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?

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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!

5th Grade WIN – Padlet

reading, technology, writing

Click here to find the Padlet for our WIN group.

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I’ve posted before about Padlet, the digital interactive bulletin board, but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it authentically until now. For the next several weeks, I’m meeting with fifth graders to work on reading responses during WIN. In addition to using critical thinking skills, collaborating with other writers, and writing clear ideas, I also want students to use the computer for this work. Padlet seems like the perfect platform to accomplish these goals! I’ll provide an update after we’ve tinkered around a bit more!

Class Books: Let Them Read What They Write

literacy, reading, writing

DSCF2121

It’s possible that my love for class books originated from the one I received from the class that I student taught on my very last day of teaching them. It was a simple production: letters on notebook paper, crayon/colored pencil/marker drawings, and their school pictures. The fanciest thing about it was the laminated pages and plastic binding. Of course, the simplicity of it is part of what makes it so precious to me. Their sincere letters and drawings alongside their school photos still touch my heart. Since then, it has been in my classroom library in my “Student-authored Books” bin. For years, I was surprised by how the students I’ve had since then have been drawn to it even though they didn’t know my first students at all. In fact, every year, nearly all of my students read the Thank you, Ms. Vigna book at some point during the year; sometimes revisiting it more than once. Without even knowing my very first students, my later students couldn’t resist reading the book they made!

A purposeful, authentic audience motivates writers. Fortunately, our classrooms have built in audiences: students! There is no shortage of content for class books: With the volume of writing students are producing in our classrooms, you could easily stock a classroom library shelf with student-authored books. In Writers’ Workshop alone, it’s possible that students have penned several pieces already.

It’s just a matter of putting the book together: Print out or copy all of their personal narratives, create a simple cover, and bind their work into a class book! Nothing elaborate–no need to ship them off to Blurb or Shutterfly. Just fold an 11×18 piece of construction paper in half and staple it down the side to bind it. If you’re feeling fancy, you can add some decorative duct or Washi tape to cover the staples.

Class books can be made outside of Writers’ Workshop, too. A Math Workshop station could have students write their own word problem for the concept being studied and a separate explanation of the answer. I’m imagining a class book made out of envelopes: the problem written on the envelope and the answer and explanation on an index card  inside the envelope. In science, students can create an alphabet book for the current topic or a timeline of a historical events for each time period studied in social studies.

Teaching students how to make books on their own would be empowering and motivating also. Look to Katie Wood Ray and her protege, Lisa Cleaveland, for inspiration, especially for our youngest writers in the primary grades.

Class books motivate students to READ! I have found that students love rereading their work and the work of their classmates in these class books so much that I often have to “discard” the totally worn out original copy and replace it with a “Second Edition” OR I end up making copies of especially powerful class books to GIVE to my students to keep. My authors have even gone around the room collecting each other’s autographs and asking for inscriptions like we would at a professional book signing.

Regardless of its form, class books are powerful and useful reading and writing tools. They are treasure-filled memories for all of the stakeholders and promote reading and writing in our youngest readers and writers.

A Guided Reading Glog

literacy, professional resources, reading

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I’ve gone and glogged again! My latest glog is all about Fountas and Pinnell’s framework for guided reading for teachers from kindergarten to second grade, though the information is certainly transferrable to all the grades. I love making glogs because you can see all of the information and synthesize everything at once. The video that’s included isn’t my favorite exemplar of guided reading, but it’s enough to focus our discussion. My goal is to film a guided reading lesson at my school with which to replace it soon!

A Sea of Talk

literacy, quotes, reading, writing

sea of talk

I have seen firsthand how turning and talking to a reader or writer next to you can energize students. Sometimes I’ll ask a class a question, and wait for a couple timid hands to slowly raise themselves. I’ll quickly follow-up with, “Turn and talk to the reader next to you about…” After a minute or so of discussion with a partner, the number of hands shoots up, often with nearly every student’s hand in the air! The benefits of giving students a chance to talk out their thinking are noticeable and necessary. When students talk before sharing out with the whole class, they get a chance to:

  • reassure themselves that they’re on the right track
  • rehearse verbalizing their thinking
  • deepen their understandings
  • take a risk with an audience of one rather than the whole class
  • have a peer explain in a kid-friendly terms
  • be heard
  • consider other perspectives
  • gain enough confidence to share out

Additionally, reading and writing are sometimes passive activities. How do we know what reading thinking is taking place if students only read silently? Discussing their reading and writing thinking energizes the learning and informs instruction. Engaging readers in a conversation about their predictions, confusions, wonderings, connections, or visualizations gives us a glimpse of what they’re doing well and where they can still grow as readers. A classroom of readers and writers hums with partners quietly sharing their thinking and responding to each other. In a classroom where rigorous conversation is expected and valued, readers and writers will do more than float on a sea of talk; they will soar.

Padlet

reading

At last week’s staff meeting, a teacher queried, “How can we hold kids accountable for their independent reading?” Such a great question! What else is out there besides book talks and reading letters? I began exploring and discovered Padlet.

A Padlet is basically an online bulletin board. You can upload photos, files, or videos to a brief description, synopsis, wondering, whatever and other users can comment! My first Padlet, The Year of the Reader, can be a place where teachers and students add snippets of their thinking about the books they’re reading. Add to it today!

Made with Padlet

What other ways can we use Padlets in the classroom?

Giant Literacy Word Wall

language study, literacy, Ms. Vigna's faves, reading, vocabulary, writing

Man, I love a word wall. I always thought I did a good job with word walls because they easily covered close to half of my classroom wall space. Then I saw this image from an article in an issue of Science and Children called, “Interactive Word Walls” by Julie Jackson and Rose Narvaez:

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The word wall of my dreams! My brain exploded with both envy and inspiration! However, the closest I thought I could get to creating a realia-filled word wall of my own was showing it to as many teachers as possible and convincing one to do it in their rooms.

Thinking about my new office though, I realized I had PLENTY of wall space to create this masterpiece! So over the next several weeks, I’ll be brainstorming and gathering realia associated with literacy for my very own interactive word wall, complete with QR codes and student work.

What literacy words do you associate with each letter of the alphabet? Comment! I’m low on J, K, O, Q, X, Y, and Z, especially.