Category Archives: reading

Class Books: Let Them Read What They Write

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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 heartfelt 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. Funnily, the students I’ve had since then have been drawn to it also. Every year, nearly all of my students read it 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 to 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 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 studies 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 also 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.

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A Guided Reading Glog

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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

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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

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!

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What other ways can we use Padlets in the classroom?

Giant Literacy Word Wall

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.

When Kate DiCamillo Gave My Baby’s Name the Best Compliment

My family lives close to An Unlikely Story, the amazing book store owned by the author of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney. When they announced that author, Kate DiCamillo, would be visiting the bookstore, we signed up right away. Unfortunately, so did MANY other people. *We* were put on the standby list. On the third floor. “Oh, great,” I thought. “I’m never going to meet one of my favorite authors of all time.” But we waited anyway.

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Mr. Kinney gave a presentation to entertain us while we waited, and we loved seeing Calvin and Hobbes as one of his inspirations. But it still wasn’t the reason I was there — to see one of my favorite authors of all time.

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Instead of being in a room of 200+ fans and Ms. DiCamillo, we were front and center in a room of less than thirty people!

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I even got to ask her a question!

Later, when she signed our books, she asked, “Who’s this?” while pointing to our baby. When I told her Sam Grey, she replied, “Sam Grey wearing grey…this sounds like a name an author should borrow for a future character!” I told her, “Please do!”

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On our way out, we couldn’t resist thanking Mr. Kinney for a wonderful event and for bringing this amazing bookstore to our (greater) community.

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Go to An Unlikely Story soon! You won’t regret it, but your wallet might!

 

Quote Creators

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I love finding inspiring quotes in the books I’m reading! In fact, my students have a whole section of their reading notebooks devoted to quote collecting. It’s impactful work because it encourages:

  • “reading like a writer.” Being aware of how words are composed influences and excites us as writers. I want my writing to have the same kind of impact!
  • vocabulary acquisition. Often, my favorite quotes have some unusual, inspiring word choice. The conversations we’ve had in class while dissecting the nuanced meaning of words in quotes have been some of my most powerful teaching moments.
  • reading an author’s body of work. I know that Sharon Creech will always have some stimulating nuggets. She has such a gift with words!

Three FREE websites I’ve found and used to turn quotes from students’ readings into something you’d find on Etsy are Recite.comQuotescover.com, and Quozio.com. You can choose different styles, colors, and fonts! Have fun playing around, and happy reading!