Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers

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IMWAYR: Catching Up

I’m catching up this week — finishing Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee (SO needed in our middle schools and high schools) and Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop.

I am gathering more wordless picture books right now for various uses. The Fisherman & the Whale by Jessica Lana is an important book about humans taking care of the animals of the world, and how humans can show more empathy in the middle of struggle.

The Hero Next Door is the newest #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) collection, and it’s a good one! The school library has it now. I’m sure it will be checked out by tomorrow afternoon.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read

Slice of Life Small LogoPart 3: The Art of Comprehension

My art teacher friend, Trevor Bryan, showed me fabulous ways to look at art as comprehension of text. During my wordless picture book study in class, I first asked the students: “What IS text?”  As expected, most of them said, “Words,” or “Written down stories, feelings, or facts.” Then I read Flood, by Alvaro F. Villa. The students talked the entire time I read to them, asking questions and telling me the story as I turned the pages. When I got done, I closed the book and asked again, “So…what IS text? You said WORDS, but there were no words in the book.”

“Uh…Ah…But…”Wordless PB_Flood_Villa

Wait a minute! You mean to say that “text” is NOT “words?” We discussed at length what just happened.  We used the art to comprehend the story. With Mr. Bryan’s help, I led the students to discover patterns, view colors, and look at lines and shapes in new ways — to understand the story. A story without words.

To practice reading texts without words, I set the students off on their own (in groups and individually). They found details in the artwork, discovered patterns (also using Notice and Note signposts — see Parts 1 and 2 of this series), made connections, and talked about the evidence behind their thinking. Some students wrote their own words to go with the picture book, and read them to the class.

Our wordless picture book study turned into a great literacy experiment! Students were engaged in learning, talking, and enjoying books. And the writing after reading…I didn’t have to say a word.

You can learn more about the Art of Comprehension by following Trevor Bryan on Twitter. His Twitter handle  is @trevorabryan. Mr. Bryan also writes for with the hashtag, #4OCF.

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Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read

Part 2: The Wordless Picture Book Titles (Short List)

I promised in Part 1 of “Who Needs Words?” that I would reveal the title list for my “Notice and Note” study of wordless picture books. Well, life is tricky, and gathering wordless picture books for use in middle school is difficult (another story, another time). Thankfully, many primary centers came to the rescue and I received a box of books today! Librarians of South Bend Schools, I thank you kindly for sharing.

I plan to share many new titles with my students next week as we continue to use Notice and Note strategies taught to us by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. As I said earlier, I found that the three essential questions from Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies work well to study these non-word texts.  To recap, the three essential questions we will use are: 1) “What surprised me?” 2) “What does the author think I know already?” 3) “What challenged, changed, or confirmed my thinking?”

The first order of business: read wordless picture books, talk to our partners, and share our thoughts. I cannot wait for the thinking fun! (I also cannot wait to hear the comments when I introduce the titles to my pre-teen students. I can just hear it now: “Man, some of these books are old!” I will giggle to myself and watch what unfolds.)


The following is a short list; the students will work in pairs. As we receive more books, I will add them to the series’ posts. Let’s get started:

Fossil and Chalk by Bill Thomson, Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman, Zoom and Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai, Journey by Aaron Becker, Sector 7, Flotsam, and Tuesday by David Wiesner, Frog On His Own by Mercer Mayer, Flood by Alvaro F. Villa, Unspoken by Henry Cole, Time Flies by Eric Rohmann, and Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Art as Comprehension. I stole my friend, Trevor Bryan’s work for that. Thank you in advance, Trevor!


Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read

Welcome to Slice of Life Tuesday! Slice of Life stories are published each Tuesday at Thank you, ladies, for inspiring teachers to share!Slice of Life Small Logo

Who Needs Words? A Series of Posts About Teaching Reading and Learning to Read

Part 1: Getting Started with the help of the Experts

As I started teaching nonfiction strategies this year, I used my newly autographed copy of Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. I was excited to get started because my former students helped the researchers by taking a survey that informed the book’s work. I talked with former and current students about my passion for teaching reading in meaningful ways and told them that Kylene and Bob would continue to guide our next unit of study.

As I prepared my lessons for the unit, I was immediately drawn in by the beginning chapters’ set of three essential questions that defined the “Stop! Notice and Note” points for readers. In the book, Beers and Probst described using the lessons with readers who became completely engaged in the thinking work, and I wanted the same for readers in my classroom.  The premise was easy to use and the students could catch on quickly, especially since they were already used to the Notice and Note signposts for fiction books. I explained to the students that these strategies work for all reading for the rest their lives — not just for “today.”

To get to the point of this post, very simply, the essential questions that help a reader to “Stop! Notice, and Note” are: 1) “What surprised me?” 2)”What does the author think I know already?” and 3) “What challenged, changed, or confirmed my thinking?”  The more practice I had myself while trying out the preliminary texts, the more I realized that the essential questions for nonfiction can be easily transferred to my “before-the-winter-break” study of wordless picture books.

I am ready to go! I have a stack of wordless picture books piled, prepared, and ready for my students to enjoy. (See part 2 of my series tomorrow for wordless picture book titles I am using in the classroom!) Thanks to Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, this smooth transition in “Noticing and Noting” will be just the ticket for wrapping up 2015’s learning and gliding us into the new year! Thank you, my friends!