Teaching Reading

I'm on February vacation! We had a snow day on Friday which didn't leave us a whole lot of snow. So I grabbed both my kids and packed a few things and took off for Portland (Maine). We stayed at a hotel with a pool one night and at a friend's house for two nights. We had such a wonderful time! I brought a new fiction book I've been dying to read
Elizabeth Berg never fails me. I adored this book and highly recommend it especially to people who need to read a story about smart women who are happy with who they are and find joy in friendship. I've been overwhelmed with books about pain and hardship and really needed this bright and cheery one.
I also brought a copy of this book which is dog-eared and loaded with highlights from my many re-reads.
This book shares lots of new ideas, but for me Cathy Mere confirms my deeply held professional and personal feeling that children learn to read in such individualized ways that guided reading is not always the most effective method. I have made a lot of changes in how I run my classroom this year.
  • I don't really use the Daily 5 as much. I use Read to Self every day, but it is a more Reading Workshop based process now.
  • I use Kristin's (A Teeny Tiny Teacher) sight word assessments (see previous post).
  • I spend a huge amount of time helping kids find books that work for them. Ones they really want to come back to each day to read and learn from.
  • I reflect every single week on what worked and what didn't.
  • I accept that I cannot be perfect in meeting everyone's needs, but that I know more about what my kids' need than ever before. 
  • I need to be flexible with my teaching. I need to do whatever it takes to help kids read and love to read. 
I'm re-reading More Than Guided Reading again because we are more than half way through the year and I'm still not loving my Reading Workshop. There is a fine line between being flexible during Reading Workshop and being purposeful during Reading Workshop. Cathy talks about a short 10-20 minute mini-lesson; a longer time 25-45 minutes for meeting needs through independent reading, guided reading, individual conferencing, and partner time; followed by a shared reflection time. I love this pattern. I always do it with my Writing Workshop time, so I need to be more purposeful about it during my Reading Workshop.

One fantastic lesson I keep reflecting on  is when I did a mini-lesson on reading non-fiction to get smarter. After the mini-lesson I sent the kids to a carefully selected box of easy to read non-fiction books about all kinds of topics from plants to syrup to monster trucks to leopards. I told them to read and look for one amazing fact to bring back to the class to share. This purposeful lesson did exactly what I wanted it to and was so darn simple. They were so excited during our reading time. I couldn't find one child who needed to be prodded into reading practice. When we met back up to reflect and share, the kids had amazing facts that did in fact make us all smarter. When one child told us that shadows are longer in the winter because the sun is lower in the sky. I said, "hey, let's try it out." I took out a flashlight, we closed the shades and practiced holding the flashlight high in the air and then lower to the ground to watch how the shadows changed. This was an amazing lesson filled with purpose, spontaneity, and learning. I knew the kids got the target and were pushed to find more ways to get smarter when they read non-fiction.

As always, I'm thinking about my craft and how it works with the children I teach. I need more time to reflect and test, but then I'll be back to share. Feel free (PLEASE) to share what works for you.


  1. That looks like a great book (both of them, in fact). I will have to check them both out. Thanks!

  2. I use reading workshop each day. I feel that the purposeful short mini-lesson, long crafting time and reflection/ sharing time are the best fit for my group of learner so this year. I struggle with keeping my mini-lesson short, but I love having time to meet with students one-on-one.

  3. I feel your pain with reading workshop. For me, it's about "time" this year. I have no quality reading time and it just irritates me every single day. I've tried to fix the schedule, but in doing so "break" something else. Our math schedule was set for us this year and it's right in the middle of the morning making so quality time before or after. Then in the middle of the afternoon, we have specials, making spurts of time before and after. My current reading time is right after lunch, I try to fit in a mini mini-lesson, then they go to a special, then they come back and read to self and I am lucky to see 2 groups or individuals. I haven't read Cathy's book yet, but I did a round table discussion with her in November in Boston. She's great! Going to check out some nonfiction 10 for 10-you posting this year?

  4. Both books sound fabulous! It's funny, I was just thinking last night I need to boost my GR time and zing up my lessons. Gonna buy her book! I wasn't even aware of this one. Have a good one, friend!

  5. Your reflections always inspire me to think more deeply about why I do things in my classroom. Keep sharing.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  6. This post is something that is inspiring. Reflecting from what you are reading and teaching for the kids is something I would like to apply for the next time I'm with my children. The books are quite interesting, I use the Hooked On Phonics program from