Blog Series: All Kinds of Readers

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Day Three: Ignite the Passion for Reading with Time to Read

Just as Major League ballplayers must practice every day, readers need to READ every day. Every. Single. Day. I hear more and more about classrooms around the country where students are forced to complete activities during reading class that have little or nothing to do with reading. It’s sad, really, because the disservice is done to the children. The students want to do their best — earn the best grades, do the best work, read the best books…but students don’t get to choose the classroom lesson (at least not as a general rule). Many times, the teachers don’t even get to formulate their own classroom lesson plans, but must stick to fidelity of a program in the name of higher student achievement scores. What about fidelity to reading in the name of higher reading scores?

I could go off on a tangent here, and I would, but TIME is the key today. We want students to have passion — to love reading. Well, then, they must have TIME to read. Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Lucy Calkins, and many other teachers/researchers agree that increasing reading time — even10 minutes a day of student-choice, independent reading — can raise reading achievement scores. Remember, those standardized scores are not the end-all-be-all, though. We want joyful readers, passionate readers, lifelong readers.

Give students time to read. Help ignite the passion for reading!

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This blog series, All Kinds of Readers, addresses ways teachers cope with the “I-don’t-like-to-read” readers. I have struggled with this for years. I’ve read, researched, and read some more. (I love to read!) How can I get students to find the passion, the joy of reading? Join me as I try to find solutions that work. Add your comments and questions to the conversation. Welcome to the blog!

 

SOLSC: Day 13 #sol19 Story Time

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When I was in 2nd grade, I got into trouble for “refusing” to line up when my class was leaving the school library. No, I wasn’t a troublemaker.  I didn’t hear my teacher say, “Line up, class.” I didn’t see my peers forming the line. I was simply lost in a book, curled up comfortably in a beanbag chair behind a row of bookshelves.

As a 5th grade teacher, whenever I saw a student curled up in a corner, silently reading, I felt nostalgic. I quietly approached the student and told him or her it was lunchtime or time to switch classes. No trouble. Just information. Each student would wave me off, saying, “Hold on,” or “Just a sec.” The scene reminded me of…me.

I became a reading specialist after years of teaching all subjects in elementary school. I wanted a change. I wanted to read again – spend time reading and teaching reading. I worked with two students in particular I remember well. One was a young girl, just like me, who wanted to read and learn all she could. She loved reading, but she needed help. I introduced her to Building Up, a short text in our curriculum materials about skyscrapers.  She fell in love with buildings and structures, and ended up studying Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, the famous design architects, for research projects.

The other student couldn’t read on grade level, but he wanted to try new books anyway. When we read together, he was happy — he learned about disgusting foods, and how people “croaked”, and fell in love with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793. 

I attended an NCTE annual conference and was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson in person that year. She talked about research for her historical fiction books, her writing process, and her love of students and teachers.  I found out what it felt like to be “in the know” – meeting a favorite author and sharing a love of reading. I shoot a quick picture every time I see Laurie now, to show my students. “You know her?” they ask. I giggle, pinching myself as I take my love of reading and spread the “book love” through the schools where I work.  (Thanks to Penny Kittle for the phrase.)

After (finally) receiving my school librarian certification in 2016, I was hired for my dream job – librarian at a middle school in my community. I love being a librarian — it’s the best way to spread the “book love.” But then, the unthinkable happened.  That middle school dream job was cut. The school closed in June 2018 due to consolidation efforts in the district. I was devastated. How could I go back to teaching in a classroom, when I had finally reached my career goal?

Becoming a librarian brought new possibilities and new opportunities to my life. I started professional development sessions called “Picture Books are Perfect” – a series of sessions about how reading aloud and independent reading changes lives, and how picture books can help meet state standards, even in middle school and high school. With joy and relief (after nervously searching all summer), I also accepted a school librarian position at our district’s fine arts academy middle school! I continue living the dream as a school librarian, and I am happily employed again as the “book lady” for three schools today.

Libraries are important in schools, and certified librarians are needed to bring joyful and meaningful reading opportunities to children. I continue to advocate for real reading of books in schools. It is my pleasure to be able to provide literacy learning for students in my schools. I love the smell and feel of new books in each library shipment; I turn the books over and over in my hands, marveling at the cover art, reading back cover descriptions, perusing the first few pages, and searching for awards stickers. I’ve taught my students to do the same. We discuss plot, characters, perspectives, and theme in the library. I talk about meeting authors and attending author visits in the community. I invite my students and their parents to head to our new indie bookstore in town, and I pick up books to share at school.

I love being a librarian. But there’s something I love even more…

I love watching students fall in love with reading.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Read!

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Slice of Life Small Logo“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

–Maya Angelou

Slice of Life: Read More

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Slice of Life Small LogoI remember sitting at the ILA conference (then it was IRA) in 2009, listening to Douglas Reeves talk about literacy research findings. He got all excited and leaned forward, looking right into the faces of the crowd of participants, and said, “[after years of research]…do you know what we found?”

We all looked at one another, and then fixed our eyes back on him. We wanted to know! He gave us the results: “The more you read, the better reader you become.” We looked at each other again. I said out loud, “That’s it? We knew that!”

In my opinion, many people, even in the field of education, do not seem to know that yet. It’s always been a wonder to me that a literacy focus in high-achieving schools allows students to have a better grasp, a better focus, higher achievement, than those schools who don’t offer wide reading opportunities. I read quite a bit, and I still struggle with vocabulary and fluency, so I cannot imagine how awful it would be for struggling readers who don’t have the skills needed to succeed.

As I plan for next school year, I renew my pledge to read in class every day, and allow my students to read, too. I don’t mean teach a lesson on comprehension strategies or give a list of vocabulary words for the week. I mean READ. Every. Day. That’s what students need. Students want to read. Students want to learn. Students want to succeed. And they can, IF they are provided every opportunity to read, learn, and succeed.

Read. Every Day. It’s that simple.

“The more that you read, the more things you’ll know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

 

Slice of Life Tuesdays: Reasons I Will Read Picture Books in My Middle School Classroom

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Slice of Life Small LogoPicture Books in My Middle School Classroom

I spend time in class reading aloud, and the most enjoyable moments come from sharing picture books. My current classes gather in the meeting area and students listen intently, sometimes even applauding at the end. Why do I do this? I cannot possibly list all the reasons here in this brief post (there are so many!). Using picture books in middle school and upper grade classrooms has recently been a feature topic in many research and education articles. I add my two cents here:

  1. Picture Books are short and teach lessons within a tight time frame. No need to expand on this one —  I have 45 minutes in a class period. The more I can cram in, the better. Why not cram in the good stuff — the stuff that teaches and engages students at the same time?
  2. Picture Books are fun! Students enjoy listening and responding. Teachers enjoy sharing the love of reading in this simple manner. Baby books? Not anymore!
  3. Picture Books teach the standards, in overlapping, spiraling, content lessons that teachers can revisit many times during the school year. These mentor texts help students to identify, connect, discuss, comprehend, and respond to curriculum goals in all subject areas:

Perspective/Fitting In: Gaston (DiPucchio), I Don’t Want to Be a Frog (Petty).  “Living Your Dreams/Finding What You Want in Life” is our current theme for our reading workshop assigned textbook.

PBFittingInThemeProbSolution

Perspective/The World Around You (Science): Look Closely Inside the Garden, Look Closely in the Rainforest (series by Serafini)

PBNoticeSurroundings

Problems/Solutions: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Barnett), 14 Cows for America (Deedy)

 

 

 

 

 

Using Figurative Language/Personification/Perspective: The Day the Crayons Quit (Daywalt), Voices in the Park (Browne), The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (Scieszka)

PBPerspectives

 

 

PBArtTheme/Discussion: Fox (Wild)

Art Appreciation/Analyzing Visuals: 14 Cows for America, Fox

 

 

PBHistoricalEvent

 

 

 

Historical Events (Social Studies): Blizzard (Rocco)

PBBiographyBiography/People/History (Social Studies): When Marian Sang (Ryan), More Than Anything Else (Bradby)

 

 

 

 

As you can see, picture books can be used in classrooms to create awesome opportunities for learning and loving reading. Have fun sharing your favorites!

 

 

Update on Book Clubs

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Update on Book Clubs: Letting Students Show What They Know

After the first week, the book clubs are still a hit! I noticed a few general trends and used my observations to speak with the groups today:

1) Students completely on their own will forget some of the skills and strategies they learned during the school year. A teacher facilitator’s job includes reminding students that they can, in fact, show what they know with a little review here and there. For example, one group was reading The Tiger Rising, and I noticed the readers completely skimmed over page 92 without saying anything to each other. (This whole page is absolutely an Ah-Ha moment! See Notice and Note signposts by Kylene Beers/Bob Probst.) I asked if I could butt in for a moment and had them reread the page. “Oh, yeah, we knew that.” I reminded them that when they stop naturally, that might be a place to share with others in the group. Maybe someone didn’t pick up on the signpost, and you all could have a great discussion. “OK!” Back to work.

2) Some students won’t be able to keep up with the assigned reading. Someone is always missing homework, and there’s always a reason for it. The group was upset at this one person, but the student had a family issues excuse, and needed encouragement more than a lecture.  My personal connection made the group think: “Remember when I had to leave and go to the doctor for my eye? I didn’t get my work done for a few days. My team helped me to catch up; it wasn’t nearly the problem it could have been because I got the support I needed.” Together, we set up a plan so the student could get back into the swing of things. Crisis averted!

3) Choice reading is the best, most engaging sort of reading that students do in school! How many times have we read the research by Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, Richard Allington, Nancy Atwell, and the many others who support reading what students choose to read! Transfer of skills, ladies and gentlemen! It works!

I love watching my students show what they know. They are excited, engaged, and energetic book club participants, and I am a captivated observer! Keep calm and read on! (Who said that?)