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!