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

Everyone needs a Midge.

Teacher Appreciation Week always has me reflecting. This Teacher Appreciation Week is extra special, but not in the way most might think. It’s nice to be appreciated and thanked. The flowers from my students this morning were lovely and have the classroom smelling of spring. The coffee and bagels in the staff lounge were also a nice touch! It feels good to be appreciated. But, this year, I feel a fulfillment and sense of gratitude that I haven’t quite ever felt with past Teacher Appreciation Weeks.

This year, I am proud to have my second book for teachers now out in the world. In the book, I have the honor of introducing readers to one of my greatest teaching mentors, Midge Fuller. Simply put, everyone needs a Midge. I wrote this book because I know how powerful it is to have a trusted, experienced, talented, knowledgeable mentor in the room next door. I want that for all teachers. When I was a brand new teacher, Midge, a veteran of over 30 years, graciously and selflessly took me under her wing to introduce me to the ins, outs, ups, downs, and everything in between in literacy education.

Tears are welling in my eyes as I type these words. Midge is no longer here with us on Earth, but her impact is one that will live on and on in the many who loved her and the countless children and teachers who still have yet to be touched by her impact because of all the good she instilled in so many of us who had the pleasure of teaching and learning with her.

Midge, on this Teacher Appreciation Week, I still appreciate you 20 years later. And I will continue your legacy of always doing right by the kids I serve and hopefully inspiring other teachers to do the same.

I wish everyone had a Midge.

An excerpt from the introduction and conclusion of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading

Thank you, Midge. I hope I am making you proud.
Love,
Christina

Sneak Peek at Chapter #5: How Do I Shift Agency to Students, Engaging and Empowering Them as Readers?

The fifth chapter in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading discusses how teachers can make a shift from a teacher-centered reading classroom to a student-centered one.

Agency refers to people making their own independent choices and acting of their own free will to complete tasks and solve problems. In the reading classroom agency is something teachers can support students in building over time.” (pg. 128). When students are agentive readers, they choose their own reading material, make productive choices with where to read, engage in thinking and conversations around their reading, and tackle problem solving when issues or roadblocks arise. Supporting students in building their own agency as readers is a process that takes place overtime, and will likely look different with each student in your classroom. Chapter five will help with this.

Chapter five offers answers to the following questions about shifting agency to students.

Building Agency Resource Right Now

One of my favorite ways to give students more decision-making power, which builds agency in the classroom, is to invite them to play a role in the way the classroom library is organized. A small but mighty way to start to do this is to invite students to create book boxes for the classroom library.

These book boxes were created by students in Haley Harrier’s
first grade classroom and my own fifth grade classroom (pg. 136)

Offering students opportunities to play a role in the organization of the classroom library gives them decision making power and send the message that the teacher trusts them to make choices about their learning.

In addition to making decisions and choices about how the library is organized, teachers can also offer students decision making power in other ways, both big and small: from suggesting a small group lesson topic (pg. 136) to selecting a reading space in the classroom (pg. 132), the possibilities are really endless!

One misconception about offering students choice and decision making power is that it’s a free-for-all that can easily turn into chaos. A key idea to keep in mind is that choice is not necessarily unlimited. Students will need guidance and support when they are first starting to make choices and decisions in the classroom. It’s a messy but beautiful process! This idea is further explained throughout the pages of chapter five.

All posts in this sneak peek blog series can be found linked here. Learn even more about Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________
Looking for literacy PD? I’m available for on-site, in-school, and virtual summer 2022 professional development sessions around all topics and needs in K-6 literacy education. Booking is also available for select dates during the 2022-23 school year and beyond. Learn more here or contact cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to get started. I’d love to work with you and your teachers! -Christina

Sneak Peek at Chapter #4: How Do I Use Assessment in the Service of Students?

The fourth chapter in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading describes specific ways in which teachers can use assessment to serve students.

The wording of the title of this chapter title and the focus throughout were very intentional. Chapter four is about the specific types of assessment that directly serve students when continually and thoughtfully implemented by teachers. Formative assessment, which is assessment that directly informs teacher decision making about instruction, is the focus. There are many different types of formative assessment that teachers use for different purposes on an ongoing basis in the classroom. Chapter four takes a deep dive into many of them.

Chapter four introduces and explains answers to the following questions about how to use formative assessment in the service of students.

Formative Assessment Resource Right Now

Reframing teacher thinking and language to notice what students are doing rather than what they aren’t doing, supports asset-based assessment and instruction. Too often, much of the focus in schools is on what students can’t do. In chapter four, I offer some tips and shifts in thinking/language to support teachers in moving toward an asset-based assessment focus to center what students can do and build from there. Consider these language and thought swaps to start thinking about assessment and instruction from an asset-based perspective. Not only do the language swaps shift to an asset focus, but they also include actionable steps the teacher can take to support each reader.

from Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading, pg. 108

To learn more about switching to an asset-based assessment and instruction focus, check out these page previews of chapter four.

All posts in this sneak peek blog series can be found linked here. Learn even more about Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________
Looking for literacy PD? I’m available for on-site, in-school, and virtual summer 2022 professional development sessions around all topics and needs in K-6 literacy education. Booking is also available for select dates during the 2022-23 school year and beyond. Learn more here or contact cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to get started. I’d love to work with you and your teachers! -Christina

Sneak Peek at Chapter #3: What are the Key Instructional Principles to Know and Use?

The third chapter in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading introduces and explains all of the instructional principles that comprise elementary reading– and there are many!

Over the past few years, I’ve read many articles and social media posts (mostly from those outside of actual elementary teaching) declaring that students need more of this or less of that type of instruction. Well, chapters three and four (chapter four will be introduced later this week), are my answer to those grand, often misguided, claims. Kids do not need more of this or less of that. Rather, kids need teachers to follow their lead. The balance of what and how much to teach will vary year to year in your classroom because all students are different. Your students will come to you with varying strengths and different needs. There is no magic answer or formula to figure out the instruction that your students need. Rather, let your knowledge of instructional principles (chpt. 3) coupled with ongoing formative assessment (chpt. 4) be your guide to teaching the readers in your classroom.

Chapter three introduces and explains answers to the following questions about how to use key instructional principles in teaching elementary reading.

Instructional Resource Right Now

One of my favorite, and perhaps the most versatile of instructional methods, is the read aloud. In chapter three, I explain how read aloud can be used in the classroom for different purposes. Read aloud can be used in a mini lesson to teach a new skill or strategy, as a community building session, just for the pure love and joy of reading, and for so many other reasons as well! A common question I hear from teachers is, “What books do you recommend I read aloud in my classroom?” Rather than listing off a book here or there, I lean toward empowering teachers to find their own books by suggesting they think about what’s missing from their library, what their students’ need, and then consulting trusted experts. Then, I offer a list of trusted experts! Listed in the box below are just a few of the trusted sources that many reading teachers and I turn to again and again to keep in-the-know and learn about children’s books.

Click on the box to be taken to the live links.

More on read aloud and many other powerful instructional methods can be found throughout the pages of chapter three in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading.

All posts in this sneak peek blog series can be found linked here. Learn even more about Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________
Looking for literacy PD? I’m available for on-site, in-school, and virtual summer 2022 professional development sessions around all topics and needs in K-6 literacy education. Booking is also available for select dates during the 2022-23 school year and beyond. Learn more here or contact cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to get started. I’d love to work with you and your teachers! -Christina

Sneak Peek at Chapter #2: How Do I Structure, Organize, and Plan my Reading Instruction?

The second chapter in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading explains structuring, planning, and organizing reading instruction.

A challenging aspect of reading instruction that is often overlooked and underestimated is planning! For newer teachers, teachers who switch grade levels, and even veterans, making decisions about structuring, planning, and organizing reading time and instruction can be a bit overwhelming at times. Structuring, planning, and organizing classroom space and time are important initial and ongoing steps to creating a nurturing and intellectually stimulating reading environment.

Chapter two is comprised of answers to the following questions about structuring, organizing, and planning reading instruction.

Structuring, Planning, & Organizing Resource Right Now

An integral part of planning reading instruction includes setting up a reading-focused classroom environment that is comfortable, practical, flexible, and highly functional. Many different aspects of reading instruction take place in different parts of the classroom, so it is important to intentionally plan out how the space will be set-up. For example, whole group instruction will likely be located in a different space than small group instruction. Also, elementary students do not sit in a desk all day long. They need to move, sit, stand, walk, crouch, and sometimes even lay on floor to engage in different types of reading work. Most importantly, how will you set up or refresh your classroom library so students have easy access to books, and so those books stay organized? The video here is a partial tour of my own 5th grade reading-centered classroom to offer a few ideas.

Seeking out more classroom set-up ideas and support? My dear friend and colleague Haley also provides a tour of her 1st grade reading centered classroom in chapter two of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading. Chapter two also shows classroom diagrams and offers more ideas for setting up your classroom and your classroom library!

All posts in this sneak peek blog series can be found linked here. Learn even more about Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________
Looking for literacy PD? I’m available for on-site, in-school, and virtual summer 2022 professional development sessions around all topics and needs in K-6 literacy education. Booking is also available for select dates during the 2022-23 school year and beyond. Learn more here or contact cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to get started. I’d love to work with you and your teachers! -Christina

Sneak Peek at Chapter #1: How Do I Build and Maintain a Reading Community?

The first chapter in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading focuses on building and maintaining a classroom reading community.

Before students can deeply engage in the challenging yet exhilarating work of solving words, making meaning, and authentically interacting with text, they need to feel safe, welcome, and ready to take risks in the classroom. A surefire way to supporting students in doing this is through intentionally working toward building a thriving and continually growing classroom community of readers. Many factors and conditions intentionally set in place play a role in creating and maintaining a reading community.

Chapter one is comprised of answers to the following questions about building and maintaining a reading community.

Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading, Chapter 1 Contents, pg. ix

Community Building Resource Right Now

One way to to start to build or continue to maintain your classroom reading community is to set students up for success in discussions and partnership/group talk. Directly teaching students how conversation works or offering reminders can improve the level of conversation students engage in around reading and books. Take a look at the student-led partnership/group discussion tips in the box below. Click on the image for a larger/printable view.

More community building methods, routines, and tips can be found throughout chapter one! The next post in this series will offer a sneak peek at chapter two, How Do I Structure, Organize, and Plan my Reading Instruction?

All posts in this sneak peek blog series can be found linked here. Learn even more about Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading by clicking here.

_______________________________________________________________
Looking for literacy PD? I’m available for on-site, in-school, and virtual summer 2022 professional development sessions around all topics and needs in K-6 literacy education. Booking is also available for select dates during the 2022-23 school year and beyond. Learn more here or contact cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to get started. I’d love to work with you and your teachers! -Christina