4 Practical Tips to Keep Students Reading Over Winter Break

Winter break is quickly approaching! Whether your school break is one, two, or three weeks in duration, the fact is that these upcoming days off are still valuable ones in the lives of all readers, regardless of their grade in school or stage of reading development. From kindergarteners to high schoolers, and even beyond, reading matters (for more on why reading matters, I highly recommend this 2015 blog post from Donalyn Miller).  To keep students reading over break, here are four practical tips that I have seen work in the past, and that I plan to make use of in my nine teaching days before winter break.

1. Provide access to books. Books cannot be read if access is not granted. Consider taking a small bit of time to spruce up the classroom library- highlight a few book boxes, enlist students in organizing books in a way that makes sense to them (students love creating book boxes in the library!), and refer to the library as often as possible throughout the day. Make it the focal point of everything in the classroom. Also, consider asking your school librarian for support with book access. Perhaps your class can spend some time in the library before winter break. Take a look here if you’re still thinking of ways to grow and maintain your classroom library.

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2. Once access is established, invite kids to freely choose a few books to take home. As JK Rowling reminds us, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” And, according to Allington and Gabriel (2012), “Students read more, understand more, and are more likely to continue reading when they have the opportunity to choose what they read.” This applies not only to children, but also to adolescents, teens, and adults as well. Before winter break arrives, consider spending some time in class inviting students to choose a few books to take home. It is more likely they will read at home if they get to pick out the reading material themselves. Worried about losing books from your classroom library? Simply ask students to keep track of the books they have borrowed- rarely do books not come back, but it can happen. There is always a risk of a couple books being lost, but the risk is even greater for students if books sit unread on shelves over break instead of in the hands of readers. Books are meant to be read, not collected on shelves.  If inviting students to choose their own books is new to you and your readers, Kari Yates and I have a few tips and tricks to support students in book choice.

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3. Make a plan with Your Readers. One of the habits of healthy readers is consistently making plans for reading. By inviting students to think about when they’ll read, where they’ll read, what they’ll read, and possibly with whom they’ll read over the break, they are more likely to actually read. These plans can be jotted in notebooks, written in planners or calendars, typed up, and even shared with friends and family. As human beings, we’re more likely to do something that we make specific plans to do. We’re even more likely to do something when we share those plans with others. Reading is so critical in the growth of all students, we can’t just leave it to chance. Taking time to make a plan has the power to increase the chances of students reading over the break from school.

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4. Let students know that the first day after winter break they will chat about their reading. One of the most authentic ways to respond to reading is to invite conversation. Before students leave for the break, let them know that the class is going to casually chat about their winter break reading upon return. This chat, and ones like it, are not an assignment, a method for accountability, or a ‘gotcha’ in any way. Rather, they are what we do- we regularly chat about books. We chat about them in our daily morning meetings, during reading workshop, and often times through more visual means (as seen below). When talk and interaction around books becomes a way of life in the classroom, students will read more. They will want to get in on the action and connection that reading offers. They will want to be a part of the conversation. If chat around books is new to you, or if you’re looking for different ideas, you can find some support here and here.

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As a recap…

1. Provide access to books.

2. Invite kids to freely choose a few books to take home.

3. Make a plan with Your Readers.

4. Remind students about upcoming chats about reading after break.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you plan to do to encourage your students to keep the reading going over break!  Happy reading, friends!

 

Allington & Gabriel. 2012. “Every Child, Every Day.” Educational Leadership 69: 10-15.

 

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and joyful! 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 11/19/18… We Got This

Okay, okay. It’s Tuesday, not Monday. Yesterday was my travel day after an incredible four days of connecting and learning at The National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention (NCTE18). After a few nights of restless sleep, a flight delay due to smoke in The Bay Area, and a much needed dinner of decompression with dear friends, I let Monday slip by without mentioning my reading.

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Cornelius’ ideas and insight kept me company as I was squished in the back of my United flight in seat 25D. 

However, I did not let the day slip by without getting some great reading in. My friend and teaching mentor, Cornelius Minor, just published a much needed book in the field, We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be.  This much needed book kept me company on my four hour flight from Houston to San Francisco.

 

I am so excited to share his book with my colleagues- in fact, the friends I met for dinner last night were my two teaching partners. As they previewed the book, while we were waiting for our food, they kept saying, “This is what we need. This is a needed book!” Obviously, I concur. Rather than summarizing or pulling out key points, I’ll end with a quote from the book’s introduction…

“I am not OK with a world where only some people – the ones who were born on the right side of town or the ones who happen to make the right friends- get a shot at success…

As teachers, we cannot guarantee outcomes- that all kids will start businesses, lead their families, and contribute in their communities- but we can guarantee access. We can ensure that everyone gets a shot.”  -Cornelius Minor, pg. xvi

Access. Access is everything. Thank you for this work, Cornelius. I am so excited to join you and many others in this important and vital work for our society.

Friends, if you’re also reading We Got This, I’d love to chat!

 

 

You can find more of my current professional reads, 5th grade classroom read alouds, and my relax reads here. Happy reading, friends!

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and joyful! 

 

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 11/12/18

As I prepare to head off to my favorite weekend of the entire year, the annual NCTE convention, I am revisiting a few books that have played a role in shaping my path as a literacy educator. Today, I am giving much of my attention to two texts that have had a huge impact on the language choices I make in my classroom.

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Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris challenged me to grow as an educator by shifting the bulk of the work to my students in their groundbreaking book, Who’s Doing the Work? Since its release in 2016, it has been read and reread in heavy rotation as a part of my professional reading life. Jan and Kim have truly helped me say less and choose my words carefully to elevate my students’ learning.

 

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My writing partner, Kari Yates, and I have been thinking deeply about talk lately. Specifically, we have been thinking about how our teacher language impacts the relationships with and learning of our students. A pivotal text that has helped guide my thinking here is Peter Johnston’s Choice Words. This book is a gift to the profession.

 

You can find more of my current professional reads, 5th grade classroom read alouds, and my relax reads here. Happy reading, friends!

 

 

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and joyful! 

 

 

 

See you at NCTE 2018!

My favorite weekend of the year is quickly approaching! The annual NCTE conference feeds my literacy teacher soul in a way that is not replicated any other time of the year. There are many sessions I’m looking forward to attending, and many opportunities to spend time in conversation with friends old and new. If you’ll be in Houston for NCTE, I hope to connect!

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My NCTE Schedule

Mini Session with Kari Yates, Conferring with Readers: A Map for Decision Making, 12:15-12:35, Saturday, November 17th, Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth

Responsive Teaching: The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, & Dani Burtsfield, 2:45-4:00, Saturday, November 17th, Room 361 A

CEL Session with Tom Newkirk: Literacy Instruction Worth Fighting For: What Do We Advocate and Why, I’m excited to facilitate an elementary roundtable, 4:15-5:30, Saturday, November 17th, Grand Ballroom A

8:30-9:00, Sunday, November 18th: Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth: Kari & I will be signing copies of To Know and Nurture a Reader

10:30-11:45, Sunday November 18th, Room 362 DEF Words Matter: Shifting Instructional Language to Empower Students, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, & Kim Yaris

 

We are Changed Because of Our Daily Stories

 

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Our 40th shared story… Thank you, Yuyi Morales for this wonderful book!

Today was our 40th day of school.  After lunch, I read aloud our 40th picture book of the year. During that read aloud, it dawned on me that we were having natural conversation about the book during reading. I didn’t plan it out, prepare questions, or come in with learning targets or goals. I didn’t even ask my students to stop and jot, turn and talk, or to raise their hands. I simply started reading a wonderful book, and the rest took care of itself. But, this certainly didn’t happen overnight.

When you read a book aloud every single day with your class, this is what happens. A community of readers is fostered and continues to grow. When you take the time to seek out books for students to see themselves and then see others they may not meet in their daily lives, a community of thoughtful, kind, young citizens flourishes!

When I think about the simple things in my classroom that created our community of readers, I have to say there really is not one exact thing, but all other things are supported by the fact that we take the time to share a story together every single day. We do this no matter what- no matter the interruption, assembly, unexpected emergency drill, you name it. We read aloud every single day.

In today’s story, we looked out the metaphorical window into someone else’s life. We learned how stories shaped her life. We related to her through the power of books, love, and recognizing that we are all human beings who come from somewhere else with stories to share. We developed a bit of empathy for others in our community and around the country. It was beautiful.

Our community of readers was created because…

We shared stories… everyday.

We ditched the reading log and worksheets.

We started conversations.

We recommended impactful stories to each other.

We wrote our own stories.

We created meaning together.

We laughed together,

teared up together,

and even questioned together.

We shared stories… everyday.

Thank you to Jillian Heise, Donalyn Miller, and my 5th grade colleague Jennifer Ford for the inspiration to share stories everyday.  Thank you to Yuyi Morales for sharing your story with us today in my 5th grade classroom. We are different people because of your story.

Friends, I encourage you to share stories with your classes and families as well. It changes everything. 

Our stories so far this school year…

Made with Padlet

 

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and joyful! 

Classroom Book A Day: Our Whole Collection!

 “Maggie is so excited about how much you read out loud with the class everyday!” 

After hearing this from a parent at our Back to School Night last week, my commitment to classroom book a day was solidified. We now have 14 days of fifth grade behind us along with 14 picture books that have helped us cultivate our community of readers through read aloud. 14 shared experiences through books. 14 ways our community of readers can now connect with each other. 14 commonalities. This number will continue to grow for every single new day and new book of the school year.

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After each read aloud is completed, we house our books in the Books Read Together bin in the classroom library. As time goes on, I imagine the bin turning into a shelf. Each day during independent reading time, I’ve seen many of our Classroom Book a Day read alouds bring reread and discussed. One of the most beautiful things about a shared classroom read aloud experience is that the book lives on and on long after the time spent reading together is finished.

In addition to keeping our books in a classroom library book bin for constant access, we also have a digital display.  To make our Classroom Book a Day collection visible to students and their families alike, my fifth graders and I created this Padlet. The Padlet will reflect the continually growing collection of shared reads.

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(scroll back/forth and up/down to see every book)

I’d love to know how you’re sharing your classroom read alouds… bulletin board, digital display, basket in the library, something else?  We’re all so excited about the possibilities to come for this year’s Classroom Book a Day commitment. I can’t wait to see where this takes my readers!

Happy Reading, Friends!

Christina 

 

By the way, if you are new to Classroom Book a Day (like I was not too long ago), take a look at this great information from Jillian Heise.

 

 

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and fun! 

 

 

Classroom Book a Day: The First Five Days of School!

“As the year progresses, read aloud becomes the bedrock foundation of who you are and where you’ve traveled together as a reading community. It becomes your history and the collection of stories and experiences that you come back to and draw on throughout the days, the weeks, and the months ahead.”   –Yates & Nosek

Inspired by my friend and colleague, Jennifer Ford, who was inspired by Jillian Heise, who was inspired by Donalyn Miller… I am taking on Classroom Book a Day and am blogging about it!  I shared this goal with my 5th graders today, and they were just thrilled. So far, we are five days in to our school year, and we are right on track.

My plan is not to do a separate blog post about each book (there is no way possible I could keep up with that as a full time classroom teacher, writer, and person trying to live a balanced life outside of school). However, I will periodically post all the books we’ve read for our Classroom Book a Day in one post- I imagine every couple weeks or so.

 

Here’s what we’ve shared together as a reading community so far…

 

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First Day of School

On the first day of school, we read The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi- a wonderful story about how our names shape us and partially help form our identities.

 

 

 

 

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8/15/18

Then, we read ish by Peter Reynolds- a heartwarming book about so many wonderful things. Out of the mouth of a fifth grader today- “We’re all a little bit -ish all the time with different things, and that’s ok!”

 

 

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8/16/18

We followed up ish with Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson- You know a book is great when the class applauds at the end and can’t stop talking about it! It also kicked off our identity conversation- we are all more than one story, and we are all more than what may appear to others. Highly recommend this book for all ages- even adults!

 

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8/17/18

This past Friday, we shared the book Most People by Michael Leannah… A great conversation was had about appearances and perceptions. Another great read for all ages.

 

 

 

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8/20/18

Today’s book was was a beautiful story from Katrina Goldsaito: The Sound of Silence. It sparked a wonderful discussion about presence and appreciating the moments we’re in. Sometimes what we’re looking for is within us the whole time.

 

 

What books are you sharing with your class? I’d love to learn more!

Happy reading, friends.

-Christina 

 

 

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My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and fun! 

 

 

 

Scaffolds & Crutches

On Monday evening, I started experiencing an odd pain on the backside of my knee. On Tuesday  morning, I woke up not being able to walk or even straighten my leg. I was experiencing a terrible amount of pain.

After a trip to the doctor’s office, I learned I sprained my knee. The timing is not ideal- but, when is it ever ideal to sprain a knee?  In six days, I’m heading out to Austin for the 2018 ILA conference. Then, in 13 days, I’m boarding a transatlantic flight to head to Spain for a long awaited two week vacation. So, needless to say, a sprained knee is not exactly welcome at the moment. However, I now have crutches and a thoughtful and wise physical therapist to support me while I am temporarily not able to walk on my own.

Crutches are a scaffold. I need them to support my efforts with walking right now. However, I will remove them gradually as I gain mobility.  I get to make that decision under the guidance of my physical therapist. If I keep using them after I gain mobility, I will actually cause more harm to myself and potentially impede my future mobility.

Using crutches to assist my walking efforts over the past few days has sparked some thinking about scaffolds in the classroom. Scaffolds, like crutches, are meant to be a temporary support that are gradually used less and less until independence or near-independence is reached.

Also, just because I need crutches right now doesn’t mean everyone with knee pain also needs crutches.  In addition, the length of time I am using crutches may be different than someone with a similar knee issue. All bodies are different with different needs. In the same way, all learners are different with different needs.

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 10.57.15 AMGraphic organizers in writing come to mind when I think of a scaffold similar to crutches- as a writer myself, I have never used a graphic organizer, but I have talked out ideas with other writers. Some writers prefer to make lists prior to writing, and some just need to be set free to write. The process is different for all. This also applies to young writers- their processes are just as varied as adult processes and should be honored. Like crutches, graphic organizers can cause more harm than good when inappropriately used- why give a writer a contrived organizing tool when they actually don’t need it? It would be like giving someone without an injury crutches and asking them to walk using them. It just doesn’t make sense. That being said, sometimes, some writers may choose to use a graphic organizer of sorts to help themselves. The key is to help our writers learn what they need so they can advocate and make decisions for themselves- not to just give them a crutch.

The same thinking applies to insisting early readers use their fingers to point to words while reading when they are tracking successfully with their eyes.

Or, in group discussions, requiring students to select a sentence starter from a list when they want to think of what to say on their own.

I could go on and on.

Scaffolds can impede thinking and actually harm the learning process when they are not removed or if they are unnecessarily used.  Rather than discuss every single scaffold that may be used in the classroom, I just ask that all of us consider the need before the scaffold, and ask if a scaffold is even necessary.

Every morning when I wake up, I am reevaluating my need to use crutches. I’m even reevaluating as I move through the day. When the need is no longer there, the scaffold (or crutch) will be removed. Using a scaffold after it has outlived its necessity creates a new kind of pain, one that is difficult to overcome.

I hope when I see many of you at ILA next week, I will have outgrown my need for the crutches. But, it will be ok if I’m just not quite there yet. The decision will be mine. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could empower our students to make the decision about scaffolds theirs, too?

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My first book for teachers, cowritten with Kari Yates, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy is available to order from Stenhouse Publishers! 

Power Language, a new blog series!

I’m so thrilled to share that Kari Yates and I have a new blog series up and running! It’s all about leveraging the language we use with our readers to make conferences more meaningful and impactful.

Often times, many teachers want to confer with their readers, but just aren’t sure what to say or how to start. If building a consistent and joyful conferring practice with your readers is one of your goals for when you return to school, this series will support your efforts. Take a look, and let us know what you think over at To Know and Nurture a Reader!

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Power Language #1:  May I join you? 

 

Hang in there, teachers! You got this.

Three days of school left…

I’m not going to lie. It has been rather challenging. In fact, it has been a downright struggle to stay upright the past couple weeks.  I’m still knee deep in finishing mandated summative assessments, entrenched in 5th grade practice for their formal promotion ceremony on Friday, and am just overwhelmed with the thought of having to complete my report cards by Friday at 1:30PM.

My fellow teachers- yes, this time of year is hard. It is challenging. It is downright exhausting. You are not alone if you are struggling. I’m struggling, and I’ve been doing this for close to two decades! It’s normal to be overwhelmed. It’s normal to feel like you have no time to do the things that actually matter with all of the end of year hoopla going on.

However, I’m asking you, pleading with you, to do one thing both for yourself and your students. Before you say goodbye to your kiddos, pack up your shelves and cabinets, and close the door for the end of the year, take some time to make one last connection with your kiddos.  It’s truly a gift not only for your kids, but also for you.

During this insanely busy day today, I made sure there was time for 30 minutes of independent reading. Yes- I sacrificed other things, and I was happy to do so. For years now (more than I can actually remember), independent reading has been my one nonnegotiable in the classroom. I clear the schedule to make sure my kiddos have independent reading time every single day no matter what. In fact, I fiercely protect it.  Remember, when we value something we make room for it. If there’s no time, then perhaps it’s not something we really value.

Back to the gift to my kiddos and myself… during those 30 minutes of independent reading time today, I conferred. Rather than conferring with individual readers like I typically do, I held what I like to call cluster conferences. Cluster conferences are where I settle in near a group of readers (at a table, in the library, on the floor among a group of beanbags, etc…) to have a conversation around reading with the kids nearby. To start each cluster conference, I first asked my readers in the area if I could join them- after all, this is their personal reading space. Then, I asked them to come to a good stopping point in their books.  Once each reader was at a good stopping point, I simply stated, “Let’s chat about our plans for summer reading. What are you thinking?”

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 8.30.43 PMAnd, think and chat they did! Each of my cluster conferences turned into lovely and lively group conversations about what we all plan to read this summer. My kiddos gave each other recommendations for books, places and times to read, and even made plans to check in with each other over the summer about their similar book choices.

These conversations filled my tired teacher heart and made me smile. I realized that one of the reasons I was worn out is because I worked all year preparing my kiddos to do what they did today- to independently lead themselves and each other in goal setting and planning conferences. This was no easy task. It took work- a lot of hard, well-worth-the-effort work! Once I realized this, my exhausted feeling turned into a sort of satisfaction. I sat back, looked around my classroom at my readers, and smiled.

No matter what happens in the next few days, I know I still have precious time to cluster confer with my readers. I know I still have time to make a difference. I know I’m making a difference…

and so are you.

Hang in there, my fellow teachers. Hang in there, and take some time to genuinely connect with your kiddos before you say goodbye. Connect over summer reading- it’s a perfect way to embrace both the heart and the mind of each student before you say goodbye. You’ll be so glad you did.

You got this!

 

For more on summer reading… 

A Small Glimpse Into Our Summer Reading Conferences

The Road to Pleasure Reading: Six Steps to Ensure Your Students Will Read This Summer

Keep the Reading Going… Letter to Classroom Families

For more on conferring… 

Why Confer with Readers? Ten Compelling Reasons