Friday, December 12, 2014

Books, Books, Books

As I walk into classrooms, the first thing I look for is the classroom library. I want to see classrooms full of books for all types of readers. Honestly, my goal was always to make my classroom as intriguing as our school library. Many of you who walk into my office will see shelves full of books. Kids who are visiting the principals office may enjoy my book selection a little too much because they're always find something to enjoy! Today another literacy coach said, "Whoa! You have a lot of books! How did you get all of those books when you haven't even been in education that long?" I thought my book collection strategies deserved a blog post. 

First of all, I don't just collect any book. I buy books with a purpose. I can tell you almost every single book I have in my collection because I picked it out for a specific child or unit of study. 

For example, I have been purchasing these books at the Scholastic Book Fair for the past two years because they relate to social studies content, have amazing visuals, and most importantly, the boys that I teach LOVE them. I got the first one about the Civil War to share with a specific reader, but now they help hook in many different kids. Last week, a 4th grader picked up one of these books and said, "Wow, we have learned this before but this book makes it come alive!" They are engaging and high-interest, while also providing challenges in reading and social studies content. Mrs. Raney, a fifth grade teacher at WCES, used these nonfiction books and paired it with a historical fiction novel so the kids were not only hearing from the perspective of someone during that time, but learning facts to go along with that time period. You can't just put any old book in your library. You have to know what you have and who it might appeal to. Your job as a teacher is to match books to readers. You can only do this if you know what you have to offer. 

In addition to specifically choosing books for a purpose, I also make sure I have a wide variety of texts. My first year of teaching, I included my students in the organization of our classroom library. Each day, we would unpack a different box, and categorized books by genre. Not only did this help students gain a  better understanding of genre, but they were able to see directly what was going into our library, helping them generate a mental "to read" list. Not to mention, it saved me the trouble of having to organize alone! The third day of organizing, a student said, "Did you notice that we have a whole lot of fiction but almost NO nonfiction! I think it's time to go shopping for more books!" She was absolutely right. I made it a point to begin buying nonfiction books to add to our library. Your classroom library should be a reflection of all genres and types of texts. This even includes magazines, newspapers, and comic strips! Students need to see the library as a place where all texts are represented. 

To help promote social learning in my classroom, I also buy multiple copies of texts. I keep these sets together in a different part of my classroom library so students can participate in book clubs around a common text. Sometimes literature circles occur across the classroom, other times students choose to read a book with their friends. It's important for students to have opportunities in the classroom to have conversations around texts. 
Three to five copies of a single text work great for book clubs or literature circles. Good Reads has a list of recommended titles for book clubs, but any text that is of high interest to your students can become a novel set.
For my book sets, I put multiple copies into ziplock bags and keep them in a separate section of my library.

To vary the type of reading experience, I also include audio books. I personally am a HUGE fan of audio books. You can't get into my car without hearing a book read aloud. Audio books can be beneficial to reluctant readers because they engage them in fluent reading. It's important to provide students with a copy of the text so they can read along with the author. I also made sure that students didn't only listen to books on tape because I knew they needed the experience reading independently to try out the strategies. Audio books provided another way to experience reading. 
Have an organized space in your classroom for audio books. This teacher's classroom is ready to go for four different students to listen to reading.

Audio books don't always have to be novels or chapter books. This was my 4th graders favorite audio text. They listened to poetry like this most frequently.

No matter the grade you teach, you will need to have multiple levels represented in your library. I choose not to level my classroom library because I want to children to choose based on their interest, not level. I also do a mini-lesson in the beginning of the year teaching students how to select a "just right" book. You may choose to have a part of your library leveled, but I encourage you not to level the whole thing. Allow some choice for students in regards to what they read about. I chose to organize my library by genre. I did know the levels of text so that way each reader in my room could find materials they could red independently. Always keep your students in mind in regards to your classroom library. And each year, the needs may change depending on the students in your class. 

To connect all subject areas, have books that relate to content areas. Look through your TEKS to determine what big units you could start collecting books for. Since I taught 4th grade, I have a tub specifically on Explorers, Texas History, and Texas Geography.When I got to a particular unit, I could pull out that tub to highlight reading materials that reinforced social studies concepts. If you team teach, get with your partner teacher to decide what books might be helpful to reinforce their units. The kids will love seeing the connections between each classroom.

This is an example of a text set relating to the moon.

There were some books that I did not include in my classroom library. The mentor texts that I used to teach reading and writing strategies stayed in a safe spot away from students. If I included them in my library, I hardly ever found them when I wanted to teach a specific strategy. If a student wanted to borrow the book during independent reading, they could, but I always collected it back after. These books were precious to me and I didn't want to worry about finding a replacement! 

Finally, you will need A WHOLE LOT OF BOOKS! Research suggests that classroom teachers need about 20 books per student in your class. With as many books that I expect my students to read over the course of the year, I would say that number is pretty low. Donalyn Miller suggests that students do a 40 book challenge, reading 40 books over the whole year. I think 20-40 books in your classroom library per student is a good goal. While this can become a big expense, it does not need to magically appear over night. Your classroom library will grow with you as you continue teaching. Add to it gradually over time and you can have all the books you need to support reading in your classroom. I would also recommend labeling your books with your name. It's inevitable that books will be damaged or go missing, but a label marking it's belonging can help encourage it's return.

How I've grown my library:
  • Scholastic Book Orders (Your kids buy books, you get the reward points!)
  • Scholastic Book Fair (I always spend $50 at each Book Fair. Your school gets about 50% of the profit, so it's for a good cause you and you get resources for your classroom. Usually schools offer these tax free)
  • Scholastic Warehouse Sale (Twice a year Scholastic offers books up to 80% off!)
  • Half Price Books (Check out the clearance section at this amazing store. You can find books around $1 each. This is also how I grew my novel sets)
  • Goodwill (You would be surprised at the award winning picture books you can pick up at Goodwill. Tell them you are a teacher and they will discount your books so you are paying less than a quarter per book!)
  • Garage Sales (Again, super cheap prices for high quality books!)
  • Parents (Send a letter home to parents requesting donations. Many parents are tired of the books piling up with no more kids to read them. They are eager to make donations for a good cause!)
  • Donor's Choose (Websites like this allow you to advertise your classroom needs to anonymous donors. I've had many teacher friends get lucky with this site!)
  • Gifts (Ask friends to donate books to your classroom library for your birthday or christmas gift. I did this my first couple of years. People thought I was crazy but I got some great books!) 
  • Friends of the Library Book Sale (A few times a year, they get rid of old library books and over them up for low prices!)
  • Public Library (When I couldn't afford new books to purchase, I checked out books related to the topics and allowed students to peruse them during independent reading)

While collecting 400-600 books may seem overwhelming, it's completely possible. Start small, grow gradually, and never pay full price for a book!

I hope this helps you think about your classroom library in a different way. 


Friday, December 5, 2014

Guided Reading Videos

Here are some videos that I found helpful on YouTube that show Guided Reading lessons. 

Guided Reading in Kindergarten

Guided Reading in 2nd Grade

Guided Reading in Mesquite ISD

Guided Reading in 3rd Grade

Guided Reading in 5th Grade


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Organizing for Guided Reading

Guided Reading requires thoughtful planning and strategic organization. My goal is always to make it as simple as possible. Since you move from group to group so quickly, the amount of books and materials can become overwhelming. Finding a system that works for you is the key. There is no "one size fits all" organization system for Guided Reading. I've traveled between a few classrooms and aim to capture a few different organizational structures at Willow Creek that may help you. 

The Table

Most teachers utilize a kidney or u shaped table for Guided Reading. This invites children to be close to you, but also able to converse with each other. During their time spent reading to themselves, they can also scoot far enough away from each other while remaining at the table without disrupting their neighbor. Your materials should be easily accessible in that area. Guided Reading time is valuable and you don't want to waste time searching for materials when you could be guiding your readers. Also, place your table near a wall or easel helps give a surface for chart paper or anchor charts. These can serve as reminders for your readers or materials for interactive writing. 
Ms. Lowrie's Kindergarten table has everything she needs within reaching distance and minimizes distractions for the students in her group.

Mrs. Eldredge's Kindergarten table sits near her teacher desk where her materials are easily accessed. Her anchor charts hang near the table so students can reference them during the guided reading lesson.
This first grade teacher (Adventures in First Grade) uses stability balls as chairs for her kids. I used one stability ball at my Guided Reading table and I rotated students so they each had a turn. It also worked as an incentive for students since they had to show they could sit on the ball responsibly. I found that stability balls really helped my struggling readers, especially the more hyperactive ones.Students have to focus to sit on the ball, which helps use that excess energy they have stored up! Research has shown that movement helps blood flow to the brain, which is why stability balls can be so effective in schools. If you choose to use stability balls in your classroom, make sure you send letters home to parents explaining the new addition to the classroom. I never had a student fall off of the ball but I did receive parent permission before allowing a child to sit on it just in case!

The Materials

The materials you may need during Guided Reading include:

  • Leveled reader bags (with multiple copies of the same text)
  • Blank running record forms
  • Anecdotal note forms
  • Guided Reading lesson plans
  • White boards
  • Writing journals
  • Writing utensils 
  • Magnetic letters
I found it easiest to organize a basket for materials I needed as a teacher and then have one basket per group I saw. As groups came to my table, I simply pulled out their basket with the books they are reading, lesson plans, and previous running records or notes. Other teachers find a binder system just as effective. Personally, I needed something that I could quickly put away, so a binder system was a little more complicated for me. (I would just shove the papers inside the binder instead of organizing it correctly). Everyone's organizational style is different, so find what works best for you. Remember to keep it simple to minimize transition time and maximize instruction time.
Mrs. Hudspeth purchased these baskets in the Target Dollar Spot at the beginning of the school year. She has one basket for each group she sees. 
This is a peek inside her one of Mrs. Hudspeth's baskets. She has all of the leveled readers for that group for the week. She also has a binder for each group to hold notes, lesson plans, and running records. 

Mrs. Holsworth has a similar system using cardboard magazine boxes to hold each group's leveled readers.

Ms. Lowrie uses this cart to hold all of her materials. She has all of the leveled readers she needs in the pink basket on top, and group materials in the drawers below.

Mrs. Eldredge uses this wire shelving to hold all of her buckets for each group she sees. Everything for that group goes into one bucket. These shelves sit right next to her teacher table to be easily accessed.


In my previous post, I talked a little about how a reading teacher has to be a noticing teacher. Guided Reading requires a teacher to notice each individual's reading behaviors. To record those behaviors we can use running records and anecdotal notes. 

Mrs. Greer keeps her documentation in a folder for each group. In the pocket, you will find the teacher copy of group's leveled readers.

For documentation, Mrs. Holsworth utilizes a binder system with plastic dividers to keep her documentation. Student names are on post-its to allow for flexible grouping. Inside the pocket you will find the teacher copy of the leveled readers, guided reading lesson plans, note taking forms, and running records. Each group has their own color and all stay in one central location.

Mrs. Hudspeth keeps her documentation inside of each group's binder.

You can use a simple form like this to record a child's text reading. You should record each child's reading of a familiar text once a week. 
I found a half-sheet version of a running record form for free from TPT here
You can use a chart like this to track running record data over time. This will help inform your instructional decisions about individual students. You can download that form for free from TPT here.
This fluency graph from Hello Literacy is also another great way to track student progress over time. You can even have them color in their progress and set goals for the next week. I used a fluency graph and a reading level graph. Each running record I did with a child, they were able to fill out their graph themselves. They were so proud of the growth they were making!

You may want to keep a detailed lesson plan for your guided reading groups. This one is from a K & 1 ELL teacher, Ms. M.

I found several free templates on TPT for free here, here, and here 
I personally prefer lesson plans that lay out my whole week. I also like to have some sort of calendar to keep me accountable for getting to each group every day. Again, you want it to be simple and efficient. 

One important piece to make sure to include is anecdotal notes. This is an example of a form you can use for each individual child (from What the Teacher Wants blog). I liked to have my documentation all in one place so assessment and notes were on the same page. 

I have also seen teachers use spiral or composition notebooks, labels, or post-its for note taking. The simpler the better. Your notes should be short, sweet and to the point! 

Guided Reading can run very smoothly with a good organizational system in place, but you have to find what works for you and your kids. Try to find something that flows well with your classroom and doesn't take too much time to manage. I hope the ideas from other teachers in our school and bloggers helped give you some ideas. 

If you have any more suggestions or have a great system that wasn't mentioned above, email me! 

Good Luck! 


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Leveling Up Guided Reading

The week before last, EMS-ISD hosted a fabulous consultant (Debbie Whitt Jarzombek) who shared some wonderful professional development on Guided Reading. I wish I could have taken all of Willow Creek's teachers because it was so great! Since you couldn't join, I've decided to dedicate this blog post to recap on the learning. I've taken Debbie's ideas, merged them with readings from several selections by Fountas & Pinnell, and splashed in a few of my own experiences! 

One misconception I hear about Guided Reading is when upper-grades teachers claim it's  a primary grades instructional strategy. So if you are a teacher of grades 3-5, don't tune out just yet! Guided Reading just looks different with higher levels, but it is still possible and just as powerful. Also, if you find yourself with a classroom of struggling readers, it's the number one way to help build strong, independent readers, moving them closer to on-grade level materials.

A Rationale for Guided Reading:

  • It gives children the opportunity to develop as individual readers while feeling socially supported by their peers
  • It gives teachers the opportunity to observe individual readers as they process texts
  • It gives individual readers the opportunity to develop reading strategies so they can read texts independently 
  • It gives children an enjoyable, successful experience with reading for meaning
  • It develops the abilities needed for independent reading 
  • It helps children learn how to introduce texts to themselves
    (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, p.1-2)

The Guided Reading Structure:

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2012)

Is structure enough? 

Sometimes teachers fall into the trap of going through the motions of doing Guided Reading, without carefully considering the strategic behaviors they want their students to have as readers. For me, this mostly happened about six weeks into the routine, when I realized that I hadn't changed my groups at all. Fountas & Pinnell explain that one difference between small group instruction and guided reading is that the groups are dynamic and fluid. Be careful of getting too comfortable with groups. Your groups should change based on student need and interest. Fountas & Pinnell describe this process as first beginning with observation and analysis of the individual child, then grouping (or re-grouping) students based on those observations, then selecting a text that is appropriate and of interest for that group. This observation and analysis should occur on a regular basis, making groups dynamic.

Dynamic Grouping Should: 

  • Change on a continuous basis
  • Utilize assessment, observation, and evaluation on a regular, systematic individual basis
  • Be specific based on strengths in the reading process
  • Be appropriate for the level of text difficulty
  • Include skill instruction as incorporated into reading 
  • Have a balanced focus on reading for meaning and the use of flexible problem-solving strategies to construct it
Fountas and Pinnell said, "there is an important difference between implementing parts of a guided reading lesson and bringing readers from where they are to as far as the teaching can take them in a given year." As teachers of readers, we don't want to just DO Guided Reading for the sake of doing it. Instead, we want to teach individual readers to be strategic so it will carry over into their independent reading practice. We want to build their READING POWER!!

When reflecting on your Guided Reading groups, ask yourself:
  • What are the reading behaviors you observed?
  • What are your individual instructional goals for each child?
  • What text did you choose for this read to accomplish that goal?
Remember that readers are not levels, books are levels. Children can access texts at a level, but should not be defined as a level. During guided reading, we use leveled texts to help teach transferable skills to students that they can apply to any book they read. Also, we use what we know about the text demands of certain levels to teach strategies we know will help the student become successful reading those levels. A child should not be locked into a level, nor should they be progressed so quickly that they do not have time to develop appropriate skills at that level. . This is why dynamic grouping is so important in guided reading; it allows the teacher to use texts, assessments, and observations to make decisions about an individual child's reading. 

A teacher that utilizes dynamic grouping in her classroom is a noticing teacher. That teacher is tuned into the individual reader and observes how he/she works through a text.  Also, that teacher recognizes that observing specific reading behaviors allows us to understand how that child is processing text. This is done through observation, conversation, and assessment. The noticing teacher uses assessment to drive their instruction. She uses running records at least weekly to make make instructional decisions about individual children. 

Guided Reading gives kids strategies to problem solve. It's not a skills-based approach, teaching in isolation, but showing them how they can take these strategies and apply it to their independent reading. One visual that helps me with this comprehensive approach to teaching reading is this wheel from Fountas & Pinnell. It demonstrates the three different processing systems for reading- thinking within the text, thinking beyond the text, and thinking about the text. All of these come together to help build each child's reading power!

Important ideas to remember about kids who are learning to read: 

  • They need to enjoy reading, even when texts are challenging
  • They need to feel success, even when texts are challenging
  • They need to have opportunities to problem solve while reading
  • They need to always read for meaning
  • They need to learn strategies to apply their reading to other texts
  • They need to be able to use their strengths
  • They need to have their active problem solving confirmed
  • They need to use what they know to get what they don't know yet
  • They need to talk about and respond to what they read
  • They need to expand their knowledge and understanding through reading.
  • They need to make connections between texts they have read and between their own world knowledge and reading
    (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, p.9)

Some great professional resources by Fountas & Pinnell on Guided Reading:

Guiding Readers and Writers

I challenge you to reflect on your own Guided Reading instruction to see how you can be a better noticing and observing teacher who helps develop strategic readers. The next few blog posts will be focused on different aspects of Guided Reading. If you have any questions or tips, feel free to comment below or send me an email! 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

ELA Newsletter

Julie Vu created a fantastic newsletter for EMS-ISD ELAR teachers. You can read it here.  

Reading Logs & Reader's Response

“Exposing students to lots of books and positive reading experiences while building a network of other readers who support each other provides students with tools that last beyond the classroom setting.” 
-Donalyn Miller Reading in the Wild

The above quote comes from one of my all-time favorite author and teacher, Donalyn Miller. She is a lover of books who can inspire a class full of reluctant readers to fall in love with reading. Her passion for literacy is contagious for every child she teaches and every teacher that reads her books or hears her speak. Her idea is simple: students are readers and our job as teachers is to awaken the reader in each of our students. She builds relationships with her students around literature. This idea is what inspires me when working with readers every day. In addition to providing adequate time to read in class on books of their choice, students should be given time to respond to their reading.


First, let's address the issue of reading logs. Our principal wrote a great memo about reading logs in this week's newsletter: 

Gaining a New Perspective on Reading Logs

Reading Logs have long been a way to monitor that students are getting the recommended number of minutes each night for reading. It has been typical to have students read for 20 minutes per night and log the title of the book and have a parent sign to verify. Keeping the purpose of encouraging daily reading in mind is essential.

Depending on how the reading log is monitored, it can have a counterproductive effect. Students (and parents for that matter) who see the reading log as a chore, may end up dreading nightly reading and limit themselves to the required 20 minutes rather than reading for pleasure or to gain knowledge for even longer periods of time. Additionally, parents too often sign the reading log without discussing the literature with their child.

How do we mitigate these negative effects? First, avoid having a parent “verify” the student’s reading minutes. Second, opt for a reader’s response journal in lieu of a list of titles. You can allow titles only, but encourage responses, questions, and connections to what the student is reading. Third, conference with students about what they are reading (or even the lack of reading) rather than just having students turn in the reading log for compliance with the practice. Also, facilitate classroom discussions and book sharing. Fourth, and finally, help students find other books that they will enjoy by knowing what they like to read and giving suggestions for other books or series. Motivation to read is the goal! 

-Dr. Lacei Koffi

It's not necessarily bad to have students record their reading on a log, but it does depend on the purpose behind having them keep the record. Is it informing you on their reading patterns? Are you referring to in during conferences? Are they recording their reading inside and outside of school? Are they keeping track the types of books they are reading?  Reading logs can be used for so much good but once it becomes a chore and is not used productively to inform you on their reading patterns, it is useless. 

Suggestions for using a reading log productively in class: 
  • Keep a running list of books read in the back of their reader's response journal. This will help save paper and give them a place to keep track of the wide variety of titles they have read this year.
  • Record titles read during independent reading during class and at home. 
  • Keep a log on an anchor chart of books you have read together as a class. 
  • Don't require a parent signature. Engaged readers will want to read outside of class without the feeling the pressure of the required signature or time limit. Trust your readers to read.
  • Use the logs to set goals. If you notice they are sticking to a particular genre, help them branch out to try others. If you notice they are often abandoning books, figure out why they haven't been able to find one interesting enough to stick with. Use the logs to inform your conferences and set goals with each student. 
  • Help students keep track of the genres they have read. Download a free genre graph from TPT here. Download monthly graphs and more from Scholastic here.


Next, our goal should be to help readers think about their reading. Logs keep track of the time they are spending reading and the books they are choosing, but do not tell us about their thinking. Readers response allows students to respond to books. This could be done at home after reading, after your read aloud, or after their independent reading time.

 In the picture above, this 2nd grade teacher had her students read independently, discuss their book with a partner, then write a response. She modeled a reader's response in a mini lesson, gradually releasing the class to independence.  

The picture above is an example of reader's response in a 5th grade class, responding to a whole-class read aloud. This teacher chose to provide several different prompts (or questions) students could respond to. Students had a choice of which question they thought would reflect that day's reading. 

This student keeps his "Reading Bingo" (or reader's response sheet) on his desk while he engaged in independent reading. He is able to freely respond throughout his reading time. The teacher uses this to conference with him about his reading.

This Kindergarten class responds together to their reading using pictures. 

Reader's response is a great way to get kids thinking about their reading. There are MANY ways to students can respond. Don't feel like you need to "assign" them a way to respond; simply provide options and let them be creative! 

Ways to Respond to Reading: 
  • Free write about what you read
  • Do a book talk or book commercial to advertise your book to the class
  • Write a book review
  • Create a story maps
  • Create a character web
  • Make an illustration that reflects an important part/scene 
  • Summarize the reading (Somebody Wanted But So Then)
  • Write a letter to the author or character
  • Create a billboard to advertise the book
  • Create an alternate ending
  • Write a play from the storyline of the book
  • to create a word cloud
  • Create a comic strip from a section of the book
  • Write from a different character's perspective 
  • Retell the story with all essential parts
  • Write connections you had with the book
  • Write questions you have lingering after reading the book
  • Write what you learned from the book (nonfiction) 
When it comes to homework and reading, create readers that desire to read at home. Avoid making reading a chore. Allow them to respond in creative ways, demonstrating their learning through a variety of media. Readers don't need to respond every single day to their books. For homework, I asked my 4th graders to read each night for 20-30 minutes. On Fridays, they each chose a way to share what they read (mostly through book commercials or projects). It allowed students to share suggestions for books to other students, to think critically about their reading, and to read outside of school. 

What do you do for reading logs and readers response? Comment below to share all of the wonderful things happening in your classroom!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Writing Workshop Videos

In Eagle-Mountain Saginaw, we highly value collaboration, specifically in the form of PLCs. A few weeks ago, one teacher from each grade level attended a session led by our ELAR Coordinator on Writing Workshop. We watched videos and analyzed writing samples, all of which teachers quickly were able to apply to their own instruction in their classroom. Below you will find the videos shared at this workshop with additional videos that I have found to be helpful. Enjoy!


Some YouTube accounts that I subscribe to include: 


Reading and Writing Project

Teaching Channel


You may find additional helpful videos through these links. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Reading Workshop Videos

Below are videos from You Tube that I have found helpful for understanding Reader's Workshop: 

Lucy Calkins Explains the Reader's Workshop

Bonus: Lucy Calkins on Teaching Reading Today

First Grade Reader's Workshop

Fifth Grade Reader's Workshop

Ricks' Reader's Workshop broken down to individual videos: 

Fifth Grade Mini-Lesson Video

Fifth Grade Silent Reading Video

Fifth Grade Conferencing 

Fifth Grade Conferencing #2

I will continue to add videos to this list as I discover them. If you have any that have been helpful, comment on this post and I will add them! 


The Essentials

As a school, we decided what was essential for literacy at our school. Here are our notes on anchor charts: 

From these charts, I will start creating posts that target each specific essential element. 

First, here are my list of essentials for BALANCED LITERACY. Balanced literacy is an approach to teaching literacy that is completely individualized for each student. It balances the components of reading through direct and indirect instruction. I think this list is important because it promotes a balanced approach to teaching literacy, which is our philosophy at Willow Creek. 

At Willow Creek, you can see our priorities and non-negotiables every day as you walk through our hallways. Here is a glimpse of the reading and writing I saw this week: 

These two Kindergarten students are reading books on their level from their book box to independently read. 

These fifth graders are all listening to a book on tape. Afterwards, you would hear a great discussion on their novel! 

This fifth grader found a cozy spot around the room to dive into a good book!

Stay tuned for more posts about literacy essentials and pictures capturing it happening at our school! 


Read Alouds

Last week at our staff development we spent some time discussing our non-negotiables for literacy. We created anchor charts (see this post) that outline what we believe is absolutely essential for our literacy instruction. For the next several blog posts, I will reference these anchor charts with a post about each component.

Read Alouds

There is nothing more important than a child listening to fluent readers. This is a way to model good reading, provide insight to the reader's process through think alouds, and engage reluctant readers. In read alouds, the books can be of various levels, opening up opportunities for our students to hear more complex reading that they may not be able to read independently. Unlike shared reading, you only need on copy of the text.The kids will probably start checking out the books at the library so they can follow along, some might even beg their parents to purchase a copy. This is when you know you have hooked the readers! 

Read Alouds are a great way to build oral language speaking and listening skills. Through listening to stories, children are exposed to the rich vocabulary and the story structure of texts. You might notice that children will start using that language in their conversations or when writing. These books can act as a mentor for reading and writing, providing additional scaffolding for student learning. 

Don't be afraid to expose students to other genres during the read aloud. Fiction tends to lend nicely to read alouds because of the story structure, but nonfiction texts are just as important. Try to alternate the genre of your read aloud, pointing out the different text features in the genre. This is also the #1 way to connect the content areas into literacy. Read a book about the social studies, science, or math unit you are on. This will provide multiple connections for students and even teach components of the topic! It's a win-win! 

Also, don't hesitate to vary up the type of text you read aloud to students. A read aloud could be a picture book or a novel, but it can also be a  magazine or newspaper article. Varying up the reading material will show kids all of the different kinds of reading we do! It will also hook in readers of varying interests. Use resources such as TIME for Kids or National Geographic for Kids to get some shorter pieces for nonfiction. Websites such as DOGONews or NEWSELA provide leveled articles on current events. 

While books should be read for pleasure and sometimes without interruption, this time of day provides the perfect insight for you to model your reading process. Use small moments to interject with what you did as a reader. For example, if a part gets confusing, you might say,"hmm I think I need to go back and reread because I was confused here" or if a part is very powerful, you might say, "Oh wow, let me reread that line so we can hear that powerful statement again!" Your language during the think aloud will transfer over to the children's independent reading time. 

Read Alouds pack in so many essentials of literacy learning all in about 20 minutes. Beyond building a community of readers, they provide ample opportunity to demonstrate reading strategies and grow oral language skills. It is absolutely essential for read alouds to become a daily classroom routine. 

Here are some websites that have some great recommendations for read alouds: 

Here are my personal favorite authors for read alouds: 

Eve Bunting

I could probably go on and on about authors I love. In addition to classic authors, be sure to include more contemporary pieces. I use the following resources to keep me up to date on current children's and youth literature.

What books have your children loved to hear read aloud this year? Comment below to share your favorites!