, how they’re doing with their summer reading goal, and encourage them to keep adding and referring to book talks to the Flipgrid. I can’t wait to mail them soon!

When we return to school in September, whether it’s face-to-face, remote, or hybrid, I plan on conducting a survey of every first through fifth grader about their summer reading. Some questions might be: how many books did you read this summer, did you make a summer reading goal at the end of the previous year, did you meet your goal, how much did you enjoy reading this summer, etc. I can’t wait to hear what students say.

Happy reading, y’all.

Writing Clinic #1: Conferring and Small Groups

literacy, professional resources, test prep, writing

Once a month, LPS teachers have a “teacher-led” staff meeting. Teachers must be in the building from 3 to 4 working on anything of their choice. After going to the Saturday Reunion at Teachers College and Literacy for All, I was desperate to share all of the new ideas I’d learned. I’d been considering lots of different sharing options, and I realized I could offer it during these teacher-led Monday afternoons! So on Sunday morning, after getting permission from my principal, I started brainstorming my first Writing Clinics. The first task was to brainstorm the sessions and create an advertisement to share with staff. Thanks to Mr. Shu, I used Canva, and the graphic design was a piece of cake! 

In general, I use the Workshop Model to plan my PD, so I created my agenda on conferring/small group work using the same workshop components that I use with students: book talk, minilesson, work, and share.

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Book Talk and Minilesson

After a quick book talk on Carl Anderson’s, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences, I launched my minilesson. I decided a flow chart would be the simplest way to break down the conferring process.

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For each part of the Conferring Cycle, I asked myself, “Is there a meaningful tool that could support teachers’ work with this step?” Although I considered possibilities for each step, I decided to focus on the latter half of the Conferring Cycle because I thought they’d have the most impact on students and teachers. So I created a tool for the following steps of the Conferring Cycle: Assess, Craft a Teaching Point, and Create a Tool. By the end of the minilesson, I’d taped all of the possible tools teachers could make to the board as models of what they could create during the WORK portion of the WORKshop.

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Work Options

Here’s a close-up of all of the tools that teachers had the chance to make at the first Writing Clinic along with how to use each one:

IMG_4342 2“Assess” Tool: Formative Assessment using Checklists from the Units of Study

How the Assess Tool, Formative Assessment Using Checklists from the Units of Study, Works: Teachers cut up an illustrated checklist from the online resources for the Units of Study on Heinemann for the unit’s genre of writing and paste the criteria on the left hand side of an opened file folder. The three white blank labels at the top are for different categories: ✓+, ✓, ✓- or Meeting, Progressing, Emerging or Yes!, Starting To, Not Yet. The green sticky notes are for writing students’ names according to the level of the work they’re sharing during conferences. Tip: Laminate!

IMG_4341 2“Craft a Teaching Point” Tool: What/How/Why Planning Template

How the Craft a Teaching Point Tool, What/How/Why Planning Template Works: I’ve noticed that many of the anchor charts from the TCRWP Units of Study lay out rigorous goals of what students should do, but they don’t tell HOW to do it or WHY it should be done. The same goes for the teaching point, so I created this scaffold to get teachers in the habit of planning the what, how, and why of the lesson, whether it’s for the whole class or small group. Of course, like all good scaffolds, this tool would become obsolete once the teacher develops this frame of mind for lesson planning. Tip: Laminate!

 

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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (inside)

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 2.16.17 PMCreate a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (front)

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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (back)

How the Create a Tool, Checklist Sorting Mat Works: This tool, again, uses the checklists. This is a tool that encourages student self-reflection. They take strips of the checklist and decide if they are showing evidence of that work or not. Anything that lands on the “Not Yet” side turn into writing goals and can even be stored in a handy pocket in the student’s writer’s notebook. Tip: Laminate!

Every teacher left with a tool to use with students or to plan with right away.

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After the Clinic, I decided to display all of the materials in the teachers’ workroom so that all teachers had access to the information and materials in case they wanted to DIY the tools.

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There’s also a Google Classroom for this work; email me if you want to join.

I can’t wait to hear how the tools work in teachers’ classrooms!

Literacy Links – Volume 26

literacy

FullSizeRenderMy literacy coach consult booth during conferences

During conferences last week, I hosted literacy coach consultations. I gathered lots of resources, information, and peppermints to entice parents to visit and chat about supporting their readers and writers. I *loved* talking with families about great early chapter books, how to access audio books for free, and the value of graphic novels all night long. Can’t wait to do it again in the fall!

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 25

literacy

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Waking up before sunrise to get a front row seat to hear Jason Reynolds at TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion was ABSOLUTELY worth it! What a keynote! Moving, enigmatic, funny, nostalgic, and POWERFUL. I couldn’t even take notes because I was so absorbed in his words. Words that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since…wow.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

 

HQTS: Making Literacy Toolkits

announcements, creating, literacy, professional resources, reading, writing

Background

At the last PD day a couple weeks ago, the literacy coaches organized a variety of stations focusing on writing about reading. Teachers spent the majority of the morning exploring resources like the Literacy Continuum and Learning Progressions, analyzing student work, and calibrating assessment. They collected tons of ideas about what students need to be able to do as writers about reading and data about what their students were showing them. So what next? Here is where a toolkit will be a lifesaver.

If you’re a member of the Units of Study Facebook groups (if you haven’t joined them yet, DO IT!), I’m sure you’ve noticed people sharing ideas, asking questions about, and creating meetups for these toolkits. It’s a notebook, binder, or any kind of collection of tools you can use to support students’ literacy skills and strategies.

Based on your students’ demonstrations and understandings and your knowledge of what gets tricky for your unit/topic, you create a set of tools to support small group or one-on-one instruction. These tools are your teaching focuses, often a skill or strategy from a whole group minilesson with more scaffolds in place. The tools might get used during a small group lesson for which you’ve planned or you might pull one specific tool out to support an individual student that you noticed needing additional support during a conference. They are flexible and adaptable, which makes them incredibly useful.

Our HQTS Work

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During our HQTS, we’ll explore resources, materials, and ideas to inspire us before getting into toolkit creation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the options, so I’ll be sharing the best of the best so you don’t have to weed through a bunch of Teachers Pay Teachers nonsense.

There will be so many things to consider: the focus of your toolkit (Reading fiction? Writing nonfiction? Theme? So many options.), the best tool for the job (Mini anchor chart? Microprogression? Leave-behind for students? Demonstration text?)  A toolkit that covered all of reading would be an inefficient beast. Instead, consider making a toolkit for nonfiction and fiction or even each unit. Whatever focus you choose, I’ll have sample toolkit pages for you to adapt, and as you create more, we’ll add to our Padlet to continue inspiring us.

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The thing I love most about starting a literacy toolkit is that it inspires you in so many new ways. When our HQTS is over, you’ll have at least one toolkit ready to use with students. However, I know it will also change and grow over time, and you may even leave with ideas for so many more toolkits.

Interested? Sign up here.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. 🙂

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Toolkit Ideas for Writing About Reading

literacy, professional resources, reading, test prep, writing

Made with Padlet

A quick search for “toolkits” in the Units of Study Facebook groups will yield dozens of posts with requests for and pictures of various toolkits. They are certainly a hot topic. However, I haven’t seen many that focus on writing about reading, a component of balanced literacy that students are expected to do throughout the year in a variety of contexts. As a result, we’ve begun gathering and creating some sample toolkit pages on this Padlet. Browse for inspiration, and post your writing about reading toolkit pages, too!

Best Books I Read – Summer 2018

literacy, Ms. Vigna's faves, reading

I love lists, and my favorite kinds are about books. Brightly and Facebook groups for the Reading Units of Study, Writing Units of Study, and, especially, #classroombookaday, often share book recommendations. Whenever I see “best funny books for elementary students” or “top picture books for older kids”, I place holds at my library to check them out. Even though many of these were published long ago, I got around to reading them this summer. Here are my recently read favorites:

alma

Alma and How She Got Her Name is a beautiful story about identity, family, legacy, and tradition. Great mentor text for a name or identity unit, especially at the beginning of the year!

drawn together

Drawn Together tells the story of a boy and his grandfather who have trouble communicating because they don’t speak the same language until they discover a passion they have in common. The diverse illustrations and heartwarming story will grab readers of all ages.

bolivar

Bolivar is a large format picture book that follows Bolivar, the dinosaur who is able to live in New York City because people are preoccupied with their own existences. Students will love noticing all of the details in Seth Rubin’s amazing illustrations.

for everyone

The next time you’re about to gift a graduate Oh, the Places You’ll Go, buy For Everyone instead. Jason Reynolds’s use of rhythm and repetition make it a joy to read aloud, and his message stays with you long after you’re done with this quick read. Students will love his realness. It’ll be an old friend that your students turn to again and again.

pig parade

Michael Ian Black’s humorous A Pig Parade is a TERRIBLE Idea is a fun read that will engage students. Younger students will enjoy the ideas and will be inspired to create their own reasons, while older students could use this as a mentor text for opinion writing.

refugee

Refugee is a chapter book that follows three refugee story lines: Josef escaping Nazi Germany, Isabella fleeing Castro’s Cuba in the 90s, and Mahmoud deserting Aleppo in 2013. Alan Gratz masterfully crafts chapters that leave you hanging every single time. Students will love the adventure, and it will inspire rich conversations about emotions and connections with current events.  Although there are mature themes like characters dealing with trauma and death of characters, it isn’t graphic. This book gutted me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

journey

The Journey is a picture book that makes a great text pair with Refugee. The graphic illustrations do a brilliant job of capturing the deeper meaning of the text.

school

School’s First Day of School is a great picture book for the beginning of the school year. Students may not even realize that the story is told from the school building’s perspective. Even schools get first-day-of-school jitters!

What are your recently read favorites?

Summer Reading – Online Reading Resources

literacy, reading, summer, technology

This list comes directly from this awesome blog post from the Nerdy Book Club, “Digital Device + Free Texts = Reading All Summer Long”. Check out their post if you want more background, but here are all of the links to free online reading resources!

  1. Storyline Online: Artists from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists read stories aloud.
  2. Open eBooks: Michele Obama and the Obama White House launched this app to give students and educators access to free books.
  3. Wonderopolis: If you have students who love reading informational texts, introduce them to Wonderopolis. Each day Wonderopolis posts and answers a new question. Readers can search by topic or explore the question of the day.
  4. Just Books Read Aloud: Alma College shares over eight hundred videos of stories being read aloud. You can sort by author, narrator, reading level, language, and topic.
  5. The Poem Farm: The Poem Farm is Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s website and is filled with poems for students to read. Readers can sort by topic or technique to find poems they love.
  6. Dogonews: This site is loaded with articles and videos about current events, sports, and human-interest stories.
  7. Sports Illustrated Kids: Do you have sports fans in your classroom? On this site, students can read about favorite sports and sports teams.
  8. Readworks: When the classroom sets up an account, students have access to so many texts are a variety of topics and interests.
  9. International Children’s Digital Library: Looking for texts from around the world and texts written in a variety of languages? On this site, students can search for books by author, topic, and even country.
  10. YOUR Local Public Library: Don’t miss the digital reading opportunities available at your local public library. So many children’s libraries now give students ways to borrow eBooks and digital audio books without leaving their house. Just look at the digital public libraries available in the United States.

Happy reading!

Reading Poster Unit

creating, Just for fun, literacy, quotes, reading, writing

One of my mantras as a teacher is, “If the students can do/make/think it, they should.” So when we realized our schools’ walls could use some spiffing up, we decided to turn over the decor transformation to the students! Since this is “The Year of the Reader,” what could be better than some inspirational reading quote posters?!

Together with the librarian, I’ve created a short unit plan that could be done at any time of the year.

Day 1

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Illustrator Source: unknown
Text Source: Neil Gaiman for The Guardian

The first day of the unit will be used to inspire students and give them a chance to explore and pick an inspirational quote about reading. We’ll kick off by showcasing some inspirational quotes found online and in quote books for kids.Some questions to discuss: Why do people like inspirational quotes? How can inspirational quotes be important?With this being “The Year of the Reader,” we’ll veer towards quotes focused on reading:

Students will record quote contenders on their Reading Quote Poster Planning Sheet.

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By the end of the lesson, they will circle or star the reading quote that they want to use for their poster!

Day 2

To help students realize the impact of good graphic design, we’ll share simple fundamentals of graphic design and analyze inspirational quote examples to discuss what we notice about the designs, such as fonts, layout, spacing, alignment, flourishes, and more. They’ll jot or sketch ideas on their Reading Quote Poster Planning Sheet that they may incorporate into their drafts the following day.

Day 3

This will be production day! First, they’ll sketch out their ideas on 8.5×11″ paper in pencil. Once they’re happy with their designs, they’ll go over the design in black ink. Finally, they’ll erase any of their pencil marks to end up with their final draft!

Day 4 – Optional

The final session will be a day of celebration! It’ll begin with a silent gallery walk of students’ designs. They’ll observe each design and leave a compliment on a sheet underneath for the designer to keep. All of the designs can be bound in a simple book, put on display, and catalogued in the library. If desired, students can also use this time to vote for their favorite designs. The top three designs from each class can be enlarged and posted throughout the school. During the very final portion of the lesson, students should complete a reflection about the whole process.

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Possible Extensions or Adaptations

  • Book talk and/or read aloud picture books about imagination or art.
  • Create bookmarks instead of posters.
  • Instead of having students choose a quote about reading, they can find a particularly meaningful quote from a favorite book that they read during the year. They can use some of the same graphic design elements in their designs, but they can also print it on a page FROM a book:

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Any of these quote projects would be SUCH a great keepsake to celebrate the Year of the Reader!

How to Host a Book Tasting

Just for fun, literacy, Ms. Vigna's faves, reading

Do you want to host a book tasting? It’s a great activity to introduce new books or genres to students, in which students spend a few minutes browsing an individual book to get a “taste” of it before deciding if they want to read it. To make the event even more appealing, I’ve created a BOOK TASTING KIT that you can borrow from me anytime! The kit comes in a picnic basket,

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and it includes all of these supplies:

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With these supplies, you can transform your room into a restaurant: tablecloths, placemats, fake flowers, “candle” light, jazzy music, chef or waiter costume, etc. And who doesn’t love a costume?! Actually, I know of plenty of people who don’t, so the costume part is entirely optional. 🙂

Here’s a video that Ms. Fritz and I made to help you understand what a book tasting is:

After getting a taste of some books, students will hopefully have books that they want to read. They can record their favorites from the book tasting on a bookmark,

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menu,

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“Books to Read” list in your 2nd or 3rd grade Reader’s Notebook,

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or your 4th or 5th grade Reader’s Notebook.

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I’m hoping to have CSS film an actual book tasting to give you the real flavor of the event! In the meantime, borrow my Book Tasting Kit to host this event in your room soon!

Happy reading!