#classroombookaday UPDATE: Week 8

It’s the end of the 1st Quarter, and I am SO GLAD I decided to keep track of our books like this!  I know that it has helped us in loads of ways, and has changed some of my thinking as well.

First of all, while it is not hard data, I can tell that the kiddos in my room have gotten more interested in both reading and writing because of the presence of so many great books!  The first few days of school, I remember saying sadly to my friends, “This class doesn’t like to read!  They don’t like books! What is up with that!?”  Honestly, I remembered the sounds of disgust and the moans that emerged from many first grade bodies when I’d announce that we would meet on the rug to share a story, and the mention of having THEM read was like asking them to drink vinegar!  I was seriously worried that we’d be fighting all year about how amazing reading and writing are and how you should do them every day.  To look at them now, you’d never know that was where we had started.  I can say that everyone in my class is a willing reader, and many choose to do so whenever they get a chance to make a free choice.  It has also upped the excitement about writing, as well, since Rm. 202 kiddos understand the connection between reading a great book and where it came from.  They have, on many occasions written their own versions of great stories we’ve read–mainly Elephant and Piggie, but also other Mo Willems books (yep, we’re still HUGE FANS!).  They are then super excited to be able to read those books to the class; this is a new phenomenon in my primary classes–I’ve never had kiddos so eager to read to their friends!  You will notice many of these kid-published titles on our door. 🙂

Secondly, I’d have to say that our excitement with #classroombookaday has changed my intention, purpose and selection of read alouds in our class.  Read aloud has also been a big deal in my classroom, and I completely believe that it is a crucial piece of the puzzle to creating strong readers and writers–and thinkers!  In the past, however, my read alouds have been primarily chapter books.  Even in 1st grade, my book choices were longer texts (often series or other stories) that I know and love that I want to expose my kiddos to so they can love them, too!  First grade read alouds last time included graphic novel series like Lunch Lady and Babymouse, which most kiddos hadn’t yet heard of.  We also enjoyed many authors that wrote a variety of different kinds of books, like Kate DiCamillo.  We have read the Mercy Watson series, the Leroy Ninker series, as well as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  While I do believe I will eventually get around to reading longer texts and starting our Read Aloud Timeline (another core part of my literacy instruction), I think this will probably not happen now until after the new year.  Because of my focus on the #classroombookaday challenge, I’ve become more interested and aware of great picture books and picture book authors that I didn’t really know before (it’s weird I know, I am a first grade teacher and I didn’t really read picture books).  This has lead to some new friends and new favorite books and new people to connection with on Twitter with my class.   This whole process has also increased the amount of books that kiddos bring me from home or from the library that we “HAVE TO READ.”  I love that they are being more discriminate about what their friends might like or what a “good” book sounds like. Win/win for everyone, wouldn’t you say?

Ok, so here’s our new door picture, up to date from last Friday.  We’re up to 152 now–which blows my mind!  And we still stop to look at the beautiful book covers (as does almost everyone else who walks by!) every time we’re in the hall.  Check it out!


This week we read many less books than previous weeks.  I’d say it was probably because it was the last week of the quarter and so worked much more on finished up assessments and such instead of gathering together on the rug for a lesson (which is when most of our read alouds happen).  We have 3 kid-written books on our door this week, as well as a Curious George book, a wordless book by Tomie dePaola (which is a new author to us), another Ashlyn Anstee book that also has an Emily Arrow songEmily Arrow song, a Pigeon book we hadn’t read, a Pete the Cat math book and the second book from the Global Read Aloud schedule.  Whew!  Even with less titles, we were busy and engrossed in REALLY GOOD BOOKS!

I do have a couple more pictures to share before I go…

Mara, Kaiden and Aadish are three kiddos that have been most interested in writing their own texts for our class to read.  This week we had one from each of them, but I’m sorry to say I only have a picture of Kaiden’s book–not of him actually reading it.  Sorry buddy!

Ok, one more. 🙂  Ms. Turken’s class is also on the #classroombookaday journey, and their board looks like this:


Don’t all those books just make you happy?!  Thanks for reading!  As always, if you have a book or author suggestion, please leave us a comment and we’ll definitely try it out! 🙂

A Book Binding Machine?

I shared a couple of days ago about the class books we make that go along with our Read Aloud Timeline.   Well, today it was time to put together the books from our last 2 read alouds and so we took a little field trip to learn about this machine:

CAM01420Have you ever seen one of those?  It’s funny how excited they were to learn about how it works.  This was partly (I’m sure) because it is housed in a teacher workroom where kids aren’t allowed to go (but that we sneaked into for a few minutes!) but also because it’s just pretty cool.  And old.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same machine that’s been in that workroom for the last 20 years.  And I made books on it the last time I taught 1st grade 10 years ago.  But hey–even in this age of technology and digital learning–sometimes you just need to do things the “old school” way.  That totally works in this case. 🙂

Read Aloud Timeline: First Grade Version

If you’ve been here a while, then you know about how big of a deal read aloud is in my room, and you have probably read the rationale of the read aloud timeline, too.

Well…then you can understand how dismayed I was related to this topic when I first heard of my move back to primary.  I had spent 10 years collecting some of my favorite upper-grade chapter books, reading some of them over and over, year after year because of their impact and enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, there are read alouds in first grade, too.  TONS of them.  I mean sometimes we read 4-5 picture books in one day.  But I was sad that I’d be missing my chapter book time, kids all gathered around my feet hanging on every word, yelling “don’t stop” when I closed the book because the chapter was over and the story was just too good to not keep going.  What I found out is that that scene can happen in first grade, too–it’s just with different books and different kids.

I have been a collector of books for a while, and spend much of my summer reading piles and piles of them.  Now the piles I get when I come home from the library are just as tall, but there are more books in them.  So actually all of the things I love about the read aloud timeline are still happening, just in a little bit of a different way.

I chose the first book we’d read this year, after recommendations from two fabulous first grade teachers I know, Leah and Christy.  When I asked my colleagues to share favorite primary chapter books, they separately suggested the My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  I was kind of shocked that in all the years I’ve been both reading and teaching, I’d never heard of them.  I tried the first book out with my own kids at home this summer and it was a hit, so I figured I’d follow their advice and try it out.


When we got to the end of this book, and it was time to draw the images for our timeline, I was a little unsure if they could actually do it.  I know, that’s probably not fair, but again–I had established the whole idea with older readers and was only partly sure that beginning readers (or listeners in this case) would be able to process the story in a way that would allow them to create a detailed visual.

But what I got instead was a great collection of detailed, colorful pictures of my students’ favorite images from the book.  After two tries of voting for our favorite image (I did learn that it’s REALLY hard to vote on the best picture unless that picture is yours….), we were able to pic one that reminds us of the main idea of the story.  Since then we’ve voted to read Clementine, the first in the Babymouse series and now The Lemonade War.  I am SO excited with how this is going, and my kiddos love it, too!  They love read aloud, and it’s helping them learn to love books–which I hope will stay with them for a long time to come!

Check out what this year’s portion of the timeline looks like:


Bummer…I just hung up the latest one today, but didn’t get a picture of it. See how great those look up there? The best part is that we’re already on book 4 and we’ve only been in school for 6 weeks! We’re on track to fill up the whole wall with timeline images!


Another view. Oh, and there’s the title I finally got up to go with our self-portraits. Things have been busy in Rm. 202!

Read Aloud = Another Learning Time

Read aloud is kind of a big deal in my room.  I wrote about it briefly here last year.  Hopefully here’s more to the story. 🙂

I think that reading is important.  Reading is making meaning, understanding both what the words say and what they mean.  Understanding text as you hear it is an important skill, in addition to being able to comprehend the text you read for yourself.   Time is also important, and the time we have during our school day is precious.  So being able to get extra bang for your learning buck is really great.

Read aloud–or “chapter book” time–is that time for me.  I use this time to expose my students to great literature, books that they may not otherwise have heard of, as well as to discuss topics that we need to delve into (bullies, families, respect, etc.) and introduce and then practice reading strategies that I want students to use in their independent reading.

The first RA of the year is also a fun, easy one, that everyone can easily relate to and begin to make connections around.  This year (as well as last), I started with The Boys Start the War by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  It’s a great story about kids who play practical jokes on each other, who come from interesting families and who just do typical “kid stuff” as they go through their days.  This fun, joyful story gets my students in the mood for fun as readers, and helps me set the stage for harder work I’ll have them do as the year goes on.  During this first book is also when I introduce the partner and thinking structures we’ll use throughout our time in RA.  The first one is called “say something,” and is really just what it sounds like: I stop at certain points in the story–where there is probably something that the students can react or relate to–and have them “say something” to their partner.  In the beginning there are no rules for these conversations, but eventually we structure the conversations to include thinking that good readers do, like making connections, making predictions, inferring something, reacting to something funny, telling a part that they really liked, summarizing, etc.    At the end of the first chapter book, we begin our Read Aloud Timeline.  Well, actually we start the current year’s section of the timeline, which dates back a few years with past classes.  It hangs on the wall around our room like this:

Hopefully you can see it up there–up near the ceiling.  Images taken from each book we read during our year together, chosen by the class as a whole.

The beginning of this year’s section looked like this:

Devan’s image of a water fight that breaks out while the characters are supposed to be washing the windows was chosen to grace our wall as the first picture this year!

Our second book this year was Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea.  This one is nominated for the Mark Twain Award, which we choose for the state of Missouri.   I usually read at least one or two nominated books from the published list, so that my kiddos have more of chance of having read (or had read to them) the minimum of 4 that they need in order to vote.  This one was a little more intense than the first one, and is a story of a 5th grade class and their fabulous teacher.  Because of some decisions along the way (which many deem as bad ones), an accident occurs and they are without their beloved teacher for most of the year.  I’m happy to say that the ending is a happy one, but it’s not easy going along the way.  The topics in this story allow my students to continue to connect and relate, but also helps them to reach outside themselves and think about what they’d do in difficult situations; these decisions can be made, however, within the safety of a good story.  During this second book, I add to their RA toolbox, and turn “say something” into “write something.”  Again, it’s just like it sounds–at certain times we stop and write something about the story.  This also allows me to introduce the place where they will collect this thinking.  Everyone is given a Read Aloud Journal:

What?  It looks like our cubs?  You betcha!  Those half-sized notebooks get a work out in our class.  I don’t remember who first gave me the idea of hacking a spiral notebook in half, but I love them!  You should try it!

The image for BOMT on our wall was drawn by Owen.  It looks like this:

Sorry–I have a curse of blurry pictures I think–but hopefully you can see that it’s a picture of the hospital room where Mr. Terupt spends much of the story and plays a big role in the book.

In our RA Journals, we’ll collect our thoughts about books we share together this year.  Some of it they share with others in our class, and some entries I use for assessment, as well.  See? More bang for our learning buck. 🙂

Right now we’re in the middle of another FABULOUS book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I found it this summer and was beyond amazed at how great it was.  A whole movement has been started around this story to help children learn to “choose kind” rather than bully or mistreat others.  This one has the same setting (5th grade in a school), the same structure as the other two (chapters and sections that alternate between different characters to show varying points-of-view) as well as themes of respect and valuing people for who they are rather than what they look like.    During this book we started another strategy for showing our thinking: a behavior-over-time graph.  With this organizer, students can show what they’ve discovered about how the characters are feeling throughout the story, using evidence from the text to support their thinking.  It’s a Systems Thinking strategy that you can learn more about here.   As with the other strategies we use in RA, this is one I hope students add to the independent reading arsenal, as well.

So, as you can see, Read Aloud is work time in our room.  It’s no rest-and-quiet-down-after-recess-time in Room 202.  Read aloud = another learning time in our world.  And we learn alot here!

What suggestions do you have for read alouds?  Have you read any of the books we’ve shared so far this year?  Leave us a comment and tell us what you’re thinking. 🙂