Small Writing/Big Idea
Think back to your days in school. What is it that you remember most as a student? Field trips, assemblies, friendships, great teachers, reading, writing?
You might be wondering why I tacked on reading and writing to the end of this list. Recently, in casual conversation at school, a couple people were mentioning that kids don’t remember the academics of school, but rather the “fun” stuff like field trips or field days or festivals. While I don’t disagree with this idea (who doesn’t love field trips?), I have to say that it is only part of the truth.
If academics are presented to kids in ways that both engage and empower them, that is
Making writing engaging and memorable with Heart Mapping inspired by Georgia Heard
exactly what they’ll remember. The most powerful teachers are those who effectively inspire students to learn, wonder, create, and take chances. Kids remember being engaged in learning.
Nothing warms my heart more than when a former student writes a letter or comes back to visit and tells me that he loved reading in my classroom or that she never knew the power of writing could be so strong. Better yet, nothing is better than when they tell me that they still love reading or writing.
What do students remember? They remember what we value as teachers. They remember the passion, excitement, and community around what we choose to deem important. I know what I deem important. What is it for you? What will your students remember?
Falling in Love With Books
Reading: It’s Just What We Do!
It’s often said that we as teachers really do not understand the full impact we’ve had on our students. Many students find us years years later to thank us or to tell a story about what they remember from their days in our classrooms. Some even contact us to say that we’ve been an inspiration to them.
Well, I’m turning those tables today. This afternoon, I surprised a few of my old students at their high school graduation. This particular group of students truly helped carve my path and purpose as a teacher, and I don’t know that they or their families will ever truly understand what a huge impact they’ve had on my life, and in turn the lives of the many kids I continue to serve.
My fierce advocacy for kids didn’t start when I became a teacher. Rather, it started after I met this rambunctious and lively group of 2nd graders and their families back in 2006. Through ups, downs, successes, misses, and watching true resiliency take place, I learned how to be an advocate. I learned to see kids for who they are, celebrate their uniqueness, believe in them, and stand up for them when the system just wasn’t working with their best interests in mind.
Seeing these former little guys cross that stage as confident young adults to graduate from high school today was the absolute highlight of my teaching career thus far. So, today I want to thank them. I want to tell them that they have inspired me to keep on fighting the good fight, to see kids for who they truly are, to be the best teacher that I know how to be, and to try to always push myself to become better. The system may not always work for all of our students, but I always will. I will never stop fighting or believing in kids- believing in who they are and what they will one day become.
To the class of 2017, I thank you. You truly have inspired me. I am the teacher I am today because of you.
Your very grateful 2nd & 3rd grade teacher,
This is a direct copy/paste of the reading letter I posted on my classroom website for my fifth grade families. Next Wednesday, I’m looking forward to sharing some of my students’ summer reading plans! So far, I’ve been blown away by what they’ve come up with. Happy reading, friends…
Dear Room A1 Families,
When your fifth graders entered our classroom door this past August, I told them that my biggest hope and goal for them was to not only be curious thinkers, but also to become or grow even more as highly engaged readers. Your child and I are happy to report that our mission has been accomplished!
In addition to being highly pleasurable and a great way to pass the time, study after study has found numerous benefits to reading more. This great image from my current read, Disrupting Thinking
by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, nicely sums up some of those findings. To continue their lifelong reading journey that they started in elementary school, it is absolutely critical that your almost-sixth grader continues to choose his or her own books for pleasure reading this summer, in sixth grade, and then beyond in the future.
Remember, the right book to read is the book your child chooses on their own; it’s the book they can’t wait to read, the one they may read under the covers with a flashlight, or even heard about from one of their friends, or that they included on their summer reading plan (ask your child about their well developed plan for reading this summer!). The right time to read might just be those in between times (as my literacy-ed hero Donalyn Miller
so smartly points out). In between times are when we’re waiting in line, sitting at a sibling’s sports practice, or even waiting for the rest of the family to wake up on a weekend morning. The best time to read certainly does not have to be a dedicated hour. Although, wouldn’t it be great if all of us could find that hour everyday- imagine how much kinder and wiser our society as a whole would be!
It is my sincere hope that your almost middle schooler continues to read for pleasure after we say goodbye on June 1st. The academic and social demands of middle school can easily allow pleasure reading to fall by the wayside. This is why every entering sixth grader needs a reading champion to keep them going with what they started way back in kindergarten and intentionally crafted here in fifth grade. Encouraging and ensuring frequent trips to the local or school library, one of our many local bookstores, or even a few downloads on a tablet are a good start!
Access to books, time to read, and choice in what they read are the key to keeping our kiddos on the path to lifelong reading. It has been my absolute pleasure being your child’s reading champion this year. It is an even greater pleasure to pass this baton on to you and our greater Palo Alto & Stanford community as a whole. Remember, literacy is power- all kids are capable of great things through this power!
Local Reading Resources
With only 9 days of school left, we’re in the midst of making plans for summer reading!
Today, I invited my fifth graders to recommend a book to others in class for potential summer reading. They were so excited as they raced through the classroom library to find loved books that they had read previously at some point during their fifth grade year.
Book stacks of recommended reads!
While I sat at the front of the room in our meeting area, my students started to stack their recommended books next to the read aloud that we just finished as a class (if you haven’t yet read The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary yet, you must do it soon!).
With nine days remaining, read aloud will be a little different- either I or one of my students will give a book introduction and read the first few pages aloud to the class. Today, we enjoyed the first few pages of The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee, Book one in Keeper of the Lost Cities, and Book one in The Series of Unfortunate Events.
As the pages were read aloud, I heard whispers of, “Oh, I have to read this one!” and “I’m adding this to my list!”
I’m looking forward to continuing our summer reading planning over our final days of fifth grade! This coming Wednesday, I’m going to share my parent summer reading letter and more details about our summer reading planning.
Happy reading, friends!
I’d venture to guess that no reader ever was excited to jump out of bed after reading to fill in their assigned reading log. I’d also venture to guess that many readers have unhappily left the comfort of their beds to do so. I, for one, would not leap out of the warmth of my bed after finishing a chapter or two to fill out a piece of paper just to prove to someone else that I had, in fact, read the night before!
Anna’s bookshelf after two weeks of school
Rather than requiring students to fill out an at-home reading log to only prove they have read, my fifth graders reflect on their choices as readers by maintaining a personal bookshelf. I first saw this idea when visiting one of my colleague’s classrooms (thank you, Jenna Segall!). The personal bookshelf is a visual representation of books read, books to read, books currently reading, and even books abandoned. Readers may choose to include any book read at home, independently at school, in book clubs, and even class read alouds. They are welcome to add picture books, novels, fiction, nonfiction, magazines- you name it! Once or twice a week, I remind my readers to take a few moments to update their shelves. Some need the reminder while others don’t. It is up to each reader to organize and maintain their shelves in they way they they see fit. Just as the name states, these shelves are personal. The purpose is for each student to reflect on their own reading preferences- to truly learn more about themselves as readers. I do not check their book shelves for completion, rather I confer with each of my readers around their choices and goals.
Steps to Creating and Maintaining a Visual Personal Bookshelf
- Invite students to draw shelves (lines) on a blank piece of paper- this can be done with the back of a reading folder, on a heavy piece of card stock, or even on the inside cover of their reading notebooks (our preferred spot in 5th grade).
- When students find or learn about a book they want to read, they draw a book on the shelf.
- When they start reading, they color in the fraction of the book they read. So, if a reader has read one out of ten chapters, 1/10 of the book is colored in.
- If a book is abandoned, it is left partially colored. Readers may or may not choose to come back to the book later.
- Once a book is finished, it is fully colored in.
Anna’s bookshelf with 11 days left in the school year
Now that our school year is coming to a close, each of my fifth graders have a record of what they have read and want to read. Today and tomorrow in class, we’ll be using our personal bookshelves to reflect on our school year as readers and to make summer reading plans.
I am so excited to see how each of my readers choose to continue their journey with books!
Happy Reading Friends,
Why I Ditched the At-Home Reading Log
Welcome to my blog’s new home: Christina Nosek Literacy! A few weeks ago, I decided to retire my beloved blog of six years, The Teacher Triathlete. It was a great run, but now it’s time to move forward. Archived posts from The Teacher Triathlete in addition to some of my other writing is being added to the Literacy Archives tab above. A new insight, idea, or instructional tip will be added to the blog every Wednesday. You can follow the blog by using the button on the sidebar to the right.
I’m so excited about what’s to come! Thanks for joining me on this journey of empowering all kids through literacy!