Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude Lately

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I'm linking up with the fabulous Michelle over at BigTime Literacy to share a few things I'm most grateful for on her Gratitude Lately link up.  Hope you'll join in!   

I'm thankful for my kiddos and easy-to-create reading nooks that fit under the dining room table.  Nooks keep my kiddos comfy and motivated to read! #raisingwildreaders
I'm thankful for my husband who is kind, supportive and loving on a daily basis, my parents and in-laws who are always so generous, and my sister who is the most attentive and sweet aunt to my little ones!  
My parents enjoying a night out...
A recent picture of my in-laws during their travels!
My sister and the kids at the zoo this past summer...
I'm thankful for those in my PLN.  I have learned so much and will continue learning from the friends I have already met or may never meet.  Thank you!
I'm thankful for my jobs as a Reading Specialist and Mentor, the students, the staff and my mentees.  They make me look forward to going to work each day!
Last, but not least, I'm thankful for a house filled with friends, family and food on this amazing Thanksgiving day! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GUEST BLOGGER! Reading in the Wild Book Study: Chapter 2 Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

Welcome back to the #D100bloggerPD book study on Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits!  Thank you for joining us. Literacy Loving Gals is excited to host it's very first guest blogger.  She brings to you some highlights of Chapter 2: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material. 
Hello, my name is Courtney.  I am a Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist in School District 100.  I work alongside Colleen, who has welcomed me as a guest blogger, as well as Angela from Miss G Does 5th.  I've been thinking about joining the blogging world and decided this would be the best way to get my feet wet.  Thank you to Kristin from Reading and Owl of the Above for organizing this book study and inspiring me to start my first blog post!
Miller starts off Chapter 2 by telling us how she was struggling, alongside her husband, to purge the hundreds of books that have taken over their house throughout the years. These books were acquired by recommendations of trusted reading friends, book lists, review blogs and websites, book clubs and simply by (*gasp*) a cover!  After many days of sorting, discussing and laughing, there ended up only being about 20 books worth passing along.

After reading this, memories of me purging or keeping books flashed through my mind and the feelings I had when doing it.  As Wild Readers, we want to hold onto our lifetime of reading experiences and gain new ones.  Whether it is reading a book review, taking a stroll through the bookstore, or having a friend recommend a book, Wild Readers know how to search for and learn about new books to help nurture our love of reading.  It is our job to help students build this confidence and competence in choosing their own books.  This starts within the classroom, allowing students to choose their own text, to foster engagement and to increase reading motivation and interest. Miller claims teachers can support students by providing book recommendations, increasing access to interesting, engaging books and by promoting books during "reading conferences and personal commercials".
Over the years, I have read a variety of books aloud to my students.  It wasn’t always easy to do, but for the most part, it happened daily right before kids left my class.  I taught grades K-8 and they all loved it, especially the older ones!  At times, I found myself wishing I was able to keep a class just a tad bit longer because we were all on the edge of our seats to find out the rest of the story.  But there was always tomorrow and the conversations that came along with it were priceless.  Students made connections to authors we’ve read, searched for sequels and books from the same series or wanted to take the same book out to read again.  They were so excited to be reading.

In case you haven’t been incorporating read-alouds into your daily routines, or convinced you should be, Miller points out some extra benefits:
  • They build community.
  • They expose children to books, authors, or genres they might not discover on their own.
  • They provide prime opportunities to introduce students to genres they often avoid, like poetry, biographies and nonfiction.
  • They support developing readers.
  • They reinforce that reading in enjoyable.
Selecting Read Alouds
Teachers often come to me looking for ideas about what books to read-aloud.  Consider Miller's suggestions to help you decide:
  • Choose books from authors who will lead your students to more books. For example, look for well-known authors who appeal to students.  The librarian is a great resource for this!  
  • Share a variety of texts, including nonfiction, poetry and online articles.  Miller states children need more time to explore online reading material.  Her students go to Wonderopolis, which offers videos, nonfiction text, discussion questions and vocabulary words relating to one engaging question every day.  It's always important to explicitly model reading online! 
  • Consider time constraints and book length.  Try to have a balance between longer and shorter texts. 
  • Decide how students will view illustrations.  How will you show illustrations and text features?  The document camera is a great way to show this to a room full of students.  If you don't have access to one, allow students to view the book later. 
  • Read books that you enjoy.  If you aren't excited about a book, your students won't be either.
  • Ditch the read-aloud if it doesn't work.  Sometimes good books don't make the best read-alouds.  Talk with students about why you are moving on, offer the book as an independent choice and select a different one to read. 
Reading Community Suggestions
Building a community of readers is pivotal.  We have to show students how to love books starting with read-alouds.  Miller shares some of her students’ favorite read-aloud activities:

Invite students to share their favorite read-alouds. In the beginning of the year, have each student bring in his or her favorite picture book or title.  If students do not have the book, ask the librarian to check out the titles for you.
When everyone has a book, students gather in groups and reread their beloved favorites with classmates.  For students who lack meaningful early literacy experiences or don't read fluently, starting with easier books provides a community-building opportunity that levels the playing field.
When you have a substitute teacher, leave a read-aloud different from the one you are already reading to the class. 
Speaking from experience as a substitute teacher, this makes total sense.  I always felt so awkward reading the story that I had no idea about aloud to the class.
Students express fierce ownership for the books you share together and don’t want someone unaware of the story to continue your read-aloud.
Participate in World Read Aloud Days. 
It is always the first Wednesday in March, so I'm anticipating the students' excitement when I introduce it to them this year! 
World Read Aloud Day highlights the importance of literacy to all people and provides opportunities for children to reflect on their literacy and celebrate reading.  
Invite students to select your next read-aloud.  
Show students three to four brief book previews and let them vote.  This always brings about excitement among the students.

Post a list of the texts you read.
Miller suggests teachers keep a running list of every poem, article, picture book, novel and informational text you read.  I am going to implement this right away with the couple of 5th grade graders I see.
Students will love watching the list grow throughout the year.  It also serves as an anchor chart, reminding students how to accurately punctuate and capitalize titles.
Read-alouds provide students with support in choosing their own books. 
Bottom line, read-alouds are a powerful way to help students in their journey to becoming Wild Readers.
It helps to increase their title and author awareness, improving their background knowledge and experience, and foster increased motivation and engagement with reading through positive reading experiences.
Generate Further Interest
Read-alouds aren't the only way to initiate student interest in self-selecting books.  Exposing students to different texts in a variety of ways can help.  Miller offers some inventive ideas, such as:

The Mature Shelf: 
It is one shelf full of books kept behind her desk.  These books are not recommended in the beginning of the year.  Based on conversations during reading conferences, results from reading assessments and discussions with parents, books are then recommended to those students who are "emotionally and academically ready".  

Selection Reflections: 
Encourage students to reflect on their reading choices, starting by asking these five questions:

  • How do you find out about books that you would like to read?
  • When you see a book or hear about it, how do you decide that it is a book you would or would not like to read? 
  • Do you ever abandon a book? Who or why not?
  • Are you successful in choosing your own books to read? Why or why not?
Conferring Points: 
Providing students with supported opportunities to preview, evaluate, and choose texts gives them the practice they need in self-selecting books. 

Preview Stacks:
This is simply what it sounds like.  A stack of books created by the teacher for a specific student(s).  When making reading suggestions, Miller tells us to be careful not to influence students' opinions of books too much or take away their ability to choose freely what they want to read.  When creating preview stacks, teachers have to make sure to strengthen and support students' self-selecting attempts while drawing on our own knowledge of their reading interests, abilities and needs.  Questions to ask students: What genre do you want to read? What have you already looked at today? What was the last book you finished you really liked?  What sort of book are you thinking about? 
In reflection, this chapter came at a perfect time as our school just wrapped up the Scholastic Book Fair.  In the few moments I could steal during the day to check it out, I usually ran into different classes of students eagerly spending their money.  Students were either excitedly showing off the books they wanted or purchased or browsing the shelves, looking for the perfect book.  It got me thinking about student self selections because I noticed a few of our struggling readers choosing books I knew, and I’m pretty sure they knew, were too high for them.  I tried to “re-direct” and offer suggestions within their ability but, ultimately, it was up to the student.  At that point, I realized students had no idea how to self-select appropriate materials.  It's not that teachers aren't teaching students how to select books, because they are.  I've witnessed lessons and conversations.  

Perhaps we need to take a look at how we are helping to develop this ability and make the necessary changes to get students there faster.  Wild Readers know they can find something to read anywhere.  As teachers, it is our job to help foster this confidence among students to help them along their journey in becoming Wild Readers. 

Thanks for reading my very first post as a guest blogger!


Want to catch up on the #D100bloggerPD posts thus far?  Click HERE to access the links and view the schedule for future posts.  Next up in the book study is one of our multitalented middle school teachers, Rachel from Social Justice Heroes.  Her post on Miller's vignette Curating a Classroom Library? goes live on Monday, November 23rd. 
Thank you kindly for following along! :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Reading in the Wild Book Study: Chapter 1~ Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

Welcome to the Reading in the Wild book study!  Thank you to Kristin, over at Reading and Owl of the Above, for hosting the study. She was a first-rate participant in the #ReadingStrategiesCrew book study I hosted on The Reading Strategies Book this past summer, which is why I was eager to jump on board her book study. We also both attended the Illinois Reading Conference in early October (along with a remarkable crew from our district) and listened to Donalyn Miller herself.  Miller's session "Reading in the Wild: Learning from Lifelong Readers" was captivating and powerful, to say the least.  In any case, check out Kristin's blog to read her pensive kickoff launching the book study of Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller.
Donalyn Miller alongside my district crew and me!
Miller structures Reading in the Wild around five habits of, what she calls, *Wild Readers*:
  • Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read
  • Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material
  • Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers
  • Wild Readers Have Reading Plans
  • Wild Readers Show Preferences
This post reflects on the first habit of wild readers, which is dedicating time to read.  Chapter 1 focuses on the importance of not just modeling reading for students, but modeling the love of reading.  It starts out with, what I consider, a humorous and very relatable quote by Sherri Chasin Calvo: "If you have never said, "Excuse me" to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time."
Has this ever happened to you?  If so, you may be considered a wild reader.  Wild readers are those who choose to spend substantial amounts of time in their day reading.  If you are truly a wild reader, you find time for reading, despite your busy life.     

Miller is the perfect example of a wild reader.  She states she "reads for a living".   As she gives us a glimpse into her life as a reader, Miller explains how she's the happiest when reading.  Reading allows her to block out life's demands.  She finds "daily solitude within the pages" of her books.  Miller describes how she makes it a priority to carve out reading time in her day because it is something that matters to her.   An author named John Green was quoted in this chapter saying, "Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that" (2011).  I love this quote.  It's so true that life is filled with noise.  What better way to tune it out with a good book?

Miller realizes, "Finding time to read requires commitment." As adults, allocating time in the day for reading can be tricky. We all have busy lives and very long to-do lists.  Many of us have full-time jobs, children, a house to clean, clothes to wash and dishes to put away.  Just as adults have obligations, so do students.  Their to-do lists may include sports practice, doctor appointments, taking care of siblings, etc. 
No matter the obligations, reading minutes can be found throughout the day, only if you are dedicated to finding time. I came across this quote on Twitter and instantly associated it with wild reading (and exercising).
If we truly want to influence students to be lifelong readers, we must find the time to become wild readers ourselves.  We must model the habits of wild readers and share our reading excitement and experiences with students. Most teachers ask students to read at home on a daily basis, but don't read themselves, or share their own excitement about books with students. If you have excuses for why you don't read, so will students. The point being, we must *practice what we preach* to our students.

Miller provides suggestions to better support students' wild reading habits both at school and at home.  She affirms "It is necessary to model, explicitly teach, and reflect on students' development of lifelong, avid (or, as I call them, "wild") reading behaviors to ensure that students remain motivated, engaged readers."  Students can become wild readers when they begin to internalize reading habits.

According to Miller, teachers must set a reading foundation in the classroom before kids will internalize reading habits and become wild readers at home. She does this by carving out time in class for independent reading, passing books into her students' hands and discussing with students what they read. She shows her students how reading can enrich their lives, just as it enriches her own life. If students are part of a reading community at school, they begin to live like readers. They have the opportunity to exchange books with peers, share observations and impressions, as well as make book recommendations.  

Miller suggests a fresh idea to use at the start of the school year called Status of the Class to support students in sharing about books.  It's easy to implement, but is not necessarily used year-round.  It's more of a "get reading routines started" type of activity which may be the first four weeks of school or after holiday breaks from school to jump start reading activity.  

Miller states, "Students who don't read much or have lost their reading habit over the summer may not read much at first if we don't hold them accountable for their reading immediately."  Status of the Class is a form students are required to fill out daily.  Students then share their reading *status* with the class by using a "one-sentence, spoiler free summary of what is happening in the book" they are reading.  
Generally, if students are given choice in the books they read, time for independent reading and access to wild-reading role models in school, the more likely they will fall in love with reading.  If they fall in love reading, they'll most likely find time for it outside of the school day.  Miller states, "Beyond racking up reading miles, ensuring that our students read everyday at school provides students opportunities to fall in love with books and develop stamina for reading."  

Look below.  Have you seen this Why Can't I Skip My 20 Minutes of Reading Tonight graphic before?  I'm sure you have.  It's an oldie but a goodie.  As you already know, our classrooms are filled with a variety of readers, including those falling under the Student A, Student B and Student C columns.  Student A readers are most likely those who enjoy reading, while Student B and C readers are just those still needing to discover a love of reading.  It's never to late to become a wild reader!  Once students are given time and support to fall in love with books inside the classroom, it's time to demonstrate to students how to dedicate time to read outside of the school day.
In order to gain valuable reading minutes, Miller suggests teaching students to take notice of times and places throughout their day when a "Reading Emergency" may occur, especially when the school day ends.  A Reading Emergency is any stretch of free moments in a person's day that will allow him/her time for reading.  For example, students may be waiting for the bus, standing in line at the store or sitting in the back seat of mom's car stuck in traffic.  Encourage students to carry a book with them at all times.  When they catch themselves bored, waiting or in a "Reading Emergency", pull out a book and read.  Let students know these are valuable moments in their day that can be dedicated to reading!  I actually caught a student wild reading outside of school the other day.  Love it!
As I reflect on my own reading practices, yes, I've had a few excuses of my own every now and then.  However, I do end up finding time to read!  Yes, much of my hard-to-find time spent reading is dedicated to professional texts related to growing as a Reading Specialist and developing my foundational knowledge of best practices in Reading, not necessarily books filled with adventurous tales.  I tend to save those for summer, since I have a little more leeway in my schedule.  My point being, I do find time for reading, but it does take dedication.

Throughout my reading-binge moments, I have read ample research affirming the correlation of reading habits (or lack their of) and academic success.  Because of this, my husband and I carve out anywhere from 30-60 minutes each night to read with our 4-year-old twins, in addition to making books available for Reading Emergencies. We make reading time an enjoyable, adventurous and worthwhile priority in our home.  We desire our children to become wild, lifelong readers themselves.  We definitely make use of our available minutes!
Overall, Miller has provided me with an even better understanding of what truly cultivates a lifelong reader.  She has done much research supporting the importance of providing students with reading time in the classroom and at home.  She gives justification to the findings the more students read the higher their reading achievement.  Miller claims many classrooms are not developing wild readers, but if teachers do their part to demonstrate ways to become avid readers with our students, we will develop a classroom filled with readers in the wild!
Questions to Consider:
  • What might be some ways you prepare yourself to support wild reading habits in your classroom?
  • What do you want to be mindful of when trying to foster a love of reading inside and outside of your classroom?
Last, but not least, if you're interested in a convenient, downloadable resource, click the following link: Eight Ways for Parents and Teachers to Foster Wild & Lifelong Reading Habits.  I came across this tip sheet and thought it would be worthwhile to pass along to parents, colleagues and fellow bloggers.  

Don't own the book, yet?  Here's a little sneak peek from Donalyn Miller herself.  It may just be the nudge you need to acquire a copy for yourself. :)

Remember to follow along throughout the rest of the book study.  The full schedule is below.  Next up is Angela (my awe-inspiring mentee and outstanding first-year teacher) over at Miss G Does 5th.  Her post on Creating a Workshop Schedule That Works for You goes live on Monday, November 16!
Happy Reading and feel free to link up your posts below!  I will also gradually link the upcoming reflections of each chapter and vignette from the #D100bloggerPD participants for future reference. 
P.S. Thank you to 3AM Teacher and Educlips for the solid green backgrounds, I Teach What's Your Superpower for the arrow image and Kimberly Geswein for the fonts used in my post images. :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Busy, Busy Week! Five for Friday

Happy Friday!  I can't believe another one is upon us and that November is quickly passing.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Wow.  In any case, I'm linking up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for another edition of Five for Friday.  It's been many weeks since my last link up, so here I go!  
Parent-Teacher Conferences were yesterday from 12:30-7:30PM.  I had a great turn out.  Sitting down with each parent to discuss progress made by their child and listening to parents' comments regarding their child's feeling about our group time spent together is always welcomed.  As always, I made sure to let parents know their child brings much to group and is a wonderful addition to our *reading family*.  
A recently published article written by Christopher Lehman called Parent-Teacher Conference is Dead was very refreshing to read.  Nowadays, I feel as if teachers have so much "data" to share with parents during conferences, we have little time to connect on an emotional or personal level.    I have been a teacher leading Parent-Teacher conferences for 20 years now, but until my twins started preschool last year, I was never on the parent side of conferences.  Reading Christopher Lehman's highly-regarded advice for teachers and parents alike was very timely.  I was able to read the article, as well as send it out to the staff, prior to meeting with parents.  I made an even stronger effort to let parents know their child is cared for in group.  If you have a moment, take time to read and digest his valid points. 
On a lighter note, I started up a class Twitter account called @TeamNoffsinger earlier this week!  If you follow us, you'll get a peek into our reading groups via the perspective of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students.  Posts will begin streaming in after Thanksgiving Break, so if you have a class Twitter account, please let me know in the comments below.  We'd love to start following, communicating with and learning from friends in the outside world!
Now, here's the reason @TeamNoffsinger tweets are temporarily on hold until after Thanksgiving Break: Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Testing has started!  The Reading staff started testing students throughout the school this past Monday.  Testing will continue for the duration of November, so testing is my life at school for now, instead of working with students in small groups.  We have finished up 2nd and 5th grade students this week and will begin testing the 4th and 1st graders next week.  The progress they've made is astounding thus far.  Nice work, Irving teachers!  #IrvingPride

I've been preparing my post for an upcoming book study on Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Life Long Reading Habits.  The book study starts this Monday, November 9th on Reading and Owl of the Above.  It is hosted by Kristin, one of my district's amazing Reading Specialists and author of Reading and Owl of the Above.  Other Reading Specialists, Literacy Coaches and classroom teachers from my district will also be participating in the study.  We are known as the #D100bloggerPD Crew.  Please join us!  I will be reflecting on Chapter 1: Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read on Wednesday, November 11th.  Click HERE for more information!
Image created by Kristin from Reading and Owl of the Above.  Love it!
Another memorable Halloween has passed with the kiddos!  I had a Rapunzal who thought the long hair was "too heavy" to wear and a mask-less Spiderman who couldn't see with his mask on.  Below are pictures from a pumpkin hunt the weekend prior to Halloween, since the kids were in coats concealing their costumes on Halloween.  Tons of candy was collected (much too much for me to keep around the house)!  I'm thankful we managed to stay happy, warm and dry on a rainy Halloween.  All is right in the world. :)
I have Monday off from school and am looking forward to a little rest and relaxation from a busy week.  Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to link up with Kasey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching!  

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