Piggie and Elephant-LIVE!

Piggie and Elephant’s book series acted out by my students, ENJOY!!

Click here for the videos!!!



Our Blue Birds are here!

The blue birds my students have been blogging about when we started the Ivan unit have finally hatched! We have 5 new baby blue birds! The kids were so excited, and I wanted to share with you the picture.

Read Aloud (4/19/12)

I Broke My Trunk! By Mo Willems

This book was a very cute book that had my 5th graders laughing so hard. Just by looking at the cover, they were able to make predictions about the book and what would happen to Gerald. This is a long, kind of crazy, story about how Gerald broke his trunk. He is telling his story to his friend Piggie, which her patience starts to run thin as she gets annoyed with the fact that it is taking him so long to tell her the story. My students love the speech bubbles as it reminds them of a comic strip or a graphic novel. The expressiveness of the characters is quite funny, especially when Piggie starts to get even more irritated with Gerald about finding out how he broke his trunk. Even though this is geared toward younger kids, my 5th graders love the book. They actually wanted to act it out…so if I have time after our Spring Break, I told them we would and I would video tape it. If we do get that time I will post the video on my blog for all to see. I think it is worth trying, especially because my students are quite expressive! The picture below was one of their favorite scenes where they were laughing so hard…I am still laughing as I write about this page because I would totally be just like Piggie if I were her.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book took me on an adventure I really didn’t think I would have or enjoy, but I actually did enjoy the book. It did take me a few chapters in to actually understand fully what was going on in the story, but after that everything else made sense. The story is about Nobody, known as Bod Owens. He was a human boy who was raised in a graveyard. A man named Jack murdered Bod’s parents and siblings, and he managed to escape and came to the graveyard when he was just a toddler. Bod was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Owens and raised in the graveyard. The spirits educated Bod and helped him learn special talents. He learned how to hide from Jack to remain safe from him because he was still searching for him. Bod is surrounded by very influential and unique characters. Bod’s guardian and teacher, Silas, exists between the world of the living and the dead, and is able to provide Bod with the food and other things he needs quite easily. Miss Lupescu who is a wold-woman also teaching Bod and teaches him many lessons on survival, which did end up helping him and saving his life during the story. Through his human friend Scarlett Perkins, the graveyard witch named Liza Hempstock, and his other mentors and teachers, I realized through reading this book that those characters helped shape and form Bod’s new life in the graveyard. This reminds me of any human today.

As a teacher, I can have a parent conference and I typically always can tell which student belongs to which parent. They may have some similar physical features, but most of all, their personalities, morals, and values are the same. If the student is a talker and gets in trouble for it often, I can almost guarantee their parent was the same way as a child and still today is very talkative. Most of my parents say that their child is just like them, and to forgive their behavior-ha! I never thought that Bod growing up in a graveyard would be safer than living in the city with humans. For me, I am scared to death of graveyards and I think it is the worst place to live. I would never want to live there and have the experience Bod did. I would probably live every night in fear. Several of my students said the same thing, but I had two students that said if you are a toddler or younger, you may not even know the difference. They had a good point and I can compare that to adopted babies, they will never really know they are adopted unless they figure it out when they are older or they are told when they are older. In Bod’s case, he might remember the bad situation that happened to his family, but other than that, he just knows that these “people” in the graveyard have saved him.

My students listened to chapter 1 being read aloud. They really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s read aloud and wanted to listen to more. They made the comment on how Neil Gaiman reminded them of Bod. They said he looked “rough” like how they had imagined Bod looking. They loved hearing his accent when he read, and that he read with great expression. This read aloud was PERFECT as I have started book clubs with my struggling readers, and now I can have someone listen to this book being read whom otherwise would struggle trying to read it themselves. I have two girls reading this book and starting a blog on their reading, they are very excited about this novel and novels similar to this one as they are already hooked! Thanks to the similar books link, they can easily find other books too.

When teaching this book, I would use a teaching guide like this one I found from http://files.harpercollins.com/PDF/TeachingGuides/0060530928.pdf to help guide our class discussion and to incorporate good questions. This teaching guide includes vocabulary for each chapter, discussion questions, writing prompts, and extension activities. This is perfect for classroom instruction for teachers to use.

Similar Books:

When I searched books that were similar to “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, there were 1107 books that showed up in the search results, WOW! I have never used this before, but would be great for when I want to read similar books with all my guided reading groups and want to find a book that fits in with the others. I really liked how you can adjust the reading level to be easier or harder, which means I can use this for my AIG kids and my struggling kids’, perfect! Below is a list of some books that I found during this search that I had my struggling readers select which ones they thought they might be interested in reading:

City of the Dead by Tony Abbott

Bayou Dogs by Tony Abbott

The Suburb beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson

Breaking the Curse by Perdita Finn

Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz

Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips by Marcia Thronton Jones and Debbie Dadey

The Phantom of the Subway by Geronimo Stilton

The Snack Attack Mystery by Elizabeth Levy

Fugitive by Christine Harris

Belle’s Journey by Marilynn Reynolds

Danger at Sand Cave by Candice F. Ransom

Owen Foote, Super Spy by Stephanie Green

Acceptance Speech:

Neil Gaiman is obviously a very good speaker. He speaks of his family, his book, his characters in the book, and how he got to writing his story of The Graveyard Book. It was neat to know that he love graveyards as much as he feared them this I wouldn’t expect but I can see how it would add climax to his book when writing in possibly some fear. I know if I had to write a book about graveyards I would have a hard time not scaring myself. Plus, I find that my writing experiences strengthen as I visit the location or similar area that I am writing about and in this case would be a graveyard, yikes! I couldn’t sit in a graveyard to write a book like this, but I know if I did I would get true feelings and emotions written down in my book. He spoke about how he used to “haunt” the library and would be there early in the morning, then would walk home at night from the library once it was closed. In closing of his speech, he said how reading is important, how books are important, and how librarians are important. I laughed with his comment about how libraries are not childcare facilities ha! I have been to libraries before when that is exactly what I saw, kids running wild with no adult supervision. He goes on to discuss “lies” when writing. As a writer he feels obligated to make good lies that say true things and to make them the best that he can to make a story. It is clear that he enjoys writing for a living, and really reflects and thinks about why he writes and how he writes. This is something I am working on currently as a writer, reflecting. I often write for fun, but I don’t always reflect on my own writing. I write something, then put it away and never go back to it.

Book Drum

Book Drum is a fascinating website! I will be posting this for my fellow teachers at my school to use. For many books they have bookmarks, summaries, setting, glossary, author information, and reviews for each of their books on their site. This would be very helpful for teachers who are looking for a good book for their students, or if your students want to read a book and you haven’t heard of it or read it yourself. I am already thinking of the many ways I can use this in my classroom to help guide my book selections as well as my students selecting books. The bookmarks were a big hit already for my class as you can color them in! Even though my 5th graders act all “big and bad,” they still love coloring!

Ivey, G. (2003). The intermediate grades: “the teacher makes it more explainable” and other reasons to read aloud in the intermediate grades. The Reading Teacher, 56(8), 812-814.

When thinking about read aloud in the upper grades, I always thought it never existed. I say this because when I was in 5th grade and higher, my teachers never read aloud to the class. The only thing that might have been read aloud would be directions- maybe. This year being my first year teaching the 5th grade, I came in with the attitude of how I wanted my students’ reading experience to be much different from mine. I always wished that my teachers read aloud, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Knowing this, I knew if I had the right books picked out for read aloud, that they would enjoy it. One of the first pieces was to create a place for read aloud. I didn’t want them to always be at their seats. I brought in fold out chairs, bean bags, a rug, and allow them to bring towels or blankets if they want. They truly have loved our read aloud times and sitting on the floor. Yes, it does seem a little young I am sure for them to sit on the floor and listen to a book, but they are still kids! They beg for more read aloud and I feel that they have learned more through this experience with vocabulary, comprehension, and modeling of good fluency while reading.

I picked this article because I know it is a “hot” topic right now in our schools. After reading the first paragraph, I can completely agree to their numbers they had with the surveyed 1,700 sixth graders about their reading experiences. From those students, 62% preferred teacher read aloud! Wow, this was amazing to read as proof that we need to be reading aloud to our students. I know only one of our 6th grade teachers reads aloud often to her students, the other doesn’t at all (from what the kids tell me). Most books I read aloud my students will often want to read, which is the same information that was reported in this article. In Ivey, 2003’s article, students noted their experiences with their teacher reading aloud. One student noted that they like listening and that when they read themselves they have a hard time concentrating. Another student noted how the teacher can make the book sound more interesting. This reminds me of my same-tone or boring-tone reading students. I tell them that if they would read more expressively in their head that it would become more interesting for themselves. Some kids noted that it is easier to understand when a teacher reads aloud. I notice this in my own classroom and I will have students take notes while I read if they want, and the students they need this “tool” they use it. Other students have recorded me reading before so they can take the recording home and reread the text. I have seen a huge improvement in their reading comprehension and fluency with the recordings.

My book selection for read aloud comes from the beginning of the year reading interest survey. I read books based off of what they are truly interested in and want to read. I may challenge them every once in a while by reading something that is similar to something they like, but may be a bit different. Often times they still end up liking the new challenge book, especially when I tell them it might be a challenge for them. They always want to prove me wrong, and I don’t mind if they do. “Reading to students helps them to make more informed decisions when there are choices to be made” (Ivey, 2003). This is a huge element in intermediate grades for those students to learn. If read aloud will assist and help with that element, then it is worth trying out in the classroom. When you read silently, you have to ask yourself questions and make your own predictions as you read. You will have to check on your own if your predictions are correct, and you will have to keep yourself engaged while reading. This is something that might be hard for some students, and they can learn how to do this task better through modeling with read alouds. When reading aloud to the class, you will make class predictions, ask questions, and check for the answers as you read. Together you formulate the hypothesis and the main idea of the story, and that sometimes can help a child’s confidence with reading. When they know others have the same thought as them, they are more willing to accept their thought and try it out. So many times I have students that second guess themselves and think what they have to say or question is wrong- which typically is not the case. Through this article, it has confirmed that my decision to read aloud to my students this year was not a mistake, it was a great idea- one that will help my students grow as readers.


Lane, H., & Wright, T. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud. The Reading Teacher , 668-675.

Does read aloud truly help students reading achievement, or does it hurt their reading achievement? This is a question that was presented in this article for discussion and research. The quote says, “In classrooms where teachers spend more time reading aloud to children, students’ reading achievement tends to be worse than in classrooms where less time is devoted to read-aloud activities” (Lane & Wright, 2007). This article really has stumped me now as it is presenting the possibility of read aloud activities being hurtful to students’ reading achievement. Before reading this, I assumed that reading aloud to students could only help their reading achievement.

The article goes on to discuss how to maximize the effectiveness of read-alouds. This is something I think is very important when you want to implement read alouds in your classroom. According to Land & Wright (2007), teachers should consider the amount of read-aloud time in the classroom, the choice of books for the read-aloud time and activities, the actual method of reading aloud in the class, and how reading aloud fits into the curriculum being taught. It is important to set aside a specific time for read-aloud, this way it is put into a schedule and won’t merge into other important higher student achievement activities such as guided reading. It is always important to select books that are engaging and can carry on a good whole group discussion. This can be a time to challenge your students with new genres, but you must be careful how you present them as it may not interest the students and they may shut down. When reading aloud, the teacher should build background knowledge, help formulate predictions, and guide their discussions. If the teacher is just reading and not stopping to discuss the book, then the read aloud would not be effective for the students. This would be similar to the guided reading DRTA model. As I pre-read the book I am reading aloud for my class, I prepare stopping points for discussion just as I would for my guided reading groups. It is also important that you help make connections to other subject areas.

After reading the article I can see now that what I thought was going to be presented was wrong. I thought these two authors were against reading aloud to your students, but that wasn’t the case. They were just speaking about how important it is to maximize read alouds in the classroom because if it is not used correctly in the classroom, it could possibly hurt them academically. I thought this article brought up some great points to think about and reflect on and that is why I chose to read this particular article.

Wonderstruck Glog (3/29/12)

ImageI created a glog for Wonderstruck, hope you enjoy! Make sure you have your speakers on, I have music and videos on my glog 🙂


Wonderstruck (3/29/12)

“Wonderstruck” is a lesson about memory that teaches a respect for the past and for the power of memory to make minds. Brian Selznick told his story is both word and image. Ben is an adolescent boy growing up in Funflint, Michigan. In the 1970’s, Ben lost his mother in a car accident, and he has never known who his father was. Another disaster on top of all the others is that he gets struck by lightning which causes his to lose part of his hearing. Ben finds a series of clues that makes him think that his father may live in New York, so Ben ends up going to look for him. As he begins his journey, all the sudden taken to another story and Ben’s story disappears for the time being. The new story is about a girl named Rose who is deaf and is living in the 1920’s and she ends up running away from her home in search of a Broadway star. The story of Ben’s trip to the city, and the girl’s story trying to find safety which happens fifty years prior to Ben’s story, end up becoming one in the end.

The two stories of two deaf children are simply just looking for a place to belong which is why my students can easily relate and connect to this story just as I can. Rose’s story begins by her sitting alone in her room always looking up at the window in her room. She wants so badly to run away to the city and be free. Ben is also alone without his father and mother. They both find refuge in the Museum of National History. At the museum, Ben was taught sign language from a young stranger named Jamie. This helps Ben and Rose connect later on when their stories do meet and they are able to communicate to one another.

When my students were reading this book, they did a great job with paying very close attention to the images on the pages. For example, they knew that there were two people writing at one point in the book in the images because they saw how the hands looked different, but the pencil was the same. They also noticed how the handwriting was different. My students felt really sorry for Rose and just wish that they could jump into the book and help her be free. They had some pretty deep discussions on why Rose couldn’t leave her room. With using blooms taxonomy questions that I have created for them, they have used the question which focuses on the “create” section of Blooms triangle. They chose to create a plan for Rose to use to escape her room safely without getting into trouble. Of course this question came before Rose actually ran away. It was neat that they did this question as they were able to compare their plan to Rose’s plan when they got to that section of the book.

“Wonderstruck” really hit home in more ways than one for me. When I was in elementary school, my teachers never understood my problems as a struggling reader and would tell my parents that I was being lazy. My self-confidence plummeted, and my home life was made difficult. My parents assumed, because of my persistent difficulties and my teachers’ comments, that I was lazy and didn’t care about school, but that was not the case. I just couldn’t do “school” the way everyone else could. I am different. I am dyslexic. When I read, I read from the bottom of the page up. I also read from the right to the left. When I write using paper and pencil, I write neater and quicker when I write backwards- from the right side of the paper to the left side. My dyslexia at times will affect my speaking to where my words come out backwards. I am always thinking before I speak making sure that everything that comes out makes sense and what I am trying to say comes out in the right order. It takes me longer to read, write, and speak sometimes, but in the long run I believe that has helped me become the successful educator I am today. I understand my students at another level that not all teachers can share with their students.  Through my academic struggles, there were many times when I just wanted to run away and end my life. I was miserable and felt like no one even cared. I remember the days lying in my bed, looking out my window and asking God why? Why me? Later on, God gave me a sense of hope and comfort just as Rose and Ben got with each other, but mine was with the game of soccer. Once I found the love for soccer, I took off with it and ended up being quite successful. I played in college, broke all my school records for goals scored and assists, and even tied a national record and was featured in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd. Like Rose and Ben, their life growing up was similar to mine in feeling lonely and unloved, but in the end, God knew exactly how to “wonderstruck” my life with the gift of soccer, and for Ben and Rose, it was the gift of finding each other at the museum.

This book was an easier read for me as I am a visual learner. What I thought would take me a couple of weeks to read ended up only taking me about three days to finish. It moved a lot quicker, and once I was able to connect with the characters, I didn’t want to put the book down. I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures as I love to draw as well. The images helped me comprehend a lot better, and truly helped me connect on an even deeper level. Seeing Rose’s eyes up close made me feel like I was looking in a mirror at myself when I was a child; a lost and lonely child just wanting someone to care. I felt like the mood was at first kind of depressing, but then I realized the mood might be more along the lines of hopefulness. Right now, I have three students reading this book for the second time. Of the three students, one has a reading disability, another is an ESL student, and the third student is an average 5th grader. For the purpose of this book review, I have encouraged them to reread the book and have discussions with me about the book through their blog. I felt like those three students would be able to connect with the characters in many different ways, and I wanted them to be able to feel the feeling I felt when I read the book. They have just started their blog, so there is not much there yet, and there is a lot of editing to do as this is their first blog experience. Hopefully they will learn more as they go on their writing.

I introduced the book just as Dr. Frye did to our class the first night. I held it up, passed it around, and then had them guess how long it would take them to read the book. Most of them responded with one year, a couple of months or weeks, etc. No one thought just a few days. Once I opened the book up almost all their jaws dropped in awe. There were so fascinated! They asked if this was a big kid version of a picture book, I told them yes. I gave them the sneak peak preview of the book by reading the inside flap that told about the two characters. I then showed them a few parts of the story and explained the format of the book. When I showed them the few pictures of the sign language, I had several kids begging to get their notebooks that have sign language in it. They wanted to figure out what Rose was saying. From the beginning they were hooked as they felt they were going to be able to “unlock the message” of what Rose and Ben were trying to communicate with one another. I have learned that once I have hooked their interest, the rest will fall into place.

Response to Independent Reading (3/22/12)

Independent reading is a crucial part of a child’s developmental process in reading. Insuring that children can self select reading material is also a key component in independent reading. This will enhance their success in the classroom and in life. Reluctant readers are not always struggling readers. I have learned that they can be academically gifted students who do not like to read. This can be caused by a bad reading experience or a bad year in school. All it takes is one unsuccessful situation and that can ruin the reading experience for that child.

Wide reading is also another term I had never heard of, but is a way that students can learn new words through incidental learning (Moss & Young, 2010). The more books my kids can read independently, the more words and more vocabulary they will be exposed to and can learn from. Through wide reading, students can academically grow more than a student who doesn’t read many books independently.

Motivation is such an important factor in a child’s independent reading. If they are not motivated to read, they will not be interested in reading. My way to get them interested this year has been through book clubs and blogging. As reading through the PowerPoint, iPods and audio books were discussed as being helpful for learning disabled in reading. This study was through high school freshman, but this is something I can agree with through my own classroom. My learning disabled students thrive off of technology use for reading. They are more interested and motivated to read if I incorporate a handheld device with the lesson.

In my classroom I plan on implementing a stronger independent reading time to help support the needs of all my students. I will do this through reading interest surveys and checking through my classroom library for books to reach all my students. I would also like to conference with each student one on one about what they like to read and why, and if they are reluctant to explain why. I want to take the one on one conference to the book shelf and show the students individually where some books are located at so they can easily find them. So many times I find that kids can’t find books in the library or in my classroom library. If it takes a lot of effort to find a book, they just give up on the idea and move on to something else typically something way to hard or way to easy. Exploring through genres is very helpful and something I try my best to teach through. Each month I introduce a new genre so my students can have a focus topic when learning. They typically like having a focus genre, and love finding other books in the same topic after the introduction of the genre.

Overall, I have learned a lot about independent reading and I am excited to begin implementing the new teaching strategies for independent reading in my classroom. My students have already grown academically, and with focusing more on independent reading, their growth will just continue to grow.

Independent Reading Plan (3/22/12)

Independent reading has many different benefits  that are affective and help the students academically. According to Moss and Young in our class text, they discuss how independent reading helps increase vocabulary development. Students need to learn about 3,000 words per year, and one of the most successful ways of accomplishing that is wide reading. Wide reading exposes students to a range of books and a variety of words that can be limitless when wide reading. Another supporting component to independent reading is building background knowledge. Students will have a deeper understanding of what they are reading about if they are able to focus on the specific topic. This would be hard to complete just with guided reading, it would need to be an additional reading of independent reading time to help support the knowledge they are able to obtain. If students are reading more independently, at home and at school, they are going to learn more and at times possibly have a higher vocabulary when compared to kids who don’t independently read. I have noticed with my students a huge growth in their reading once they were able to start independently reading on their own. Parents have also noticed the growth and are more encouraged to help support the independent reading at home.

It is quite obvious, but the more you read and the more practice you get in reading, the more fluent of a reader you can become. This will also help support reading comprehension if you are fully immersing yourself in the text you are reading. I found that when my kids are able to choose their book of interest, they are more willing to try and read it, and for the most part they are able to comprehend the book. I always encourage rereading of books they enjoy as they might have missed a minor detail or they might be able to enjoy it more the second time. I talk a lot about reading with expression, and they have realized that with books they are interested in they read much better when compared to books they don’t like. When they actually want to read it, they try harder. More reading can also lead to better reading achievement. Whether it be on a state test or just in academics in general, the growth does show if there is more reading occurring. Once the student sees their academic growth and can hear how fluent they are reading, they are more encouraged and motivated to continue reading. If you always feel like you have failed in reading, and you can’t read well, then you wouldn’t be encouraged to read- which are our reluctant readers.

Creating the Space for Independent Reading

I have realized that creating the right space for reading is so important. I have changed my room around so much from my first year of teaching to now. I grew up in the era where we just sat at our desks and read, or we just read in the library at the tables. I noticed as I started my students off the same way that their attitude about reading was quite poor. Those that struggle to read and those that don’t struggle to read all had this attitude of reading being “boring.” My students would always ask me how much longer did they have to read, or do we have to read today, etc. After a while, I realized something needed to change. I was even bored just watching them.

I decided to rearrange my room in a way that was different from all other rooms in the school. I got rid of all my desks and got tables for my room. I then got more bookshelves so I can make different reading areas and have more room for all my books. I found my kids like to read in corners or in cubby like places, so I did my best to create these for them. I added a large rug for them to lay on, a tent for them to go inside, bean bag chairs, fold out chairs, and I allowed them to bring towels if they wanted to lay on those. The very next day I had kids begging for reading time. Now at first I know they were not all deeply reading, they were just enjoying their reading place. I thought to myself though and said, “They have to start somewhere.” Whether they are just flipping the pages and looking at pictures, at least they are willing to read and not ask to not read.

After they found their reading place, I now had to explain, teach, and show them how to deeply read in their reading place. I discussed how important deep reading is and how much more you would enjoy your book if you let it just sweeps you away into the story. I did a lot of modeling of this deep reading in my reading place in the room (yes, I read too while they read), and they learned quite quickly from just observing and listening to me. In my room now when we do independent reading, I allow them to go anywhere they want to in the room. When it is pretty outside we will go out in the grass and they will lay on their blankets, towels, pillows, and bring umbrellas for shade. They are too cute when they are all laying down enjoying a nice book to themselves. I can academically see already a huge difference in their own individual reading, and I am so glad my students have found their special reading place in the classroom.

Creating the Collection for Independent Reading: 

Once I started my masters’ degree, I learned quite quickly that I didn’t have enough books for my students. I started with only ten books, and they were all donated. Gradually I would collect more through donations or through thrift stores when I had a chance to stop in there. After learning more about my students, I realized I didn’t have enough books for each genre that my students were interested in. I always thought they could just go to the library, but once I thought about it, having the book in their hand instantly was much better. I now knew that this was something financially and with a lot of help from others that I really needed to work on if I wanted my students to grow as readers.

I started the change by giving out reading interest surveys. This would help me specifically see what my students wanted to read, and would also help me see what they have not yet experienced in reading yet. My other goal was to have enough book sets of books that were of high-interest to my students. My students love realistic fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries which were three genres I did not have a lot of in my classroom library. I gradually started going to the thrift stores more getting books for $2.00, asking for any donations, and the next thing I know I have over 2,000 books in my library three years later. With beginning my fourth year of teaching this year, I decided that I should write down each book I have in Microsoft Excel with the grade level equivalence, genre, title, author, and sort by seasons if appropriate. This way when my kids are looking for a book they can look multiple ways, just as if they were at the schools library. So far this year this has been a great help in the classroom for myself when I need to find books, and for my students as well. My bookshelves are in alphabetical order by authors last name and by book sets. My chapter books are on the three bookshelves on the left, and my picture books are on the three bookshelves to the right. My kids are able to keep them in order quite well, and it really does make finding the right book for my students much easier. I now feel like my library is about complete as I have a good amount of books for each genre represented on my shelves.

Books my kids have read this year that are their favorites are:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

The Series of Unfortunate Events

Skeleton Creek Series

The Hunger Games Series

The One and Only Ivan

The Graveyard Book


Charlotte’s Webb

Double Fudge

Super Fudge

Ghostville Elementary

Ramona the Brave

The Black Lagoon Chapter Book Series

Magic Tree House Series

With the many books I have within my classroom library, I still see that I don’t have enough informational text and historical fiction books in my classroom library selection. I have several books in those genres, but I still don’t have enough at different grade levels and for specific interests. I need more on specific wars and events in the wars, key people in history, and famous people from our past. Knowing this information, I have been able to come up with a book shelf wish list for my Donors Choose project and for my classroom wish list for my students. I hope I will be able to complete my classroom library soon as I feel that I have a great start from where I was four years ago. I do realize now and have shared with others how important it is to have enough books at a variety of levels and genres for each of my students to be able to find something of interest for them to read.

Key Components of My Independent Reading Program:

As stated in our class text by Moss and Young, it was recommended that an independent reading program have twenty minutes of community reading time two times a week and about sixty minutes of supported independent reading time every day. For my own class, we do guided reading every day which is similar to the supported independent reading time.  My whole reading block is for two hours, so I have about an hour and a half for guided reading, and then thirty minutes for community reading time. I always have a focus lesson, time for reading, student-teacher conferences, and time to respond and reflect on their reading. I rotate their reading from reading silently in a small group to whisper reading. I will work with the students one on one each guided reading time so I can hear how they are reading, ask them questions, and document what evidence of learning I am hearing and seeing. One of my favorite parts of guided reading is their response and reflection to their reading. My students do such a great job with this task, and I am so proud of their hard work and effort they put into their responses.

During our community reading time, students rotate between book talks, interactive read aloud, book sharing, and time for reading. My students are always talking about their books in a discussion type format. This is something they do daily in their small book club groups. Several of the books they are reading now, Skeleton Creek, are interactive books they get the students on the computer to watch a video that will give them the next clue to what is going to happen next in the book. If my kids were not sharing books, I wouldn’t know what to do. They are the best book advertisers I have ever seen. They convince their friends to read and to not read certain books, and it is such a good feeling to hear them discussing the books they chose to read and why.

I have expanded this task even more by doing book commercials in my classroom. My students love filming themselves and they love making up a commercial for their book of choice. A lot of them get into character and really enjoy the acting piece of the book commercial. What they don’t realize is how much I can see they truly love the book and how I can tell they have deeply read the book they are speaking about. They speak with such great passion and enthusiasm which would make anyone want to read the book. I always try to suggest high-interest books for the students to pick from, and typically they go with a few of my suggestions. I want them to be able to work on the “practice” of reading as well as learning together as a community with their learning group.

Since I have a two hour reading block, I am able to do guided reading and community reading every day. I love my school schedule and I hope it stays this way as I can see my kids growing with following the past of the key components to reading.

Linking Literacy Instruction with Independent Reading Experiences:

The biggest way that I have been able to link literacy instruction with independent reading has been through my book clubs and blogging. My book clubs are setup to be a support group for the students. They take time and pause and form their own DRTA type lesson. As they get to their stopping points, they are to use a Blooms Taxonomy question that I have set out for them as a guidance to help their groups discussion. Through reading silently or as a small group, they then will transition after about thirty minutes of reading and discussing to typing on their blogs. On their blogs they are to summarize what they have read, then write their opinion on the text, predictions they may have, and questions they may also have. This is a task that was very simple to get them to accomplish, and I was quite pleased with the beginning results.

I later transitioned this to more of a student-teacher, then student-student discussion, but virtually. I would post comments on their blog asking them questions that focused on our learning strategy for that week. They were to respond back to me with their answer. Each student has a blog rubric they use to make sure they are completing their blog correctly and completely. So far they have been doing a great job with their responses, and have learned so much. I have told them that it is just like doing guided reading, except we are doing it virtually and you are having more book conversations with your peers. I have already seen an increase in their vocabulary and in their reading fluency and comprehension. I am very excited about their growth, and I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have allowed them to select their own groups, books, and that they are discussing the book online which is the way they prefer.

Reading Interest Inventory (3/22/12)

When it comes to reading interests in my students, my main question is, “How does identifying the background interest of your students help teachers guide and engage them to read books?” By giving these three inventories I am able to know more about my student on the first day of school that will help me determine how to guide my students towards more engaged reading. The Interest Inventory by Arleen P. Mariotti is a reading interest survey about what they like to read, how much they read, where they like to read, hobbies, and their attitude about reading. This will really help me see which genres they have read before and the genres they haven’t even touched. I will also find out about their reading at home, how often they read outside of school, and if they are currently reading anything. This will help me with future book selections for guided reading, read aloud and for independent reading suggestions. Learning about their hobbies and what they like to do for fun will help me know what types of books to possibly have in my classroom library or books to suggest to the students based off their own interest in other activities. The reading attitude survey is just on their attitude about reading. How do they feel about reading? The attitude survey will help me know what type of foundation they have for reading. Do they love reading, is it just a task they complete and get over with, or is it a pure frustration? By knowing this information I can make sure the classroom environment is setup to best suit the students to where I can make it the most comfortable place to be given any frustration level with reading. I complete all three as it is important to me to know all aspects of my students reading interest and attitude toward reading.

The biggest gap I see from the results of my inventories and surveys is that my male students do not like to read. More of my female students had a better attitude about reading. Now that I am over halfway through the year, I see this to be true academically. Academically, my female students are stronger readers than my male students. A lot of my male students are academically and intellectually gifted in reading, but they are very reluctant readers. In reading our class text by Moss and Young, reluctant readers may not always be your struggling readers, they may just be high achieving students who are bored or never had a positive reading experience. This is something I was seeing within the first few months of school, and I knew it needed to be addressed.

I noticed that my male students desire more informational text and high-interest books. These are books that I don’t have a lot of, and need to make sure I get for my classroom library. A lot of them like real mysteries, not the “cheesy” type mysteries. They also like books about animals and historical fiction. I have several copies of these books, but not enough at my current grade level that I am teaching. Some of my students’ favorite books this year are The One and Only Ivan, Behind the Bedroom Wall, Bud, not Buddy, The Titanic, and anything about WWII.

A lot of my students either play sports or play video games. Not many students, especially my male students, read for fun. Very few of them have asked for books for gifts or ever want books at all. They haven’t had a good reading experience, and after reading about reluctant readers, I can see now why they don’t enjoy reading. My students wrote that they only read before because they had to read or were told to read. They have never really wanted to pick up a book on their own and just read for their own pleasure. I have recently started book clubs where they pick their partners and their book. My boys are in groups together and my girls are in groups together. Their book choice in my mind is based off their gender preference, and I have found this to be very helpful for each group. Their book talk discussions and deep reading occur a lot more frequent when reading in book clubs. I hear great discussions and see evidence of their deep reading through their writing on their class blogs.

Donors Choose Project (3/22/12)

Take a look at what Ms. Solesbee wants for her students: More High-Interest Books for Independent Reading.

Ms. Solesbee is using DonorChoose.org, an online charity that makes it easy to help classrooms in need.

More High-Interest Books for Independent Reading

Ms. Solesbee
High Poverty, Hickory, NC

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss I tea… read more

My students need high-interest Non-Fiction and Fiction books for my classroom library to help support my students’ independent reading interests.

Deep Reading and Internet Inquiry (3/1/12)


“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one, what a beautiful day! We’re not scared!” This is one of my favorite children’s books by Michael Rosen for any child. It is filled with action words and is in a song format. I always read this too my students, no matter what grade because in reality, we often go on our own bear hunts. We are always going through our own obstacles in school and out of school, and there are times we just hit a wall and want to just stop and go no further. In the end though, together we can go on this “bear hunt” and push through whatever challenges may come.

I loved reading about Dr. Frye’s reading experience and her likes and dislikes. I find that our reading preferences are quite similar, and with reading a few other blogs in our class on our last topic, I think there are several people who feel the same. Dr. Frye mentioned that she loved codex books. I actually had to look up what codex books was…they are very old fashioned “hardback” type of books is what I read on Wikipedia. The main difference is the design and structure of the cover and book. It is so artistically put together with such beauty. As most of you know now, I am an art person- and this is art. Can you buy these books? Are they are antique stores? Those would be my questions. I always like to decorate my room in a “reading style,” and I always try to show them all the different types of books. This is one that I have not showed them, so I hope I can find one somewhere. I would love to have a collection of some sort as I think it would add some history and culture in my room.

I have gradually gotten used to reading only iPad 2 as I have downloaded an application called Evernote. With that program can save any documents and read them on any device that has Evernote on them. It is quite nice, and makes for an easy read. It is not like the features of Kindle or Nook reading though because I can’t mark on it or add notes or anything. However, for a quick read or just to have it with me in case I need to reference it, I have it. Often times I catch myself working with teachers and think of a good quote to reflect my teaching style with, and I always refer back to my saved articles and show whoever I am talking to the article. Not to prove them right or wrong, but to enrich them in reading a text that might challenge their own thinking to the way they teach reading and writing. I have noticed with my kids, they read the best when I allow them to read anywhere in the room or the school. So I have witnessed and agree with you about the setting of where you read.

I also agreed with Dr. Frye’s response on reading for a purpose. If my kids are just reading to read, or just reading because they have a test or even because their parents said so- I have found out that they are not really reading. They are skimming or just getting the basic idea of the story and just enough to survive. They do not deep read, and they know it. They will read enough for passing a test, but will not capture the true adventure that deep reading would take them on when they read. A few kids have told me that they have always read and never had problems before. Now they are seeing differences in their reading as they feel challenged in a way that makes them think more into their reading. I explained to them that they are experiencing deep reading, and I said when that occurs you will be able to take your reading comprehension to a whole new level of understanding and connecting.

Those that use other devices in my room use an iTouch, iPad2, Kindle Fire, Kindle, Nook, and an iPhone. The ones who obviously use their device more than just once are the ones who do quite well when reading the book on their device. The other students just have the device for “looks” and use it maybe once for reading, and then never again after that. I can tell with the ones who use the devices often for reading because they know how to use the extra features of bookmarking, highlighting, notes, etc.  It is encouraging to know they still take notes even when I am not around to tell them to. They still are chunking small bits of information at a time and either pulling out key words, drawing pictures, or writing short facts. The few that prefer paperback book are the ones that just don’t have access 24/7 to a digital reader, or just do not like digital devices for reading with.

I had a personal mix-up with the terminology of online reading vs. e-reading. Dr. Frye brought it to my attention, and after reflecting on her notes, I see what she was saying with my terminology of the two terms. I read an article online by Delphinoy that I found and he described E-Readers as gadgets designed only for reading a text. The feature of this type of gadget helps support the reader’s deep reading experience, and the look of it gives the reading the “feeling” of holding something like a book. These can be like a Kindle, Nook, or a Sony Reader. Dr. Frye mentioned e-ink to me and I didn’t quite understand it until now as I have never heard of it before. I read more about it and it says that e-ink screens do not have any backlight additions, which makes it harder to read at night, but does save energy for a longer battery life. This truly shows my colors- how I really don’t read on an e-reader. Like I have said previously in a post, I prefer paperback books vs. something like an e-reader. The online reading would be like a tablet or an iPad- they are more similar to a computer. The applications that are on an e-reader can be installed, and in addition they can have several other features available for the reader if needed. This can be videos, e-mail and other online features. The last sentence of the comparison of the e-reader vs. the tablet sums up correctly in terms of how I feel about online reading. The tablet focused more on the actual user than on the reader. The tablet has games, music, photos, cameras, multimedia, dual screen, etc. Where an e-reader may have access to the internet if needed, but the main focus for the e-reader is the reader itself. I think that there are a lot of distractions when it comes to the digital devices that have multiple applications or Internet access. I am guilty of browsing and going elsewhere when I am supposed to just be reading. With students, they could be browsing a website, and then in just one click they can be back to their assignment of reading. This does take away from the deep reading, but how to control it with our students is going to be harder.

I guess I just assumed because I can get on the Internet with my students’ Nooks, that it was an “online reader.” My students who read digitally still use sticky notes as if we were reading paperback books. They will put the page number so they can sequence them easier. I tried to transition to notebook paper, but they like the bright colors and seeing all the sticky notes they completed sticking out of their book. Dr. Frye suggested having my e-reading students use notebook paper to still take notes on or for my class draw pictures on when they are chunking- and I thought that was a great suggestion. My kids HATE notebook paper, so something I have allowed them to do is to use sticky notes for EVERYTHING! So they have been using sticky notes for paperback books as well as with their e-readers. They love the look of the sticky note as well as the bright colors I get. My e-readers stick their sticky notes on notebook paper that I keep a folder with, this way they can keep up with all their notes and pictures. I am finding out that my kids write more if I let them write on sticky notes or online on their blog. Crazy I know, but at least they are writing!

I also love the phrase; “if you don’t use it, you lose it” because I think it speaks so clearly to me. This reminds me of learning a foreign language. I used to be fluent enough in Spanish to be able to communicate on a basic level. I had to learn Spanish for my month-long teaching internship in a village in Mexico. I spoke pretty well for my age and what happened when I got back to America? I didn’t use it, so I lost it. Still to this day I regret not practicing and using my Spanish because so many kids in my school speak Spanish, especially my old school I taught at. I think the phrase also goes with the lovely “summertime reading” that really doesn’t exist for a lot of students. I can always tell the ones that didn’t read over the summer vs. the ones that did read over the summer. Those that read are right on target and ahead of the game. The ones that didn’t read over the summer are back to square one a lot of times because they forgot or lost all that they had learned that previous year. We are always learning and growing as readers, and to continue that growth we must continue to stimulate our brains with reading to be able to practice what we have learned. If you don’t practice what you have learned, then it will become harder to fully comprehend the text. I even notice with myself over Christmas break, we had around three weeks off of graduate school readings and papers, and when we started back up in January it was hard to get my brain back working. If that happened to me in just three weeks, I can’t imagine a child’s brain for the whole summer of not reading.

One challenge I have put towards my students this year in the beginning of the year is how to deeply read a picture book. Can we do this? When I say we are going to read a picture book, and I would like for you to pick a book out, they all go to the easy reader section…why is this? Why do they associate picture books with kindergarten or first grade level books? One answer I have gotten from my students, they are not exposed to pictures books that are at their grade level so that is all they know. We can’t assume our students know all there is to know about the types of books and the different genres out there. Even my 5th graders were clueless, and it is sad because there are some great picture books out there that I know deep reading could occur if they would have known it wasn’t a “baby” book as they call it. I showed my students some great picture books of all different genres, and they were amazed with how many there were. I told them that they can still use sticky notes with the picture books, and even draw pictures still. They weren’t sure why they would draw pictures if there were already pictures in the book, and I told them because your mental picture of what is happening in the book may be a bit different than the illustrators. You may want to add more detail, or take away some of the distractions in the pictures of items that aren’t relevant.

One way I have “trained” them, I guess is maybe the right word, is to teach one of our kindergarten classes for 30 minutes each day. I divided my class up in groups of two, and each day I have different groups go to the classroom. They are to pick out a picture book that is about on the 1st or 2nd grade level to read aloud to the students. Yes, I know that these books are more “babyish” as I would tell them, but my purpose behind this was different. I wanted them to practice and prepare their book for their teaching of the kindergarten class. They would work with their partner and come up with a DRTA lesson. They would put sticky note questions or discussion points in their picture book so they would be prepared ahead of time of the stopping points in the book. What they didn’t realize at the time is that they were deeply reading with trying to find the connections, making predictions, and formulating opinions to the book. When they read aloud to the kids and they ask the questions, the kids respond, and then from there they have to guide them through the book- it was a beautiful picture of engaged listening skills from the kindergarteners, but confirmed that my students were able to get to deep reading to be able to have a deeper conversation about the book through their stopping points with the younger kids. My kids laugh about it now as they are used to it and they say how they never thought they would enjoy reading pictures books in the 5th grade. They also said they figured someone would make fun of them for reading pictures books in the 5th grade. I told them that it is obvious that if you can deeply read the books you are reading to the kindergarten class with your stopping points and discussions, then you can deeply read any picture book of interest to you. This has now opened up a whole new world of books for my 5th graders when many of them thought picture books had ended once you left the 3rd grade.

The National Geographic website is a fun, bright, and interactive website for kids. It is very kid-friendly and has many multimedia features available to use. As I was searching through the different animals, I decided to read about African Elephants. I thought this would be interesting as my students just finished learning about gorillas in Africa. I loved the picture of the two elephant trunks twisted together. Such a sweet photo that I know my students would love doing a photo analysis with. When I was listening to the sounds they make, I was shocked! I guess I assumed they only made the one loud noise we always hear (hard to describe in writing). This was great because I am sure my kids assume the same thing. The video was so precious. Watching the little one walk and stepping on its trunk. This was very neat to watch about parenting and the love they have for their young. My students would be able to connect with the fact that these elephants live in the same areas the gorillas do that we just finished studying about. The map was a very helpful picture and would be a great print out if needed. This website allows the students to learn facts, watch videos, listen to the sound of the animal, find the animal on the map, make cards, and print a picture of the animal. The cool part to me is that all of this wonderful information is in one location, and is kid-friendly.

The National Geographic young explorers’ link is one that I have used before and love. I introduced this website at our county workshop this past week. Everyone was amazed how beautiful the graphics were, even when projected on the screen. We all discussed how they could use it for vocabulary reinforcement in science, as well as reading for comprehension. I could use this in multiple ways with my struggling readers. I could use the books with sticky notes to teach basic note taking with these short, picture book type magazines. If you go to the NG Explorer link, it takes you to another page with access to more fun interactions with science and reading. The Glossary was great so the kids can look up unfamiliar words. It is nice to have one central location for words and definitions so they don’t have to wait to find the meaning. NG Explorer also provides very detailed lesson plans with activity sheets and objectives posted. This is a great resource for teachers and for our students at home and in our schools.

After clicking on the Mountain Gorillas link, I realized quickly that it was the exact same link I had posted in my Internet Workshop. I picked this site for many reasons, same as the connection piece like the elephant that I picked. Again, each element of this website with the facts, pictures, videos, etc. are an excellent source for enhancing and guiding our kids learning. Reading this type of text does help me get into reading because of all the “extra stuff” that the site offers. The audio, video and plain text mix is perfect for our young readers. The text is not very long, and is very kid-friendly. This type of text is very different than reading print text as it is interactive, has noise, videos, pictures, and an email feature. Printed text you will need a book mark, digital reading you can do all the “extra” stuff still.

After visiting the site “we give books” I noticed that I had free access to many books. I loved how quickly the book pulled up on my computer and how well it looking on the projector screen. I read the one about birds because I thought it would help assist my struggling readers build some background knowledge for the bird unit we are doing at school. They must be able to identify bluebirds in order to “follow” the birds. This is the way to go in a Hispanic speaking classroom, and one that I think several students would love.

With the new 21st century learning, I find that just by looking at the very first standard 5.SI.1 that it speaks of using various types of resources to gather information using print and online media. Going down to another standard 5.IN.1 where it talks about differentiation when reading information text and using print, online, and audio sources to complete the assigned task. The next standard is titled Technology as a Tool and then another as Research Process. Those two are very new and even more specific to getting our students involved with online reading and e-books. Objective 5.TT.1.1 states to use a variety of technology tools to gather data and information such as web-based resources, e-books, online communication tools, etc. I know several veteran teachers at my school would have never thought this would be a requirement within our teaching styles, and they are struggling with grasping this new style. This is where I have realized that it is up to the ones that truly feel comfortable with this new common core and 21st century learning styles to help guide those veteran teachers and become a true support group for them. It isn’t an easy switch for them, and will take a lot of time and patience. This is why it is so important to create a positive working environment to where you can help one another and help build a good foundation with this new technology that we are going to be required to use. My one question is, how in the world are school systems going to be able to afford all of this new technology to meet the criteria for the new common core? We can say grants all we want, but if we all start doing that, we know those are limited too.

(Delphinoy) http://www.delphinoy.com/whats-the-difference-from-using-a-tablet-and-an-e-reader-when-reading-an-e-book/