What’s in Your TBR Pile?

Many, many years ago I was a presenter for Project Construct.  I had a super responsibility of teaching Missouri teachers about how to incorporate Readers’, Writers’ and Math Workshop into their classroom routine.  It was during this time that I learned about “nightstand books” and TBR piles.  Oh, you know, that 12-inch stack of books that sit next to your bed so you have them ready to go when you have a few minutes to read before bed?

Well, often my pile sits elsewhere than my nightstand, but for sure it’s always there.  And sometimes it’s taller than 12-inches.  Like in the summer when it’s about as tall as my 5-YO (she’s 40 inches right now, by the way. 🙂 ).  My current TBR pile looks like this:

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Anyhow, after we had learned about recipes and how they help guide us with book choices, we talked about something else readers do–make plans.  I started our conversation by asking a simple question: Why do people make plans?  I didn’t specifically say readers at this point because I wanted them to think broader and try not to guess my specific plan for the day just yet. Kids turned and talked to their partners and came up with SUPER ideas.  They connected this to how builders use blueprints and how important those are to making the building look “right” in the end.  They mentioned how writers make plans so they know what their stories are supposed to be (can you tell what we’ve been doing in Writers’ Workshop lately?).  They talked about how plans keep your organized and help you know what to do.

After that great start, it was easy to then expand the idea to how readers make plans for what they will read next.  This allows them to move smoothly from one book to another, without wasting reading time wandering around the library.  It helps readers think critically about what they want to read and why (I explained to my kiddos why each of those books is in my pile), and to be more purposeful in their choices.  This becomes especially easy if you choose books that are in a series, or if you “trust an author” and read all the books that they’ve written. I can TOTALLY do this with Ralph Fletcher, Sharon Creech, Jerry Spinelli, Joan Bauer and Liane Moriarty.

Kiddos had a great time trying out this strategy, and then send me their lists when they were finished.  We’re going to use them now and I plan to hold kids accountable to try out the books they put on their list.  While they can change, these piles (which are saved as pictures/notes on their iPads) help them think ahead and more purposefully use their time both in the classroom and at home.  I’m excited to see how they continue to help us grow as readers through this year and even beyond!


Flip That Room!

There seems to be a theme in my 5th grade class….(I’m not sure if I should take it personally, or just be really impressed that my kiddos are so creative….).

Today was a day full of lots of things: learning, noise, fun, business, reading, noise, creating, collaborating, noise.  But luckily most of it was not just what I call “noise noise.”  Much of the noise we made today was “learning noise.”  Noise that indicates lots of thinking and creating and sharing is happening.  And yes, it was loud.  But sometimes that’s just how we roll.  Especially when there are 25 of us in the room all talking at once!

So back to the theme I mentioned….we had to stop at one point today and regroup a little bit.  Writer’s Workshop was a wee bit rocky, and so rather than fight against the trouble we were having, we stopped, gathered together and agreed to try that lesson again another day.

Instead, I had them help me with a problem. I told them that I need their help to figure out how I could help them best be learners during our last few days of 5th grade.  We have work left to do, and we want to try to have a little bit of fun, too.  They had some great thinking, which culminated in the idea that parts of our classroom (or how they were using it) were not really working for us.  We agreed that we could work together to fix that problem and create a space that we could do some amazing end-of-the-year work in for a few more weeks.

We started with every kiddo creating their own dream plan of what our classroom would look like.  Then kiddos met in their tribes, presenting their plan to the 4-5 kiddos in their group.  From their, the tribes created a new plan incorporating the best features from each individual plan.  Then we shared out as a class, and voted on the one we thought would work best for us.

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Here’s what is sounded like during that time.  Remember, it’s loud, but it’s not. just. noise.  They are busy solving problems!

Can’t wait to share the final product next week!  Seems like another theme this week is that I forget to take “after” pictures!  Stay tuned!

Everybody Loves Reading!

Or at least they will when I’m done with ’em! HA!

One of the most important goals of the beginning of 5th grade–or any grade–is to help kids get to the place where they love school.  Really love it.  This is the case with the beginning days of my Reader’s Workshop as well.  Unfortunately, I have students that come to me and can honestly say that they don’t read because they want to.  They read because they have to, or they don’t read at all.  Boo. 😦

So in addition to conversations about how our Reader’s Workshop will function (like we had as we filled in this chart the other day):

Kids worked in pairs first and then we discussed together our thoughts about what Reader's Workshop looks and sound like, and how that helps us as readers.

Kids worked in pairs first and then we discussed together our thoughts about what Reader’s Workshop looks and sound like, and how that helps us as readers.

we also have lessons that give kids chances to see themselves as readers, and to see what is possible for them–no matter where they are starting.

Today we started with a conversation about mindset (growth vs. fixed) and tied it to this quote:

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We talked about how every reader is on a journey, and those journeys look different for every person.  We talked about how having a growth mindset–believing that we are capable of achieving great things if we keep trying, changing and making mistakes–helps us on our journey.    Then I described one reader’s journey from short, picture books with few words to reading Harry Potter using this pile of books:


While the scenario was hypothetical (I know…sometimes stories I tell at school are made up.  Don’t sue me. 🙂 ), it is very much like what real readers do, and I wanted my readers to see that there are steps that they can plan to help them get from where they are to where they want to be (which in this case was the desire to read a Harry Potter book–a very real goal for many readers!).

After I told the story of how this reader traveled through their journey and after I piled these books high in Brittany’s arms (who so kindly volunteered to play the role of the reader in my story), I had everyone think about whether they saw themselves somewhere in this pile of books.  Maybe they were already on a similar journey to this one.  Or maybe they were starting in a different place.  Regardless of the answer, their next step was to consider their own personal reading journey and write about it.
I want readers in my room to understand and appreciate that we need to think past the book we’re reading and onto the next book and the next book and so on (I’m working through Reading Ladders to help me help them with this right now).  Everywhere has somewhere they can go!  Here’s to a remarkable reading year in Rm. 202!