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11/27/14

Raising Sharp Readers by Colby and Alaina Sharp

I don’t  re-post writings from other bloggers very often–but this post from the Nerdy Book Club Blog about raising readers is so wonderful that I just had to share it. PLEASE click through to read the entire post–you won’t be sorry! Enjoy!


I wish you all  a happy Thanksgiving holiday. I am so grateful to be a part of the Nerdy Book Club, and to be a teacher, and to be a writer, and to be a mother.

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:
7 years ago, we were elated and terrified to welcome the first of our three little readers into the world.  As parents, we don’t do a lot of things right – Breslin’s gone to school with his pants on backwards enough times to verify that.  But, we have managed to turn out three little people who love reading fiercely.  Here are some of our thoughts on how we have helped to foster and nourish that love in our home.
1. Have books everywhere.
Our oldest isn’t one to go the bookshelf and pick up a book. He’s not the type of kid that you tell to go and read a book. What we’ve found is that if we have books laying around all over the place (tables, floor, car, bed, etc) he reads a ton. Sometimes he’ll find a book laying on the coffee table and read it cover to cover…read more

11/22/14

Ten Ways to get Primary Readers to Read


As he sounds out the word painfully slowly, he looks desperately to the illustration for assistance. He looks at me. I look back blankly. He says each sound separately, but blends it incorrectly. He shakes his head. He looks at me. I look back with my gentle smile.  He glances over at the boys reading through the books in their book boxes effortlessly, happily even.  

The silence is loud and a little too long.  I want to cover my ears, but instead I hold my hand over my mouth. I must not tell him the word. He should be allowed to feel that power of saying the word and recognizing it first. I am his teacher. It is my job to align the planets so that this miracle can take place.  There is only so much I can do.

1. Introduce books as if they are an ore newly discovered in Minecraft. State loudly and with gusto, “You won’t believe it! The book I ordered came in last night!” Hold it high above their heads as if you won’t let them touch the rare gem.

When he smiles as you read the book, give yourself one tally mark. 

2. Read every single book as if you are auditioning for a shot in a Scorsese film. You are a teacher and, if no one ever told you this before (let me), you are an actor.

If he shakes his head at your impression of the fox in William Steig’s Dr. DeSoto, push yourself to overdo the way this same fox talks with his mouth glued shut. 


3. Order everything connected in any way to a book that has a child excited. Instant gratification is a not a virtue anywhere (you may have heard) except in the reading world. Use your library, bookstore, friend, or Kindle to get them in their hands in 48 hours or less. 

When everyone is admiring the newest Bink and Gollie or Babymouse, pull out Little Mouse Toon books. Make sure he knows he gets them first. Put a finger to your lips to signal that he should keep it to himself.


4. Stop everything some days and make everyone read wordless picture books. Let them tell the stories to each other. Let them write the stories too. This is a sure fire way to accomplish the ultimate in differentiation. There ain’t no one you can’t reach with a wordless picture book.

He will look at these with the kind of discernment that reminds you of all that goes on in his beautiful brain. You will remember to align the stars more completely for this child. He deserves it.

5. Follow bloggers who care about books as much as they care about their own children. If you just have to pick two, follow Carrie Gelson and John Schu. You could live on their recommendations for the rest of your career.




6.  Connect books to other things in their lives. Show them how Minecraft books can help them build electrical systems. Share this video 
before reading Kate Messner’s Under and Over the Snow. Then have the kids create a classroom mural of the Subnivean Zone.
Make sure you tell him you know about his drawing skill. Ask him to draw the fox. He will practice for two days before coloring and adding it to the mural. He will stand back to look at it for a minute or two before taking out a pencil and writing F-O-X in careful penmanship.


7. Write about what you read. In order to write we must process, we must think. If you help students write about what they read, you will help them think about what they read. It’s a little like a magic trick.
As he sits down to write a letter to Ivan, he takes a long time to process and get the words on the page. He brings the paper to you and waits. “Dear Ivan, I’m sorry you were captured by bad people and made to wear clothes. I hope the zoo and the other gorillas made up for the bad stuff.” You tell him his piece is thoughtful and kind. You tell him how proud you are to have a student like him in your class. He smiles and asks if you can read another chapter together.

8. Teach your kids to speed date with books. Invite them to bring a great book to their table spot. Have them all sit down at different table spots. Set the timer for 2 minutes. They must open up the book to any page and read for the full 2 minutes. Then they get up and move to a new book. Do this three times. Then let them choose new books for their book box.

He will open his book and happily try to read something his peers have chosen and loved. He will find some words he can read and he will want to work to read them. He will add a book or two to his book box.

9. Read two picture books a day every single day. No targeted lesson can do what being a well read person does to further reading ability. Having experience with many different kinds of books will make reading easier. Period.
As you pull out That’s Not a Good Idea, he will raise his hand to let you know that he’s read other books by this author. You will smile and agree, but it isn’t until later that you will realize that he has read “Mo Willems” on his own.


10. Make it your business to learn about every new and good book out there. Read The Nerdy Book Club voraciously. Follow great teachers, librarians, authors, and illustrators on Twitter. Become close friends with your children’s librarians. New fantastic books are published every day. These new books support all kinds of young readers where they are in the reading process and reach them with current topics that matter to them.


One day, as you are busy with another student, he will come up to you and wait silently at your left shoulder. You will remind him that you are not to be interrupted, but you are curious because he doesn’t usually initiate conversation. You tell him that he can wait. As the student walks away, he says quietly “I think I read a whole chapter book by myself.” “You think?” you ask. “Yes I’m not sure. Can I read you some?” He goes on to read slowly, meticulously, but completely accurately. He looks up at you as he ends the sentence and smiles. The planets are aligned.

11/11/14

Book Review: Extraordinary Warren Super Chicken

This is the book that may have changed everything for me in the reading world. Ask my book club, I have hated graphic novels. I given them lots of tries, but I just haven't gotten them. I see why now. I didn't realize that there is more than one thing going on. There are different story lines or parts of stories going on even on the same page.

Extraordinary Warren is a story about Warren who is a chicken bored with his life, with the sameness. He goes out to seek more. He finds trouble but he also looks at trouble as a problem to solve. The illustrations in this book are picture book like and the book also has chapters which are appropriately short enough for a young reader. There was so much to look at and think about as I read this book. I had a library copy but I immediately ordered a copy and the second book from my local indie store. I'm excited to share it with my second graders.

I'm also excited to branch out into this new world of graphic novels. I'll keep you posted!

11/9/14

Listening to Books


As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link. 

My Second Graders are growing up before my very eyes. They are suddenly reading like crazy. A few of them are still struggling readers but they are developing just as quickly socially. They want to read books like Ivy and Bean or Captain Underpants. They just can't physically do it yet. So I needed a way to make things equal so that those kids could join reading groups with their peers about more than Elephant and Piggie.

Enter 4 iPod Shuffles I got through DonorsChoose.org. I can put any audio books on them so that kids can use them during read to self or listen to reading time. Then all kids are ready to talk about the books during book group time. It's simple, effective, helps these kids with focus and with feeling good about themselves. It also motivates them to want to read more so they can get to these books faster.

11/8/14

Celebrate

5 things I loved about this week

1. We had an awesome snow day on Monday NOVEMBER 3rd! We lost our electricity for 46 hours but because we have a wood stove and a gas cooking stove we were cozy as can be. I got to live out a Hattie Brooks fantasy.
2. One of my students did an amazing job writing his information assessment. He has trouble sitting and focusing for long periods of time and this test is a required 45 minute writing session. He wrote about Lions and used words like predator and carnivore. He was so proud.

3. My daughter  who is 7 started reading chapter books at every waking moment. She reads as we walk in to school. She reads as she takes a bath. She trips over things as she reads. I'm in love.

4. My son who is 9 has never liked school. This has been the heartbreak of my life. A few days ago I asked him how his day was and he said, "Mom in 4th grade every day is a good day." I cried.

5. Today I was on a mission to organize my classroom space. My kids came with me because their allowance was burning a hole int heir pockets. as we stepped in to Target, Felix saw his 4th grade teacher. His face lit up and he raced over to say hello to her. He came back without saying hello because..."well mom, she was going into a lady section and I didn't want her to feel embarrassed." He kept announcing over and over how happy he was to see her at Target. His joy was like our wood stove on November 3rd in a snow storm.  I couldn't ask for anything more.

11/1/14

Book Review: Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

This week I read
I loved it, so I read

The books are  a pleasure to read to my second graders. They are moved by Eleanor's ability to express her feelings. Julie Sternberg does a remarkable job of staying true to looking at life through a Third/Fourth Grader's eyes. Eleanor is multi-faceted in that she can be sneaky, kind, loving, angry, and vindictive in a way that will help kids identify. I highly recommend these three books and the activities Sternberg has on her site.


10/26/14

Blogging with Primary Kids


Margaret Simon at Reflections on The Teche invites others to share some of the technology they find that could be useful, in and out of the classroom. 

I did my research. I asked for help...and I got it. I highly recommend this eBook 
Kathy Cassidy is a First Grade teacher in Canada. I used the powers of Twitter to ask her what she thought I could do about the fact that I could not get my kids blogging every week. We just didn't have time or enough resources. She gave me time and excellent information. Her suggestion? Stop worrying about them doing lots of writing about their work as a way to blog, start having them take pictures of work they did during the week and uploading the picture as their blog post. It's been a life saver. The kids are so excited to share and they are documenting their handwriting and work in a way typing about it couldn't. 

Here are some examples: