Thinking About “The 5 Truths of Reading” by Pernille Ripp

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I’m stealing today — stealing great words, great thinking, great learning. Pernille Ripp first wrote “The 5 Truths of Reading” on her blog in 2015, and as she says, the post is “old, but still relevant.” I agree. I’m thinking about how I can be more of an advocate for authentic reading and teaching practices as I start my new position as school librarian this fall. Here are my thoughts about the 5 truths: (See Pernille’s original post here.)

  1. Give students choice in what they read. Assigned reading is not the way to get kids to read. Usually the word “assignment” is followed by a collective “Ugh./Aww, Man!/That’s stupid!” from students in the classroom. I’ve heard it; I know. The love of reading for reading’s sake is gone immediately, and that’s not what we want. Our intentions are good — we want students to read good books, to be exposed to meaningful literature, to become more intelligent human beings. But when we assign reading that we choose, we are pushing our lives, our values, our choices into the faces of our children. Instead of assigned readings, give students choice. Talk about books that they might love, build a classroom library where students can find themselves, and create a classroom based on sharing those wonderful titles and the lessons they bring.
  2. Don’t judge the books – or the students. Pernille stated, “Our glances, our purchases, our book conversations all shape the identities that our readers are creating.” I’m guilty here, for sure. Not so much in glances or conversations, as I love to hear what my students are reading (and why they chose a particular book). My purchases have been my decision, though, and mostly reflected what I would like to have in my classroom library. No more! I have followed #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) for over a year now, and I have consciously built a better library. Instead of deciding what you want, ask your students what should be in the library, and heed the call from recommendations given to you. Once I had a student tell me, “Mrs. S! I know this isn’t your genre, but you HAVE to read this!” One of the best things I ever did. I loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs! Listen to your kids. They know. Give them a chance. (Image courtesy of books.google.com)
  3. Be a reader. This is a big one! I cannot imagine being a reading teacher or a librarian without being a reader first. Shouldn’t reading be a pre-requisite for becoming a reading teacher? I think so, and recently I’ve said that out loud more often. Each time I finish a book, I’m more intelligent than I was before, and that is what I want for my students, as well.
  4. Read because it’s reading time. My motto in my reading class was “Read During Reading Time.” I still find it disheartening to hear that people who observe teachers find that there’s “just reading” going on in the classroom. Excuse me, it’s READING class! We have to get rid of rewards, points, and prizes for reading. We have to find that JOY of reading is its own reward, and we have to do that at school.
  5. Label books, not readers. This is so important. Pernille mentioned that Fountas & Pinnell (speaking at the ILA annual conference) stressed that levels are for books. Pernille also said that labeling books meant placing a sticker or stamp on them to show what bin they belong in. Kylene Beers and Bob Probst have done extensive reading research, and I remembered that Kylene said, “This is a child, not an H.” I remembered that when a student asked me once after a formative assessment, “Am I a red?” (as in, “Did I fail the test?”) I have the shivers now, just thinking about it again.

These 5 truths have been on my mind. Hopefully sharing my stolen thinking (thank you, Pernille!) will deeper our conversations about reading and teaching reading in the classroom.

 

A Writer’s Identity Crisis

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“Are you a real writer?” One of my students asked me that this year.

“Sure, I am!” I proudly stated.

“Do you have a book?”

“No, not yet. Someday, maybe.”

I saw the rolling eyes. (Middle School!) I kept writing anyway. But I thought about this conversation, and I found myself asking the same question. Am I a writer?

Well, I’m a blogger. I have been for years now. I write “Slice of Life” stories with my friends at Two Writing Teachers (www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com). I write book reviews. I write posts for the Nerdy Book Club (www.nerdybookclub.com). Is a blogger a writer?

I’m a teacher, so I write lesson plans and curriculum notes. Does that count as writing? I spend most of my time on this, so I’d like to think so. But no one ever reads that kind of writing, except maybe a principal or a substitute teacher every once in a while. If no one reads your work, are you a writer?

I write reflections about my reading. One of my favorite professional books from this last year is Writers are Readers: Flipping Reading Instruction Into Writing Opportunities by Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth. I read all the time. I’m a better reader than a writer, but I do write about my reading. I have flipped my classroom and my students are readers AND writers. Does that make me a writer?

I’d like to think I’m a writer, but I don’t write every day. It’s a terrible problem! I make the common excuses: say I don’t have time, say something else takes priority, say I don’t have anything to write about. Maybe I’m not a writer. Hmm…

As I try to figure this out, I’ll keep writing. Maybe someday, I’ll be a writer.

 

When a Teacher Leaves Her Students…

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ncte-tag-2016 When a teacher leaves students to attend a professional conference, there are many anxious moments when the teacher wonders if the time away from them will be worth it…for them. Remember, teaching is about the kids — how we can help them learn and grow — and time outside the classroom is not always ideal. Teachers attend these professional learning conferences to bring back excitement of learning (for teachers and students alike!), materials and books students will use, and better ideas for an engaging and differentiated classroom atmosphere. My hope is that attending NCTE this year will be beneficial and worthwhile for my students and me.

Here’s what I plan to do in the name of students while I’m away at the NCTE Annual Conference:

*Visit the CNN Center and meet Carl Azuz, anchor of CNN Student News. We have tried to connect with no luck so far. (My students LOVE Carl’s puns!) Even though Carl is not affiliated with NCTE, he is in Atlanta, so I would love to take a picture with him!  cnn-sign

*Attend sessions like “Why Middle Matters: Powerful Teaching for our Quirky, Amazing Middle Schoolers” to learn more about helping these adolescents, especially in reading and the content areas.

*Reconnect with author friends to make sure that students realize that there are people out there who support their reading and writing efforts and even help them by giving expert advice!

*Get new books! (Including books we already discussed and new ARCs) This is the best part — taking home the goodies!

Teachers leave the classroom in order to learn and grow…in order to help kids. Some people may argue that attending professional conferences aren’t worth the time, aren’t worth the cost, or aren’t worth the hassle. I disagree. I can’t wait to get back to school and share my experiences with my students!

 

“What Did She Say?” — Second Chat This Week!

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Twitter chat: ‪#TandCwriters

September 7, 2014 8pm EST

Q1: What do you expect your students to already know as writers?

A1: The writing process is not a one-day or one-period event. The basics. Parts of a story + some text knowledge

Q2: How do you find out what your students know as writers?

A2: “Write about the Bear” fun way to get to know style and learning profiles of writing.

Q3: How do you give and track feedback that shows you believe in writers?

A3: Many ways to write! Not just “my way.” Read and have conversations with Ss

(I favorited a Tweet,

Another A3: I try to spread my feedback and ensure all students hear from me in a positive way.)

Q4: How do you get writers to believe in one another?

A4: Make a point to state out loud what we like about everyone’s work during the sharing sessions.

(I favorited a Tweet here, as well:

Another A4: “each student ends up being an expert about something. Helps to give them each a boost.”)

Q5: What read alouds inspire writers to believe in themselves and others?

A5: So many! Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, If You Were a Writer…

Ruth Ayres (host) said, “Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon”

Another Tweet! Amazing conversations on Twitter tonight!

Another A5: “An Angel for Solomon Singer by Rylant is not about writing, but builds belief that all stories are important, people matter.”

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and others for a second amazing chat this evening. Time for bed now!

“What Did She Say?” — My Answers to Twitter Chat Questions This Week

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What Did She Say? My responses to the Twitter chat, #titletalk

Hosted by Donalyn Miller and others on Twitter

September 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm EST

Q1: What is your definition of “uninspired reader?”

(A1: T.S. said, “ An “uninspired reader” is one who hasn’t had the chance to form a reading identity, feels no sense of ownership.)

My A1: Agree! Many students/people don’t have a chance yet to be inspired.

Q2: Considering your definitions of uninspired readers, what can we do to help Ss find reading personally inspiring?

A2: I make sure I allow my students to like and dislike – and share my likes and dislikes. Opens a door.

Q3: How can we negotiate academic and personal reading goals with our students, so they find reading personally inspiring?

A3: It’s hard to find time for everything. Reading is a non-negotiable. Even 15 minutes a day. Do it for you.

Q4. How can we engage a school/home community in the goal of inspiring more readers?

A4: Many families don’t have books or other reading in the home. Ss and P-T conferences help. Also ads for book clubs.

(E. S. said, “I have a future NBC post on this topic. My own children became uninspired readers because of AR.”)

I replied, “My 2nd daughter hated AR! Wouldn’t read at school. Is a wild reader at home!”

Q5. What books, series, authors have sparked uninspired young readers who you know?

A5: Scieszka’s KNUCKLEHEAD had the whole class rolling! Wild reading of wild stories! Also:

So many! Percy Jackson, Divergent, and 39 Clues, as well as Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Just starting…

(K said, “Several mentions of read aloud as powerful. It really helps level playing field for those who can’t quite access certain texts.”)

Q6. I just finished Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. Intriguing connections to Plath’s Bell Jar.

(I didn’t respond here. I lost the conversation for a bit.)

Q7: Last minute BONUS question: What are you reading your students this week? 

(W.C. said, “Whatever they want!”)

A7: I agree. I said, “I agree with W. They choose. Class reading is The Tiger Rising. Studying setting etc.”

Thank you so much to Donalyn Miller and others who host these amazing Twitter chats! I had a great time becoming part of the conversation!

“What Did She Say?” — My answers to chat questions from the past week

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I want to remember and reflect on my participation in social media chats. Chatting with others is a wonderful PD-on-my-own-time opportunity, and I am learning so much from my time with new-to-me technology. I thought it would be fun to creatively record my answers to Twitter chat questions, so I dreamed up this blog column, “What Did She Say?”  — I will share my answers to some important Twitter chat questions and opinions about current educational issues each Monday evening.  Here’s the first one!

From “Teach and Celebrate Writing” First Sundays, August 3, 2014 (#TandCwriters):

Q1: What routines and procedures do you put into place to help students be organized as writers?  A1: Set up workshop routines the first week. Keep a consistent plan/schedule. We have notebooks and 3-ring binders. Never tear out pages of notebooks!

Q2: What are routines and procedures for conferring with writers? A2: I love Carl Anderson’s work, and attended his workshop on conferring in June. I love that you compliment the writer first. I found out about Penny Kittle’s “Bless (compliment), Press (research), Address (teach)” plan for conferring. I’m stealing it!

Q3: What are routines and procedures for helping students to revise/edit? A3: Read the piece aloud! (great help) Peer editing groups, circling parts to check, highlighting. I need to look up “Express Lane Edit” by @writeguyjeff (Jeff Anderson). I also learned that long-term writing partners give support.

Q4: What routines and procedures do you have for students to share? A4: Penny Kittle’s “Symphony Share”; writing alongside a mentor text to show comparisons. I want to review the book, Write Beside Them again. There was a YouTube video, “Austin’s Butterfly critique” I want to see again. The message from the chat group was that students need more audience — more forms of sharing. I loved the idea of “Best Lines of the Week” — students each share one great line from notebook.

Q5: What writing routines of your own do you share with students? A5: I share my mentor texts, my blog, my ideas list, and my past (college) assignments. I also show risk-taking — things I tried. The chat group repeated the “BIC” way of writing: “Butt in Chair.” Just do it!

Q6: What is something new to try this coming school year? A6: I want my students to blog at school, maybe using KidBlog. I joined a writing group already, and I want to have students get together in writing groups often. I loved the idea of going to a bookstore (field trip!) for a publishing party!

Q7: What are you celebrating as a writer? A7: I am writing more, and more often; I have carved out times in my week to write. I have writing buddies now. Writing is so much fun!

Thank you for taking time to find out, “What Did She Say?” I hope this outlet will help all of us to remember to be great readers, writers, and teachers. See you next week.

 

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