#FDOFG2017–Readers Gonna Read (Part 1)

Oh goodness.  Reading.  It’s one of the most important (and one of my favorite!) things that happens in first grade. Ok, well, in any grade, but the beginning of the life long journey often starts in first grade, and I want to make sure it starts out in a positive way. 🙂

We do that in a number of ways, and one of those is by starting the #classroombookaday challenge.  Listening to, talking about and enjoying LOADS OF BOOKS is such an important piece of the literacy puzzle.  Reading (and lots of choice inside that reading) is another one.  And so we begin to read, read, read early in the year, and provide many positive experiences around books.

Almost on the first day of school, we have a conversation about how our classroom library is organized, and what they notice about how it looks, as well as how we will use it.  We talk about the kinds of things we like to read, and begin to fill our book boxes early on.  I always enjoy putting the library together when I’m setting up the room…

…but there’s nothing better than when there are actually READERS in it!

Besides being able to read during choice time and actual reader’s workshop, we’ve also begun our year with some necessary “quiet time” after lunch and recess.  During this time, kiddos can make a choice to read/write/draw or rest quietly.  Really it’s a chance for kids to be alone (which is hard but also necessary for many–me included!), as well as wind down a little after a busy morning.  It’s a time of day that many kiddos have a chance to finish up work or a project (usually of their choice) that they started earlier in the day.  Eventually this time will fade away, as we get more into our “real” schedule, but for now it’s a nice brain break before we get into hard thinking again with math.

One more exciting place first grade readers got to visit was the ROBINSON LIBRARY!!  We have library in our specials rotation now, so it took until we got to an “E” day before it was our turn.  Kiddos only go for 25 minutes and normally wouldn’t have been able to check out until the 2nd visit, but GOODNESS that would not have been fair so we stayed a little later so we get our hands on some new books!!  Kiddos got to meet our new Library Media Specialist, Mrs. Davis, and also hear a good story.  Before we went, I also read a library themed book. 🙂

It was SUPER fun to watch the kiddos work their way through the library and see what treasures they would find.  Finding out what kids like to read is just one more way of building community and getting to know them as readers and as little people. 🙂

Looking forward to TONS more fun and learning happening in the library this year!

#classroombookaday UPDATE: 300 books!!

It’s been a while since I posted an update on our reading.  The last few weeks of the year were busy and I didn’t get a chance to read as much I would have liked, and also I felt like the way the door looked wasn’t really changing much so posting a picture was  kind of unnecessary.

Anyhow, we’re in a new year, have added many more books and today we reached another AMAZING MILESTONE in our journey!

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And while my phone didn’t get the whole thing (stupid memory!), it was a pretty great start to our day!

Just a few more…

She already has some mad upside-down-reading skills.  A teacher in training, perhaps??  And man was she super proud to be reading to us.  This was actually the second time she shared with us this week.  Go Penny!

See those white books on the top row? One of the best things is the number of kid-authored books we’ve been reading lately.  Gotta give a shout-out to Mara and her prolific publishing.  She has written 4 books this week, and we LOVE THEM!  They are rhyming and SO FUNNY!  Aadish suggested today that we get Mara her own author box in our library.  Great idea! And well, I think EVERYONE should have their own author box.  Hmm….

I still say this is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my classroom!  Bring on the books!  Can’t wait to share the next great thing. 🙂

#classroombookaday UPDATE: WE FILLED UP OUR DOOR!

Many of you have been along for this entire journey so far as we’ve taken on the #classroombookaday challenge, but for those who have not, please check out the links to them here so get caught up before we share this momentous occasion with you. 🙂

Week 1  Week 2   Week 3  Week 4  Week 5  Week 6

Week 7  Week 8  Week 9  Week 10  Week 11  Week 12

Ok…are you ready for the big news??  Take a look (just peek past that super cute kindergartner–she’s really excited for Rm. 202!!):

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LOOK!!  WE FILLED UP OUR DOOR!!!  Amazing, right??  And for the record (I’m keeping one, aren’t you??), it happened on Thursday, November 17, after we read our 225th book!!  WAHOO!!

And remember when we started our Friday with Read With Your Roadrunner? Well, a kind and loyal parent and blog reader, Mrs. Schuster, happened to ask me about the status of our door.  “Have you filled it yet?  If not yet, then soon, right?”  I admitted that we had indeed already met the goal, but that because of printer problems, I hadn’t yet been able to get the pictures ready so I could attach them.

Well, this actually worked out in our favor as her next question was something along the lines of “Well you’re going to celebrate it, right?” Of course I knew that this was a momentous occasion, but I had failed to plan how we would celebrate.  Talk about a right time/right place situation–Mrs. Schuster would come to the rescue and we planned a little ditty for later that afternoon.  In the meantime I had to get the pics on the door and throw together what we’d do at our party. 🙂

So…after we did some heavy work cleaning up our “hot mess” of a room before we got started (thanks for those words, Aadish!), we gathered on the rug to enjoy a special time celebrating some AMAZING work we’d done as readers together.

We gathered in a circle on our rainbow rug (where almost all of our reading also happens!) and had a little chat.  We mused about all the books we’ve read so far (225 to cover the door, but 228 altogether!) and tried to imagine what that meant in terms of number of words we’d read and also about how many we’d get to by the end of the year if we were already at this point in NOVEMBER!! It was so great to watch their faces and listen to their answers and it was clear that there were only positive, happy emotions running through Rm. 202 friends.  And it was also clear how the only “big” numbers that many first graders know at this point are a billion or a “million billion thousand”! Hee hee.  Those were their answers to how many words we’d read and how many books we would end up with. Love it.  Probably not that many, Rm. 202 friends, but FOR SURE there would be close to (or maybe more than) 500.  At least that’s my guess!

I wish I had pictures and videos of all that happened, but hey–I’m usually the videographer and photographer capturing all of that, so not this time.  But you what?  It is probably better that way.  When I’m  not looking at the world–and our classroom–through the screen of my iPhone, I can be more present in the moment I’m trying to celebrate.  I can more thoughtfully digest the things they’re saying about how all of these books are making us SUPER READERS and what their favorite titles are, and how Jamie can speak to the exact day and place we read one of her favorite books. “Don’t you remember? We read it outside that day we spent at Meramec under the tree?” was what she reminded us.  Isn’t it a magical example of how this challenge is as much about the EXPERIENCE of reading as it is the number of books or the skills we’re gaining.  I so want for each of my learners to have that same “I remember when I read…” moments–lots of them!–that will carry them far beyond first grade.  Hopefully long into their adult lives when they can begin replicating them in their own families. 🙂

But that’s for later.  For now I can only control the experiences I provide, the titles I choose and the excitement I bring that I hope is contagious and inspires them to do the same.  And as for inspiration, Mrs. Schuster (remember the mom from the beginning who suggested our party?) was inspired to write us a poem to mark the day.  It was pretty great.  But since I wasn’t ready I don’t have a good video of her reading it to us. 😦 Boo.  Here is the text, though, which will soon become a permanent fixture somewhere in our room.

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Isn’t that the best?  THANK YOU THANK  YOU THANK YOU for that little gem, Renee, and for letting me share it here.  Only makes sense. 🙂

Oh, and then there were 20something kids eating fruit leather and letting it hang out of their faces like tongues.

And wouldn’t you know it?  They connected this to a book we’d read this week about how a if your tongue was as long as a frog’s tongue, you could like your belly button! These kiddos are in DEEP!!  Love it. 🙂

And a my goodness–what a great way to finish a busy week!  EVERYONE was all smiles as they walked out of Rm. 202 for the weekend.  Here’s to a door-ful of great books to come!!

Rm. 202 Kids Take Over–Read Aloud!

Last week I was having a reading conference with a friend, and as we were talking about TBR piles and good book recipes, another idea came to me that would help one reader, and then in turn many others: kiddos doing read aloud.

As I continued to talk to this friend about books, I suggested that he choose a book from his new TBR pile to share with the class.  We talked about how he would have to prepare to do this, including practicing holding the book up so that everyone could see the pictures.  It was totally picture-worthy while he was working.

And maybe the best part was when he turned to me and said, “Wow, this is hard.  My arm hurts!  Is it hard for you, too?” We had a great little chat about how teachers have to have strong arms. 🙂

He continued to work and was ready to present to us.  Man was he excited!

Check out the stories he shared with us:

Well…as you can imagine, this sparked interest by many other people to be able to share with us at read aloud time.  And what a great idea, as I considered all of the many things kiddos learn on both sides of this opportunity.

We began to schedule read alouds in a couple of ways: I gave some friends the assignment based on books we were reading in our small group together, and some friends just began to request a spot.  And since then it’s become a “have-to” for everyone.  It’s just such a good idea that we (ok, probably I) decided all should participate!

Amber took the next turn, and did a super job of matching up to what my lesson would have been that day anyway–good readers use evidence from the text to support their thinking.

Then on Friday, Emily took her turn and taught us about fiction/non-fiction (as well as using some pretty great teacher moves for management!) with The Little Work Plane.

Now don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite Rm. 202 friend in this post–each will get their turn.  While I had originally never intended to take this path with readers in our room, it’s a SUPER example of how organically ideas come up for us, and how kids’ ideas are often the BEST ideas! Thanks, Rm. 202 kiddos for taking chances, learning new things and then sharing that learning with the rest of us!

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!

 

Recipe For a Good Book

I remember vividly the first time I ever taught about recipes in my classroom.  It was towards the end of the year, when I was teaching 4th grade (ok, I don’t remember the exact year–maybe 2006?–but I do remember the kiddo!), and during a reading conference a kiddo was struggling with finding a book that was a good fit for her.  For some reason I was thinking about how what she really needed was a plan–a recipe–for how to find a good book for her.  And since that first conference so many years ago, I’ve found that this lesson is one that almost every kiddo (and probably some adults, too!) could find helpful.  I went back to look at when I had written about it here, and I found this post from about 4 years ago.  Rather than try to explain the whole thing again, I ask you to take a few minutes and read about it from back then.  Really, I’ll wait. It won’t take long.  Just come back when you’re finished and I’ll tell you about how it worked in 2nd grade the other day (See? Told you all kinds of kids could benefit from it!  I think I’ve used it in every grade level I’ve taught over the years, and even for myself!) 🙂

Are you back?  Well, like I said before, this issue seems to come up every year and now that I think about it, maybe that speaks to the lessons I teach at the beginning of the year on how to choose books.  I wonder why they aren’t “sticking” and why kiddos eventually need this secondary explanation of “good book” recipes.  I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they change so much as readers over a given school year (especially if they are younger readers, or struggling readers making big gains) and so the books that were just-right or “good” for them in August are certainly not the same for them in March.  I guess like anything else, as well, just telling them once probably isn’t enough.  Perhaps I should find a way to incorporate book choice lessons into every unit that I teach.  In many ways choosing a just-right fiction book is very different from choosing a just-right non-fiction book anyway.  Oh, and I feel like I should mention that my definition of “just-right” book doesn’t have so much to do with a level as it does with student interest, motivation and desire.  All of that other stuff can be worked on once you help them find THE book for them.  Many times the kiddos who first need my recipe lesson are ones who don’t really see themselves as readers yet.  They don’t really know what to do when they’re standing in the aisles of the school library or looking at the buckets in our classroom library and need a hook to get them started.  That’s really what I’m thinking about when I help guide them here.

Ok, well, just like it happened in that example from 5th grade many years ago, I had a conference with a kiddo the other day who needed some guidance to find his version of a good book.  We talked about books he has read that he really liked and what it was about them specifically that he liked.  We used those things as our “recipe” and wrote them down:

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This now becomes a shopping list when he’s in our classroom, the school library, the bookstore, the book fair, the county library, etc.  The big idea is that if he knows what he likes he knows when he’s found it.  This is a HUGE idea that kids often miss.  They so often just wander through the shelves not really knowing what they’re looking for, expecting that they will just know what it is when they find it.  It’s like traveling to a new place without a map AND without really knowing your destination.  You will NEVER get there.

Well, after this first conference, I ran into two other friends in the same day that needed the same lesson and so it quickly got moved to my “everybody-needs-this-as-a-mini-lesson” list.  I then showed everyone in Rm. 202 the plan the next day by sharing my own example:

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Not everyone is necessarily ready for this right now, but everyone had a go at trying their own list and we will tweak over the coming days as they practice using it for book shopping.  The great part is that it is customizable, personal, and specific to each reader.  And it can be easily changed as they change as readers.  LOVE!

Series Reading Groups

We have been working with series of books in Readers’ Workshop lately.  Our newest unit, which has a focus on patterns, characters and changes, is asking students to look at a series of books (one per group) to find similarities and differences.  Each kiddo in the group is reading a different book (which is something I’ve never done before) and when they meet, the team is responsible for talking about what they’ve each found in their books individually.

We’ve worked on looking at what is always the same (patterns in the series), what we can learn about characters, asking ourselves why certain things are important, marking the text with post-its so we don’t forget what we’ve noticed, talking “long and strong” about our post-it notes, making sure we understand what our partners are saying by asking clarifying questions, and using a Venn diagram to model what we notice between the books in our groups.

We’ve chosen books series that match each level of reader in my classroom: Horrible Harry, Roscoe Riley Rules, Berenstain Bears, Clifford, Mercy Watson and Little House on the Prairie.

It’s been really exciting to see what they’ve been able to do with this study.  For many it’s the first time they have really read a chapter book.  While each group has different conversations based on the members and the books, each works with diligence and purpose as they discuss what they are learning about their texts.  They are really thinking deeply about their books, having fun with literacy and their reading conversations are leaking over into other parts of our day.  The other thing I’ve seen is that many have been positively pressured to higher levels of thinking and participating because of what they see their friends doing.  Love that kind of friendly competition!

I know this kind of thing would be best explained with videos, but all I have is pictures.  Imagine that you can hear quiet murmurs of engaging conversations around books that kids love and it would sound just about right!

What series do you enjoy reading?  We’d love some recommendations for our next choices! 🙂