Monday, July 20, 2015

Global Read Aloud 2015: Fish in a Tree (#GRA15, #GRAFIAT)

Pernille Ripp started an amazing thing called The Global Read Aloud. You can find more information on the initiative here at the website! Sign up on the website while you're there!

Comment below if your class will be joining, I would love to connect. We are hoping to tweet a lot and connect with classrooms through the FIAT Edmodo Group.

I am participating again this year with my 4th Grade Class and I know the kids will be just as excited as me when they find out we're reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt!

Fish in a Tree is a #heartprintbook for me. I believe that every Educator should read and learn from Ally and Mr. Daniels. If you want to read my review about FIAT, check it out here at the Nerdy Book Club!

Here's the Chapter Outline for Fish in a Tree:

Week 1:  Chapter 1 – 8
Week 2: Chapter 9 – 17
Week 3: Chapter 18 – 24
Week 4: Chapter 25 – 33
Week 5: Chapter 34 – 42
Week 6: Chapter 43 – end
Start Date
October 5th
On the website you will also find a handout to send home with students, a tools handout and a FAQ handout. All of the resources you need are there. Be sure to sign up so you'll be ready to go in October!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scheduling Your Reading Block

I always get a lot of questions about how I schedule my ELA Block. I've been working on this post for awhile, and I'm hoping it proves to be helpful for some of you who are new teachers and for those who need to revamp your current schedule. I am getting more into the Workshop Model this year, so this is a thing that is subject to change for me;
as always you have to do what works best for you and your kids!

I've broken this post down into steps in hopes that it will help you plan out your own schedule. At the end of the post, I'll share a Schedule Freebie that I made and adapted for my classroom needs. 
If you have any questions, please post them below.

Decide first what you are not willing to give up. What does that mean to you? For me, first and foremost it's choice and time for Independent Reading. My kids get 20-30 minutes a day and this never gets shaved or omitted. UNLESS THERE'S A FIRE.

A Student reads in the Recycling Bin during Flashlight Friday

Two Students share Victoria Jameson's Roller Girl during Independent Reading Time

Students get cozy in the library area

Conferences are also very important to me during this time: this is when (at the beginning of the year, I get to know my kids and their interests) I talk with students about reading. If you are intentional during this part, you cut out the guesswork in who is reading and who hasn't found the right book yet. Touch base with students and find a schedule that works for you!

This year I simply kept track of who I met with and when to make sure I was meeting with everyone. This year, I'm working on a more detailed system that will help guide the next conference with each student. It's a work in progress and you have to find something that is EASY and EFFECTIVE.

I hope you read out loud to your kids! There is so much research suggesting that Read Aloud is a vital part to our older kids learning, too! I love to use short stories, articles, blog posts and picture books to guide mini-lessons. You're also letting students HEAR a fluent reader and it's a great time to model reader thinking! Plus, who doesn't love being read to??

The moment when I connected a CCSS strand to Independent Reading :)

While I may not be the Common Core's biggest fan, those are the standards my district follows and I do like having a sort of Blueprint for what my kids should know. I like to tie my daily standard to the mini-lesson and talk with kids about applying it to whatever they're reading for IR. Works for us!

Another non-negotiable for each day is Writing about Reading. Last year, I started using Reading Response Letters and I loved the outcome. We also wrote to Authors, wrote Book Reviews and recommended books to our friends. This year, I'm looking to get other outlets involved. We will be blogging, tweeting, skyping Authors and writing RR Letters to help share what we are reading.

Decide what you would not want cut from your day and go from there!

If you use a Workshop Model most of the things included in Step One should be revisited here. Make plans, schedule out your Read Alouds and have Mini-Lessons ready to go. This is the set that I am heavily working on this school year! I am researching great children's books to help me (gently) teach the CCSS. I'm working on Mini-Lessons that are planned and organized and ready to start the year.

If you're looking for something to help with Reflections at the end of Workshop, this is something I'll be using this school year!
Find them here in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Some things come up and there's nothing we can do about it. Don't all teachers have the middle name, Flexible? We have to be ready to move things around at the last minute and adapt to our always changing days. I've found that keeping yourself organized really helps here. Make sure you keep a Teacher Planner or Binder and as you get emails write down dates and times for meetings and schedule changes. I also keep a desk calendar on my desk and that helps me keep organized, too!

Keep track of Book Release Dates to help build anticipation with Students!

Use binders or some other filing system that works for you!
Covers and Spines are from Joey Udovich

I'm a big fan of Erin Condren, but again, you have to use what works for you. I have a Life Planner, Notebook and Teacher Lesson Planner. When school is in, I use all three almost daily!
My Notebook helps keep my ideas organized and in one place.

My Teacher Lesson Planner keeps all of my grades, contacts, plans and schedules in one place. It's also easy to pick up and take to meetings.

Keep all of those schedules and pop-up changes at bay whichever way is best for you!

I just did a post on Student Accountability during Workshop and/or Independent Reading Time. It goes with my post about setting up your Reading Notebook. I use a two main things to keep kids "accountable" for their time: conferences and reader's notebook forms from Reading in the Wild.

If you are conferring with students on a regular basis, you KNOW if they are reading during IR time. If you see that they've been on the same book for a really long time, talk about it. If you see that they need to sample more genres, talk about it. TALK TO YOUR KIDS! Get to know them so you can build a strong relationship and ultimately classroom community. You can start giving them recommendations, because guess what? When you're looking for books you'll be reminded of your kids! You start to learn their tastes and what genres they love. Nurture that reading love!

Have students keep track of their reading lives, just like real readers do.
Maybe not all readers keep a reading notebook, but guess what? I'm a reader. I leave reviews for books, I make plans to read books, I keep a mile long wish list on Amazon and I jump on Twitter and Good Reads updating page by page as I'm reading a great book! Teach your kids how to do the things that real readers do. Reading in the Wild has all the forms you could need for this part. Our key components are Status of the Class, Books I've Read, TBR (to be read) List, and our Genre Chart where we start to see our habits and tastes on paper in a nice visual format. Encourage kids to read widely throughout different genres. You will have kids that love graphic novels, or realistic fiction, or non-fiction. Don't discourage them because they show preferences, that's what real readers do. The 40 Book Challenge helps encourage kids to sample different genres without being a jerk about it. Guess what, there's no one to tell me to stop reading the heck out of Graphic Novels, and I'm still a reader, a functioning reader with good comprehension skills.
Like Donalyn says "All readers are valued, all reading is valuable."

Leave me now and go read this book if you haven't yet.

This is an area of personal improvement for me. I'll be attending the Scholastic Reading Summit next week and I'm going to a session about Troubleshooting Conferences. Notice where you need help, and then get the help you need to be better for your kids.

This last step has some other important considerations... Everyone will want to look over these and see if any are factors in your schedule. We all have different amounts of time to work with, again, do what will be best for your situation and your kids!

Okay, now, it is with great caution that I share with you the time I get for ELA. This year, I will have two hours a day with my students to teach Reading and Writing. Before you start drinking HATERADE, just remember that each district is different and I recognize that I am very lucky to have the class time that I do... 

With that being said, my schedule is going to look different than yours! My recommendations are this: Keep a Read Aloud and Mini-Lesson and then do Independent Reading... If I only had 60 minutes that is what I would do with it. 30 minutes for each. I would also recommend using the mock schedule where one week you have a Reading Focus and the next is a Writing Focus. Every week will be filled with both subjects, but one week you may be doing reading mini-lessons and the next it will be writing.

This was my schedule last year (this year, I get a little less time):

I would like to share a schedule I use that was adapted from a Reading in the Wild (see, Mrs. Riedmiller is to Reading in the Wild as Mr. Schu is to Kate DiCamillo) Book Study last summer. I took someone's schedule (one that was originally a sample in Donalyn's book) and made it work for me with the addition of Genius Hour, because I LOVE GENIUS HOUR. :)

Enjoy and I would love to hear some feedback. Also, kudos to you if you made it through this very long-winded post! I hope it helps you in the classroom. 

"Accountability" in Workshops & A Giveaway!

Every time I tell teachers or friends that my kids just read during class, they want to know: Where is the accountability? How do you KNOW your kids are reading? How do you know they're learning what they need to learn from the text? How do you know they're using strategies??

No one EVER asks me: How do you know your kids are growing as readers? or How do you know your kids LOVE reading?

I guess for me, I want to know that my kids are growing as readers. That they love to read, or that they have finally found their Gateway Book, the book that keeps them coming back for more reading experiences. I know so many teachers care about these things, but sometimes our classrooms don't directly reflect them.

Every year I try to improve my craft. I want to get better at what I do, I want to be better for my students and for myself. Taking a look at research, and using best practices in my classroom are two things that are at the center of my growth. There are so many things that I still don't understand, so many things I know I'm not doing the best way, but we keep learning and growing... Right?

After my last post about Setting up the Reader's Notebook, I have planned with my grade level team and started to really look at what will be in our binders. We want to make the items intentional and useful to both us and the kids.

The type of "accountability" I've moved into over these past couple of years uses the help of some materials in our Reader's Notebook. Most of the forms from Reading in the Wild help with this accountability piece. Students track what they're reading, review books, recommend books, make plans for what to read next and work towards our 40 Book Challenge

I made some new graphic organizers in hopes that they would help students reflect on their day in workshop and make plans for the following day. We will use these this August to get started with workshop and they will be housed in our Reader's Notebooks.

It's also important to mention that my biggest accountability piece with my kids is Conferences. I meet with my kids as much as I can during the week (still perfecting this) and this is a great way for me to know what my kids are reading. Once you get to know your kids, this becomes more natural and the conversations you have with kids are key to seeing how they are feeling about reading and discovering struggles as they arise!

I would LOVE to giveaway a copy, so if you're interested, please follow my blog and comment in this post about your favorite part of the Workshop Model for teaching Reading and/or Writing!
Good Luck!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Series: Setting Up the Reader's Notebook in Upper Elementary

This post is the first in a Series, and will include information for READING NOTEBOOKS.
Stayed tuned for WRITING NOTEBOOKS!

If you've been hanging around for a bit, you know that I am a Floating Teacher. What does this mean? Each year of my career, I've spent it moving to a new grade level. Something that has remained constant for me is that I've been lucky enough to only teach Reading and Writing (Language Arts) to each of my classes. 
I've taught third, fourth and fifth. Next year, I get to go back to fourth grade! Each year, I settle into my teaching a little more, but not without much reflection. One practice that I will continue to use in my LA classroom, no matter the grade level is the Reader's Notebook. 
If you want to set-up your own, ask yourself these questions to get going!

When Googling: Reader's Notebook, you will find a plethora of resources. Here are a couple posts that I have found useful over the past few years for set-up:

Scholastic's Top Teaching Blog: The Reader's Notebook by Beth Newingham
This post is old, but very helpful. Stripped down to the basics, I took some of these ideas to eventually lead to my new set-up. Beth is the one who gave me the idea of using binders instead of actual notebooks (something that was then solidified when I asked this year's 5th graders for notebook feedback). Her setup is rock solid and even gives links for freebies if you don't feel like finding or creating something on your own.

This post is unclear which book it comes from and I do not remember seeing it Reading in the Wild, however, it gives step-by-step instructions for setting up a reader's notebook. This was helpful for me, because I already use all of her forms for my own reader's notebook. They worked perfectly with my students last year and why fix something that isn't broken? It was also helpful for me because I devour any resources from Donalyn and there are times where I wish I could ask her for more details when it comes to certain practices. This resource satisfies that need for me!

Here's a bit of a confession... sometimes as teachers we have so much on our plates that we need something that will kind of plan and implement itself. I want you to be intentional in this next part... All of our notebooks will be different, because all of our kids have different needs. If we're being really transparent here, as educators, we should be changing things up year to year based on our group of kids that we have. What do you want the kids to have available? What will help them succeed? What will help them reach their personal and classroom goals for Reading?
It's all about them.

My five sections for fourth grade this year:
Independent Reading: Genre Requirement Chart, Genre cheat sheet, TBR List, Status of the Class, and Books I've Read charts. This would also be a good place to keep conferencing information for when you meet with kids during IR. *My kids had to add and add and add "books I've read" charts, so having the binder option will he helpful here!*

Genre chart in action!

Mini-Lessons: Here students will keep materials related to our mini-lessons. I work on using picture books to teach each of the CCSS strands for ELA. Here we can keep reflections, guided notes and materials for independent practice.

Reading Responses: this will include weeks that we use reading response letters, and any other types of materials that could be considered responses to our reading like scripts for book trailers, book reviews, blog posts, tweeting plans and author correspondences.

Goals & Progress: This section will include MAP scores (my district's way of progress monitoring and determining Lexiles in upper grades, not the end all be all, but just one tool we use), MAP goal setting worksheets, Fluency work, Student-generated reading goals. This section will also house our data tracking sheets for the Common Core (instead of having that in a separate binder).

Reading Share: Once students really get into their Wild Reader habits, they can start teaching some of these strategies to younger students in your building. I only had my students do a Summer Share this year, because it was just an idea I got at the end of the year. My plans for next year are to have my blocks organize and teach one before every break: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break and Summer. This is where they will keep their materials for their presentations!

Where will your kids keep their binders or notebooks? It depends on what you're using. If you have notebooks, they can be stored in book boxes or file folder crates. I used file folder crates (one per class) this school year and I would highly recommend that option if you are using notebooks! This year, I'm trying to get a binder shelf so we can keep them all in the classroom and out of the way when they are not in use. Storage is up to you, but it's something you definitely need to have planned out.

Students will need to access these binders or notebooks multiple times throughout reading class. Are they easily portable? Are they sturdy enough to last the whole school year? All things to think about!

Good luck using Reader's Notebooks, and if you have any posts or ideas, please feel free to share in the comment section.

Friday, July 10, 2015

nErDcampMI 2015: A Life-Changing Event (1)

Real Talk: It's hard for me to find PD opportunities that are in line with my Educational Philosophies. 

It's hard for me to find like-minded reading people who can share in my obsession with Donalyn Miller, children's authors, talking books, breaking down the whole class novel walls, an interest in alternative seating, giving students choice ALL DAY in reading and writing, and for God's sake: GIVING KIDS MORE TIME TO READ THAN MORE READING ACTIVITIES.

Well, I've found my Tribe. I love how many people actually said this as they got up at the end of our two special days in Parma, Michigan to share what they would take away from Camp. I've found my people that understand that the rewards need to go, that whole schools should set reading examples and make an inviting reading community; my people that LOVE TO READ! 

None of this would have been possible if it weren't for my amazing husband. I had my registration completed for months and had the idea in my head for a whole year... but he made it happen. When I had no friends to go with he offered to come with me and bring our girls so I could experience the Nerdy Book Club that changed my whole world last summer. Husbands are the best.

Day One opened with Nerd Talks from Pernille Ripp, Ruth Ayres, Donalyn Miller, Lisa Graff, and Susan Haney

If you come next year, DO NOT MISS NERD TALKS! Wow! These ladies came in and got the crowd really pumped to talk literacy, story telling and books for two days. It was in a word, magical.

Pernille Ripp's Blog: Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension is not one to be missed. She declared herself a Reading Warrior and had me sitting in the audience feeling chills because she was speaking my language. She was saying everything that is in my heart.
Naturally, I tweeted it and it got my most retweets and favorites during Nerd Camp. Which lets me know, that I'm not alone... there are other Reading Warriors out there!

These are some of my favorite slides from Pernille's presentation. Everyone was tweeting that she should have just dropped the mic as she walked off stage. Powerful stuff.
Follow Pernille on Twitter: @pernilleripp

Lisa Graff was hilarious, sharing her story of becoming a reader finally when someone shared The Babysitter's Club with her, and Ruth Ayres talked about storytelling and how everyone has a story to share.

Susan Haney was fabulous. She's a principal from Parma, Michigan and the things she does in her school to help develop life-long readers are phenomenal. Here are some ideas from my favorite slides from her presentation, which I was sending to my own Admin night one.
  • She says to hire amazing teachers because that really does matter
  • Communicate with parents: share why kids should be reading each night
  • Bulletin Board, Cafeteria and Hallway walls all display book characters and settings to get kids excited about reading
  • Principal's Bookshelf: She has a shelf in her own office where kids come in during the "morning rush" and "after school scramble" to check out books (LOVED THIS!)
  • Author Visits- she suggests getting quality authors who actually engage with students, not just whoever is available and cheapest- valuable advice! (She said Linda Urban and Bob Shea were excellent)
  • They also use authors as much as they can- presentations during the school day and then workshops with kids and parents in the evening, dinner included so parents can come and have dinner with their kids and learn more about books and reading
  • Wednesday Morning Assemblies: every Wednesday she meets with two grade levels (K-1 one week, 2-3 the next, etc.) and she does book talks, book trailers and read-alouds all while the teachers HAVE TIME TO COLLABORATE! Can you believe that? Genius!
  • High School Buddies: Getting high school kids to come down and read to the elementary students because they really look up to them
She kept joking that she didn't want to go before Donalyn Miller, but she was excellent. She got the crowd laughing and Oohing and Aahing over her ideas. I'll never forget it.
Follow Susan on Twitter: @susankhaney
Donalyn came up last that morning and it's the first time I've seen her speak. To say I've been looking forward to it would be a huge understatement. She has solidified all of my reading beliefs and given me the courage to do what is right for kids in my classroom. I will forever be grateful that her book came into my life last summer. She talked about not having too much influence over student preferences when it comes to books. Our kids really look to us as readers and sometimes our influence is greater than we can imagine. She is always an advocate for student choice so she closed with a quote for Albus Dumbledore... I know, I know... I was dying.
Follow Donalyn on Twitter: @donalynbooks

After the Nerd Talks, it was time for the impossible task of choosing sessions. There were so many I wanted to attend and I mulled over the choices for weeks. I ended up picking Jillian Heise's Picture Books #bookaday in Middle Grades Session and she did not disappoint.
If you know me, you know that I LOVE to use picture books with my big kids. Who doesn't love a good read-aloud AND as Jillian points out, you can hit Theme EVERYDAY with these picture books.
EVERYDAY! You guys know how challenging Theme can be. She basically reassured that what I'm going is the right thing to do and she gave me so back up to share with others if they disagree. Not to mention, I have a long long list of titles to pick up before August!
Follow Jillian on Twitter: @heisereads

I saw Franki Sibberson present on using digital reading in workshop. That was interesting because she had some great ideas about using Padlet and other online resources for reading and sharing.

The last session I attended was Mr. Schu's on The Best Books of 2015 and Some Forever Favorites. I actually told Donalyn in the morning that I would be with her for two sessions at the Scholastic Reading Summit in Cincinnati and I would love to see Mr. Schu on Day One. She helped me decide to see him instead of her, because she said she would basically be doing the same presentation as her Keynote in Cincinnati! I was hard to not go see her, but with some reassurance I headed off to see the famous Mr. Schu!
First off, he's adorable. I love seeing someone who you can tell just lives and breathes books and that is Mr. Schu! I would love to be a teacher in a school with a Librarian like him. Wow!

My favorite part of his session (other than his talk about Ivan) was how he reads a picture books. He shared the process and it was both hysterical and endearing. Needless to say, I have always appreciated the smell and feel of books, but I've been smelling books more than ever over the past two days! Here are his session handouts and here is his website. Always go to him for recs!

Day One was overwhelming and wonderful. I'll be back to share about Day Two, but you should know that Colby Sharp just posted next year's dates so you need to mark it on your calendar and make sure that you'll be there, I know I will!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Talks & Book Raffles

I just returned home from my very first Ed Camp. To say that the Ed Camp Model is probably the best model for Professional Development might be my grandest understatement. As my first experience outside of my school district for PD, I was blown away. This wasn't just any Ed Camp either, it was NERDCAMPMI. A magical place I've been dreaming of since last summer when I read Reading in the Wild (obsessed) by Donalyn Miller. I was introduced to the Twitter world as a tool and PLN for teachers. There was no turning back. Twitter has quickly turned into my daily go to for all things Education, reading and books!

The second day of nErDcampMI was the true Ed Camp Model. People who want to learn about certain things or lead a session about certain things throw their ideas up and everyone attends what THEY want to hear more about. What a novel concept!! I wish schools would take on this model so learning would be more valuable for their teachers! Anyways, I digress..

I got up and decided that I would like to share about how I use Book Talks and Book Raffles in my Upper Grades Classroom. First off, over 20 people showed up and I thought they had walked into the wrong room. Ha! I learned so much from the people that attended, I connected with new to me teachers and librarians and two authors even showed up to talk book talks with us!

I wanted to post some pictures of raffles from my classroom and talk about how I use these two things to promote reading excitement, anticipation and engagement with my big kids!

I connect Book Talks with Book Raffles because the talk is usually what takes place as you introduce the raffle books. Make sense? I use this time to either talk about the book myself, have a student who has read the book lead the talk or (my favorite) share a book trailer!

Quality book trailers are out there, you just need to prepare ahead of time and look for them. Always check Mr. Schu Reads on Twitter or his blog for great book trailers. Here are a few favorites:

I Don't Want to Be a Frog

Wolfie the Bunny

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Comic Squad: Recess!

The Wig in the Window

The One & Only Ivan

These are all great places to start to help you "sell" books to your kids. Looking for trailers can be hard and you won't always find what you're looking for. Wouldn't that be a great chance to talk with the kids about what you WOULD like to see in a trailer? The kids could also create their own!

Once you have the perfect trailer or speech, you're ready for the Raffle. Let's go with bulletpoints for tips on using raffles, okay? Great!
  • The amount of books is up to you- but I like having 5 or more so it ensures that there are options for everyone and overall better chances of winning

  • I use new books as they are introduced into the library (I had a lightbulb moment at nErDcamp to include old favorites from the library too!)

  • NEVER EVER EVER ATTACH THIS TO BEHAVIOR OR ANYTHING ELSE!!! You're a teacher, and you will want to, DON'T. What's the message there? You didn't do your homework so I don't want you to read? You had a bad afternoon so I don't want you to read? Just don't.
  • I give my kids two slips of paper and they add their name and drop them in the bucket for the books they would like to win- easy peasy! If they really want one book (they can do both in that bucket- the possibilities here are completely up to you & the class)
  • I draw the first name and that person gets to read the book first
  • All the other names go on the wait list posted in the room and the kids just let me know when they're finished and they can give it to the reader (hand this one off to the kids as the year goes on, this is just a classroom management thing so it doesn't eat up all of YOUR time)
  • I usually give my kids about two or so weeks with the new book (again, use your best judgement here! You know your kids better than I do!)
  • Start a new raffle everytime you get fun new books for the class library, I would say we did raffles in my 5th grade class this year every other week. Sometimes more and sometimes less!
Good luck! If you have any tips for me please post them below and happy reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#wecantputbooksdown READ, WHITE & BLUE!

We are back again for some July #wecantputbooksdown fun! Make sure to follow all of us on Instagram for the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble. It's the perfect chance to pick up a holiday weekend read, summer read, daily read, whatever!!

My favorite read of the summer so far just so happens to be one that I will share with my students AS SOON AS WE GET BACK in August. Anyone who has a heart and a sense of adventure will devour this book. I read it quickly and it was my first #bookaday of the summer!
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. 

I don't mean to keep comparing this book to the movie, Big Fish, but it kind of keeps happening. All of the magic and hope I felt while experiencing that movie is how I felt reading this one. Cassie does such an amazing job at developing the setting and characters in this book that I just felt like
 I was there, experiencing it myself. The unlikely friendship that develops, the pain and grief that our main character goes through, those light up candies from the Circus? All feel so real. The light up candies really stuck out to me... Like, I want to know where to get one. It has reached Everlasting Gobstopper from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Whipped Neon Cream from Hook Status for me... I'm on the hunt. I can just see it glowing through my stuffed cheeks now! 

This Fantasy story has everything needed to become one that kids of all ages will love. A classic. The way Beasley weaves in and out of Grandpa's stories is just magical. Roald Dahl is my all-time favorite author, and she makes me feel RDish when I read this book. Make sure to pick this one up ASAP. And as Beasley reminded us this week, a book is for anyone who wants to read it.

Join us over on Instagram and tell us about a summer must read for a chance to win a gift card & connect with other teachers while finding great new books!