Summer Reading & Learning Recs for Elementary Teachers

*This post was originally published on 5/30/22. It was updated on 6/4/22 as I added even more resources to my summer learning stack! Enjoy!*

Summer break is just weeks away or already here for many! It’s the perfect time to unwind, recharge, and do a little self-paced reading or learning in a book club!

If you and your colleagues are reading Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading in a summer book club, I’d love to casually chat with you and answer questions through Zoom (or potentially even in person if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area or Seattle area). Additionally, if you are leading a group of new teachers or preservice teachers, please do not hesitate to reach out this summer or in the fall. I will always make time to openly chat with new and preservice teachers– I’m here to answer their questions, hear their thinking/feedback, and ultimately learn from them as well! Just send me an email at cnosekliteracy@gmail.com.

A key aspect of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading is pointing teachers in the direction of other great resources to continue their learning and answer further questions. I am the teacher I am today because my first year mentor, Midge, introduced me to the habit of professional reading to continually inform my practice. This summer, I plan to read and reread the following professional texts. I hope you’ll join me in reading one or more of these books!

If you’re looking to make your writing instruction more student-centered or are looking to make your writing routines, procedures, and instruction more effective, Melanie Meehan has you covered with her newest book, Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Writing. Does the book look familiar? My book and Melanie’s are in the same series! We actually even collaborated during the process of writing the books as well.

If you’re looking to make your literacy practice more culturally responsive and are ready to do the work and make some important changes to benefit all students, Dr. Kim Parker has the book for you with Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching. A key focus of this book is the emphasis on creating an intentional space and community where students feel safe to talk about pressing issues.

If you are interested in instructionally making the most out of your book collection and adding new titles to your teaching, Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-Is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction by Pam Koutrakos will help you out! Pam shows teachers how to plan intentional and thoughtful lessons based on student needs using loved and well written books that likely already line your shelves.

What a complete joy it was to read this gorgeous book by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne. I highly recommend the audiobook read by Donalyn herself! Helping every child find reading joy is in reach of all classroom teachers. The Joy of Reading offers key considerations and shifts in classroom practice to make reading joy a reality for all students.

As I write this blog post, I am about half way through Reading Above the Fray: Reliable, Research-Based Routines for Developing Decoding Skills by Julia B. Lindsey. If you are a K-3 teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, or just interested in how to effectively teach the vital early reading skill of decoding, this book is a must read and must-keep-on-the-desk for reference.

Teachers have been given yet another literacy gift from read aloud and children’s literature aficionado Maria Walther. In Shake Up Shared Reading: Expanding on Read Alouds to Encourage Student Independence, Maria offers 100 teacher-friendly “bursts” of shared reading lessons inspired by 50 current picture books. If you are a fan of Maria’s Ramped Up Read Aloud or her cowritten book with Karen Biggs-Tucker, The Literacy Workshop, you will absolutely love Shake Up Shared Reading!

This new book by Afrika Afeni Mills will be released in a few weeks, and I cannot wait to dive in. Open Windows, Open Minds: Developing Antiracist, Pro-Human Students , “fills an important gap in the arena of diversity, equity and inclusion... If you’re a White educator or parent, this book will help you to let go of the things that no longer serve you, and to teach your students to embrace those things that will help create welcoming environments where all feel a sense of belonging.” (review from Zaretta Hammond on Corwin’s website). This is a book many of us need, myself included as a White teacher working to do better.

I typically only write about literacy education, but like most elementary school teachers, I teach all subjects! The longer I teach, the more it’s confirmed that my classroom instruction is more impactful for students when I blend subjects by concurrently finding cross-curricular and community connections. Enter Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Math. From Building a positive math community to encouraging talk about math, the four authors of this book bring their years of math expertise into this question/answer format book that is sure to help all who teach or support elementary math. If this one also looks familiar, it’s in the same series as mine and Melanie Meehan’s books!

A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Workshop Mini lessons by the writing team of Lisa Eikholdt and Patty Vitale-Reilly will support both new and veteran teachers alike in mastering the important teaching method of mini lessons. As a new teacher many years ago, my area of focus was keeping my mini lessons mini– this is no easy feat! Now, as a veteran teacher who’s mastered timing, my current area of focus is ensuring all of my mini lessons are relevant and engaging for all students while still keeping them appropriately academically challenging. I wish I had this book as a new teacher, and I’m so glad I have it now as a veteran!

Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Supporting Our Immigrant and Refugee Children Through the Power of Reading by Don Vu was published last spring, but I finally have my hands on it now. In the book, the author, who is a successful school administrator, masterfully explains how six conditions (Commitment, Collection, Clock, Conversation, Connection, and Celebration) determine a school’s literacy culture.

Interested in additional budget-friendly options for professional learning this summer? A few months ago, Melanie Meehan, Georgina Rivera, and I recorded a webinar about bringing more joy to the elementary classroom. This hour-long webinar can be found for free embedded here or at this link on YouTube. In this video, we offer lots of “party favors” (free teaching resources) for teachers.

Another resource I highly recommend reading, rereading, and savoring throughout the summer months is the annual 31 Days IBPOC blog series (linked here) hosted by Tricia Ebarvia and Dr. Kim Parker (author of the above recommended book, Literacy is Liberation). Every May, 31 educators of color generously share a blog post with the education world and beyond. I have learned a ton over the years from this blog series and have found many authors and educators to continually seek out and learn from because of it.

The final resource I have to share is a podcast I recently participated in with a few educators I deeply admire. In this podcast, Dear School Leaders (linked here), from Peter DeWitt’s Leaders Coaching Leaders podcast, Ayanna Perry, Matt Kay, Georgina Rivera and I discuss building community, relevancy for students, authenticity, teacher entry points, book banning, and so much more! The podcast can be found at the included link or on most podcast hosting platforms.

Whatever you do to support your professional learning this summer, please also prioritize rest, recreation, and recharging. It’s been a rough year for all of us in schools. I, for one, need a reset.

Also, check back here periodically over the summer or click the blue follow button to have more teaching and learning tips delivered directly to your inbox.

I hope this summer brings you and your loved ones what you need.

-Christina

The Last 20 Days of Literacy Learning: 6 days to go, Drafting Our Summer Reading Plans

Post #8 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… Written after a crazy early release day of 5th grade promotion practice, music, PE, and a little literacy time squeezed in.

All posts in this blog series can be found here.

Starting a new-to-them book series is a part
of many readers’ summer plans!

For the past few weeks now, we’ve been chatting about our plans for summer reading in class. The fifth graders have shared book recommendations with each other, chatted about when and where they’ll read this summer, and have even made plans to connect with each other around their reading while they’re away from school.

After casually chatting with each other and recommending books the past couple weeks, we sat down to draft our plans today. Because we spent so much time thinking, talking, and jotting about our plans, the kids were ready and anxious to get drafting today! Some students sketched their ideas, some wrote paragraphs, some created charts- all the plans were different and created with each fifth grader’s personal vision of their summer reading in mind. No two plans looked the same.

Students working to draft plans for their summer book club

In addition to choosing which books they’ll read, they discussed how they will access their books, when and where they’ll read, and how they will connect with others around their reading. A few fifth graders made plans to connect with each other digitally and two groups of students formed book clubs that plan to meet in person.

Many will access books through our local libraries and our online middle school digital library. Some asked if they can borrow books, and I said yes. Even though they are heading to a new school next year, I trust I will get (most) of the books back. Part of the reading plan for students borrowing books is figuring out how they will get the books back to me- some will send the books back with younger siblings while others will figure out different means to get them back to the classroom.

While drafting their plans today, the fifth graders were truly giddy with excitement about the possibilities to come. This entire school year, my biggest goal, my most important goal, was to make choices as a teacher that would lead my students onto a path of lifelong reading. After watching and conferring with them today around their drafted plans, I feel like that goal is on its way to being accomplished. Simply put, it feels really good.

Tomorrow, we’ll revisit our drafted plans for revision and then start to generate ideas for putting the plans into place. One of my posts next week will share a few finished plans for summer reading. Until then, here are a few drafts…

For some further thinking on summer reading, Kari Yates and I share some ideas here.

The Last 20 days of Literacy Learning: 18 Days to Go, Book Clubs!

Post #3 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… Written in a mad hurry as I’m leaving school soon to head to San Francisco with a few colleagues to see one of their sons in a play! Have to squeeze in some fun, as all work is just not good for this teacher’s soul. Never feel guilty about having a little fun.

All posts in this blog series can be found here.

Our final round of book clubs is going strong! Right now, some of my fifth graders are finishing up their journeys to Hogwarts, The Land of Stories, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (I still need to travel to this last one, myself!). While some are finishing their journeys, others are just now embarking on new adventures with Roz the Robot and Mibs as she discovers her Savvy.

The fifth graders are all in different places in their club reading- which has been a huge adjustment for me as a teacher. Some are finishing books, others are starting new ones, a few are in the middle of their books, and one club is taking time to seek out a new book. In prior years, I determined the focus of the club discussions and reading schedules so they would all finish at the same time and focus on the same ideas. I used to feel that I would be able to more closely keep track of their thinking and progress through a book by determining everything myself. Well, now that I’ve let go of control by allowing students to have complete choice of their book, club schedules, and how to run their discussions, I noticed they are more engaged while reading, and their discussions are much more meaningful with each other. **Huge note- it took a ton of modeling, lessons, small group work, and conferring for us to get to this point. It did not magically just happen back in September! Perhaps I’ll explain more in a future blog post.

Our book clubs will probably take some students up until the very last week of school. Because some clubs will finish before the last week, those students will decide if they want to continue reading something else together or if they want to focus on their independent reading choices during club time. The important thing here is that all students are engaging in reading and thinking- the rest is just the details.