Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Student Created Reading Trackers

Reading logs get a bad rap. And they have a bad rap for a reason -- the why. The why behind tracking minutes, pages, and parent signatures is often accountability. But are kids really buying in and actually doing the work? I'd argue many kids are reading but the log isn't telling them much about their reading habits or their reading lives. They are simply "checking off " the boxes. And the others are just filling it out randomly or having a parent sign off. I'd given up logs quite a while a while ago but I still needed wanted something for kids to use to help them navigate and look closer at their reading lives. 

Last year, I had the idea for my students to create their own "reading trackers" to help them keep track of what matters to them -- genres, books, formats, etc. With everything happening last year, the trackers started off strong but weren't always kept up with. However, this year, I started with them again and they've already started evolving. Some students quickly realized that they needed to take their trackers digital so that they had easier access and the ability to create graphs in Google. Other students realized that tracking the number of books wasn't giving them enough or the information they wanted, so they began changing or editing their tracker's purpose. I've been blown away by the ownership and self-reflection. Students used their trackers to begin to set short term goals and monitor their own progress. I'm hoping the exciement continues as we work towards our first quarter goals in Reader's Workshop. 

Here's a few of the amazing trackers kids created: 
Just a note: These are all from our launch day so none of these are "finished."

I'm excited to update this post as kids work on improving their trackers and continue to use them through the end of the quarter (or longer) as we continue to set goals and work on monitoring our progress. 

How to do you inspire students to track their reading?


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Revamping Mock Newbery

Even the best laid plans can go awry. 
This year despite my best intentions we didn't have the Mock Book Club I was hoping for. We Skyped with zero authors. We barely met once a month. We never seemed to have copies of the novels checked in. Why? We had continuous scheduling conflicts along with a shortage of books. We had a never ending wait lists for many of our titles as many of my readers just didn't have the stamina at the start of the year to read some of our selections at a pace for sharing. We also had a lot of scheduling conflicts out of our control that didn't allow for our us to meet as a full book club. After debating how I could handle some of these problems,  I looked to other successful book club models like Project Lit and to other teachers in my school. 

We're going back to the basics. 
My teaching partner and I agreed that for next year, we're going to focus on getting back to the "fun" of being in a book club. Even though we had so many great titles this past year, it was hard to find kids that had read the same books at the same time in order to talk about the books together. Therefore, for this upcoming year we are only selecting four required reads for Mock Newbery. Can students read additional 2019 published texts? Of course! But we felt we could get more copies and make better use of our time if we narrowed our selection to four choices. We also made sure that all of our book club choices have audiobooks available - giving all our readers the stamina to read through our list! We are going to continue to host our Mock meetings during the school day but this upcoming school year we are going to hold meetings during lunch. This will give us 40 minutes to eat and talk books without any schedule interruptions. This also allows us to bring in some treats for book clubbers as well as order pizza for one of last meetings of the year. We're hopeful this new time will give us some freedom as to what meetings look like without having to have our partners cover students not attending our book club. 

We also hope to borrow from the Project Lit model next year for our meetings. Kicking off our meetings by playing a game/trivia, discussing that month's title and then planning for our next meeting. We would also love to be able to invite parents to our Mock Book Club too if they are reading along with their children. Our goal is to make this a commUNITY book club that extends beyond our school walls. I'll keep you posted as we try out this new endeavor. 

So what books did we select?
As always we try and pick our books before summer. This way, we can order books over the summer as well as send home information right away with our Open House information. This lets kids and parents start reading (if they want) before school even starts! After lots of reading and narrowing, I think we've picked four stellar middle grade titles. 

We have a school wide author visit with Jerry Craft in the works - so we're starting the year off with his graphic novel, New Kid. Our first in class read aloud is Rules by Cynthia Lord and we felt that Song for a Whale is a nice pairing as it also highlights the struggles of wanting to fit in and find your voice in middle school. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise was one of my favorite books of the year so far - heartfelt, relevant and fresh this story takes readers on a cross country journey with Coyote and and her father Rodeo as they try and mend broken tires and hearts. Lastly, I'm eager to discuss tough topics like homelessness and abuse with our readers while taking them on a trip across the global with The Bridge Home.

Are you thinking of trying Mock Newbery for the first time? 
Check out my past posts. It's an incredible reading experience to share with your students! 

Hosting again this year? 
What titles on your list? What 2020 books are you must looking forward to read? 


Monday, August 6, 2018

Mock Newbery 2019

This year I was able to collaborate with three other amazing teachers in my building to come up with our Mock Newbery List for 2019. I'm currently working my way through the list and definitely have several favorites and a few books I can't wait to get my hands on... I'm always surprised by the winner and hopeful we've done a good job of choosing at least one book that will have a shiny sticker com 2019. However, there are so many wonderful contenders out there this year that its going to be an incredibly tough field!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

#Classroombookaday Part I: Back to School

School is out for summer, yet I can't stop thinking about the wonderful year I've had with my fifth graders. We've done so much reading, thinking, and growing. I know they are ready to change the world! As, I've wrapped up the year, I've had several inquiries (mostly via Instagram) about my #Classroombookaday. You can get tons of ideas on how to get started from  Jillian Heise has lots of tips for getting started and she also shares how she came up with the idea for #Classroombookaday. Plus, you can always check out the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, too.

#Classroombookaday Basics

Let's start with the basics. I chose to do #classroombookaday to start the day off with reading together and sharing in the love of reading. Who doesn't love picture books? I made it clear to my students that there were no lessons, activities, and especially no worksheets attached to these stories. We were reading to read, think and enjoy. After each story, time permitting, we'd turn and talk and then share our thoughts. My three guiding questions were: What did you notice? What did you like or dislike? What can you learn? 

After the first two weeks of school and lots of modeling, I opened a Sign Up Genius so that kids could share two days a week. It was a HUGE hit and they loved reading to their classmates. This was optional and if no one signed up, I chose a book to read that day.

Back to School Books

The question, I most often get asked is... Where is your book list? What books did you use? So, I thought I'd create a four part blog series on some of my favorite books from the year. I may also make a Google Doc or Sheet with all my titles as well. But please note, out of our four reading days, two days a week I had students sharing titles. So, there were some instances where there were books I just didn't get to share because kids had signed up and had some of their favorites in mind. We also didn't always post our books we used as mentor texts in class -- so our board only accounts for the #bookaday reading we did Monday - Thursday.

Here are ten of my favorite "Back to School" books that I used at the beginning of the year. These books helped me build a rapport with my students and get them excited about #Classroombookaday.

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

This is the perfect first day read aloud. Told from the School's perspective, it addresses how even the school is nervous about his first day and all the kids coming to meet him. The janitor helps get school ready and eventually school starts to enjoy his first day!

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Only One You by Linda Kraz

Our principal read this book to our students on the first week of school. Students then created some unique rocks that we displayed around the school. The story celebrates being unique and embracing your differences.

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Wild About Us by Linda Kraz

This book is a fun book featuring animals that are embracing their own unique traits and characteristics. The book features zany illustrations and even a few animal butts -- what's not to love?

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My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

Quite possibly one of my favorite back to school reads. My students always love Peter Brown. From his amazing illustrations to witty stories, you really can't go wrong with a Peter Brown book. This book follows a student as he "perceives" his teacher. She gradually becomes less "monstrous" as he sees her outside of school and realizes that she might not be so bad after all.

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Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson

Cale's books just bring a smile to my face. Where Oliver Fits is the perfect story to talk about finding your place and where you fit in. Oliver tries to force himself into many different groups and even changes himself to fit in. However, this doesn't make Oliver very happy. Will Oliver ever find some pieces like him?

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Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander brings to light a book about getting lost in a book. Told by two different frogs, this book highlights the power of story. Plus, it uses the words BRO and DUDE A LOT! This book is great for audience participation. There is also a great song that Kwame and Randy wrote a song titled "Surfs Up" to accompany the book! Check it out on YouTube.

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The Bad Seed by Jory John

This book lets kids know that not everyone is perfect or even all that nice. But it's never too late to change yourself and allow yourself a fresh start. The bad seed tries to become a better seed -- does he still slip up? Of course, but he's trying to be better!

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

Quite possibly my favorite read aloud of the year! This book is great for talking about grit, determination and growth mindset. It's also a fantastic book that keeps kids on their toes! The audible groans and gasps as Sam and Dave endless look for something spectacular always make my teacher heart pitter-patter.


Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Perfect for end of summer, Jabari Jumps deals with conquering our fears and learning to take risks. With the help of friends and family, it's easy to take a dive into something new! Plus, you may discover something new to love and enjoy!

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Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

My last favorite back to school read was Thunder Boy, Jr. because it touches on identity and what our names mean to us. Teaching at a diverse school makes names even more important to me. I should know them and know how to pronounce them correctly. We talk about the value of names and often students share what their names means or why their parents choose their names. It's amazing what you can learn from students just from talking about their names! This year, I also plan to use Alma & How She Got her Name the following day. I also always share how I was named after my mother's favorite song from the 1980's and there may or not be some rocking out to Barry Manilow.

** I'm linking in an important blog post from The Pragmatic Mom about the #MeToo movement and #Kidlit. Please read this article as you consider books to share with your students. I will probably not be sharing Thunder Boy Jr. whole class this year in support of the brave women coming forward. I will be reading Alma & How She Got her Name instead. Be informed and aware as you prepare for classroom read alouds.

What are some of your favorite back to school read alouds? 
Share your favorites below! 


Monday, January 8, 2018

Choice in Nonfiction Writing

This year, my teaching partner and I decided that we were going to allow more freedom during our Writing Workshop Nonfiction Unit. We've always allowed freedom in choice (of topic) but we've always chosen the format, usually feature articles but last year we tried out infographics. But this year - we wanted students to write a nonfiction piece where the format and topic were completely the student's decision. As we head towards personalization - we wanted students to have voice, choice and ownership in their writing.

To do this, we did have to work with our students to set up some parameters. During Readers Workshop, students had to be reading a nonfiction book. This could be on any topic and in any format  (chapter book, picture book, graphic novel) but should be a book that could give them background information or ideas for writing. This seemed to greatly help connect reading and writing and allowed students to get a jump start on research. Knowing the end, also helped our kids get ready for writing.

Before completely, jumping into drafting their writing pieces, we had students choose their format. During our Readers Workshop, we had read narratives, feature articles and infographics as a class. We also talked about how form can help us understand more complex texts. Therefore, students were familiar with the various formats and the ways they could be used. Before they started writing, however, we wanted them to take a few notes on what was important about the writing style and craft they were hoping to create.

Click the graphic to be taken to a Google Doc link to note sheet.

I had three Target plastic bins filled with mentor texts for students. One crate was filled with narrative nonfiction titles, one with infographic examples, and one with magazines so students could reference feature articles.  {Click links above for the best book bins for collections, narrative titles I had available and infographics I printed off in color and linked for students.}

Students were tasked to read 3-4 mentor texts and make observations. What were the authors doing in each text? What text features and structures were being used? How are these pieces set up on the page? Notes could be recorded on a simple note sheet we glued in our notebooks.

The following day, we started making our plans using our observations from the previous day. This also helped guide our further research. Plans ranged from extremely detailed to a simple sketch of the layout. All students, were able to create an image that related back to their noticings from the day before -- thus giving them a plan for writing. Then, they were able to spend the next several days researching and drafting parts of their nonfiction pieces.

The end result was incredibly impressive. Blown away, amazing. I read pieces that were informed, researched and most of all looked like REAL writing. Topics were diverse from defenses of a hedgehog to the assassination of JFK. I was also amazed at the risk students took, especially those choosing to write narrative nonfiction over an infographic or feature article. It's amazing how one little change can lead to so many great writing pieces. 

How do you give your students voice and choice in writing?

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