Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan is an amazing graphic novelist. He does so much with so little: gestures, facial expressions, cinematic pacing and effects (zoom in, zoom out, film noir).

His version of Snow White is set just after WWI in New York City. If you want to analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text, or compare and contrast different versions of a story, or even study the impact of the setting (both time and place) or the telling of a story, this is the book for you. If you always wished for the witch to get what she deserves, Matt Phelan delivers. And the way he handles the seven dwarfs? You'll love it.

by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press, due out September 13, 2016
review ARC provided by the publisher

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Reading Notebooks Early in the Year

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016.

I am never quite sure if I am doing the right thing early in the year when it comes to reading notebooks. When I taught 4th and 5th grades, reading notebooks were such an important tool to my students' understanding around their reading. The things they were able to discover and understand and the high levels of talk around text were supported with the notebook. I've never been strict about a notebook--it is really a tool that my readers can use if it helps them understand. When I moved to 3rd grade a few years ago, I realized early on that most kids needed more time to build talk and oral language around books so the notebooks became a bit less important early in the year.

This year, I did the same thing that I did last year--I started read aloud off with a very tiny spiral notebook and an invitation to stop and jot several times each day during read aloud. I found last year that the tiny spiral notebook was inviting and much less intimidating than a regular notebook. and that it was a good tool to introduce the idea of writing around reading.

A Word About Modeling
I almost never model something right off for my students.  My thinking is that modeling right off gives them the message that I don't think they know how to do it and that is not an assumption I want to have about my students.  So I wait and watch. Instead of modeling, I pay attention to what it is they can do and build on that. Then if needed, I'll model something new later--once I know they need modeling.

Starting Reading Notebooks
So, when it comes to Reading Notebooks, handing out notebooks to record thinking during read aloud was all I did before we started Lulu and the Brontosaurus last week.  Then I listened and watched.  When we stopped to talk during read aloud, I paid attention to the ways kids were comfortable talking, thinking and writing about books. At the end of the week, as we were almost finished with the book, kids looked through their notebooks and we talked about the kinds of entries we had-the kinds of thinking we did. This year, kids writing included writing about characters, predictions, visualizing and wonderings. (This changes every year.)

I scanned the notebooks for examples of each and we built the following chart about the ways we think, talk and write about books in our reading.

As we started our 2nd read aloud (Mercy Watson to the Rescue), we looked at the chart and reflected on new kinds of thinking we could each try as we read.   We talked about the fact that we might add new ways of thinking to the chart over the next few weeks. And kids seem excited to try new thing.  One thing that you may not be able to see on the chart is a student sample that is divided into columns. A student made 2 columns labeled W and S to stand for Wonders and Surprises. The idea of a 2 column table to track different kinds of thinking appealed to a few students.

As we move forward over the next several weeks of read aloud, I know this list will grow as we notice new ways of thinking. As we move to different kinds of books, we'll see that different books invite different kinds of thinking and the conversation will continue to grow.  I've found that building  slowly from where children are is key to making this kind of writing purposeful and powerful for students. 

(You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook starting September 1 by joining our group here.)
Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released last week!  You can preview it online at Stenhouse!

Monday, August 29, 2016

88 Instruments by Chris Barton

I loved getting a copy of Chris Barton's new 88 Instruments last week (direct from the author himself!) I got the package on Monday and read it for our #classroombookaday on Tuesday!  It was definitely a hit as a read aloud.

The book is simple and different from many of Chris Barton's other books. I love when an author has a variety of books as it will make for interesting conversation and study.  

The story is about a boy going into a store trying to choose an instrument that he wants to learn to play. There is quite a bit of humor in the decision as the parents give him a few limitation. Kids chuckled at some of the dialogue.  It made for a fun read aloud because Chris Barton created lots of original words to describe the instruments as the boy in the story tried them out. They were fun to read and fun to hear.  

The thing I loved most about this story is how it tied into the things we've been talking about these first few days of school.  We've been talking about so many things connected to learning, including growth mindset. This book is perfect for talking about growth mindset in a fun way--the last few pages of the book that include the decision of instrument and the plan for learning are simple yet powerful for conversations around learning and growth mindset.

This is a fun read and was a great #classroombookaday. I imagine it will be one that kids revisit often and one that they have fun reading together.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Heat

Image via Unsplash

by H. D.

O wind, rend open the heat, 
cut apart the heat, 
rend it to tatters. 

Fruit cannot drop 
through this thick air-- 
fruit cannot fall into heat 
that presses up and blunts 
the points of pears 
and rounds the grapes. 

Cut the heat-- 
plough through it, 
turning it on either side 
of your path.

I know I have no right to complain. A tornado hasn't ripped through my neighborhood, floods haven't crept to my doorstep, there's no tropical storm headed my way, and even though it's not working very well, my school has some semblance of air conditioning. 

But DANG it's been hot. And sweaty, sweaty humid. I'm SO ready for fall...

Heidi has the roundup this week at her juicy little universe.

A Child of Books

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers
illustrated by Sam Winston
Candlewick Press, September 2016
review copy (thankyouthankyouthankyou!) provided by the publisher

This is a book you'll want to savor.

Start with the dust jacket. Look at both the front and the back. Feel the texture of the foil stamped parts -- the keyhole and the names of the author and illustrator on the spine of the book in the illustration. Think about the key you see on the back. Study the shadow of the book. Notice the words that make up the shadow. Begin to make predictions about what you'll find when you open the cover.

Open the book. Gasp when you see the way the endpapers are decorated. Check the endpapers in the back -- same thing back there. You're distracted, but take the jacket off and go back to the cover of the book. Feel the cloth binding. Notice the blind stamps on the front cover and the back cover. Nice touch, eh?

Before you go back to the endpapers, read the flaps on the dust jacket and learn the term "typographical landscapes."

Now, the endpapers. Oh, my. Look long enough until you notice that there's something else there besides titles and authors. I won't tell you what. You find it. Think about it as you read the story, then go back to the endpapers in amazement when you have come to the end of the story. Go back and forth between the story and the endpapers. Wow.

Don't ignore the dedication page.

Read the book about twelve times. First, just look at the illustrations. Then, just read the main text. Do that thing I mentioned with the endpapers, and the savoring I started out with.

As soon as possible after your twelve times, read this book to and with children of all ages. Then get started reading all the books in the endpapers, one at a time, for the rest of your long, rich, imagination-filled life.

Bibliography for this review:

How to Read a Picture Book
Terms for parts of a book

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Louise and Andie by Kelly Light

I love the first Louise book, Louise Loves Art and our class LOVES the song Emily Arrow created to go along with it.  This book invites lots of talk and thinking around art and creativity and making.

This month, Kelly Light has a new book. Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship is being released and I am so happy about it. In this story, Louise gets a new neighbor named Andie. She is excited to meet her new neighbor and even more excited to find out that she loves art too. But Louise and Andie have different styles and ideas and that causes some problems.

This book will invite conversations around creativity, friendship and differences. I think I may use it to start a conversation about the power of collaboration and bringing people with different ideas together to create and problem solve. The book is simple and the characters are fabulous which is an amazing combination for opening conversations I think.

Also, not sure if you know about the Ready Set Draw! video series on Youtube but Kelly Light teaches readers how to draw the cat from the Louise books.  I love this take on "How to Draw" videos from KidLitTV!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Still Learning to Read: 100 Things About Me as a Reader Revisited

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016.

In 2010, I wrote a post about a lesson I did that I called 100 Things About Me as a Reader.  

A few years later Scholastic included it in their amazing collection, Open a World of Possible and repurposed it on their blog.  I've always shared lots about myself as a reader and  this week I started by sharing my 100 Things About Me as a Reader list. I shared the one from my blog that I had printed off.  Then I sent the kids off to begin to create their own lists.

Here are some of the lists that they started:

Starting Conversations

When we pulled back together to share, kids had pencils in hand. I let them know that when someone shared a list and it reminded them something that they didn't think to write down yet, that they could add it to their list. So sharing helped us learn about each other and think about things in our reading lives that we may not have thought about before.  I know that this is the first day of a yearlong conversation about who we are as readers and the conversation opened up so many possibilities.

Thinking About Ourselves as Readers

The conversation was casual and fun. When one child shared that she liked to read on her Kindle, another asked her what a kindle was and why she liked it. When a child mentioned her favorite chair for reading, another mentioned a little reading loft area that he had created to have a quiet spot for his books and reading.  My goal in this conversation is for kids to begin thinking about themselves as readers, knowing classmates as readers and beginning to build on one another's conversations.

Readers Grow and Change

I took a turn to share and shared a few things I had added to my list. I wanted my students to know that as an adult reader, I am always changing and growing.  I want them to know that all readers change and grow throughout their lives.  I shared the new things I realized about myself as a reader.  Some things I added to my list on this day were:

  • I read on my Kindle and there are certain kinds of books that I read on my Kindle.
  • I read the news on my phone daily. I have 2 apps (CNN, Local News) and I subscribe to The Skimm.
  • I keep track of my reading on Goodreads.
  • I read lots of online reviews when deciding on what to read next.
  • I am on the Charlotte Huck Award committee and love reading with that lens.
  • I tend to buy more than one copy of books I like.
  • I reserve books with my Columbus Library app and pick them up weekly.
  • I LOVE to tell others about great books I've read recently.

Then I revisited my old list with my students and told them how much I had changed and that I am constantly revising my list.  

I quickly talked to my kids about the things that I realized had changed about me as a reader and that I knew this list would continue to grow and change:
  • I've realized that I love fantasy and some of my favorite books are dystopia fiction and rewrites of fairy tales.
  • I'm getting better at enjoying audiobooks and paying attention better. My friend, Teri has helped me find narrators that I enjoy and I know how to choose audiobooks better now so that I can enjoy them on long car trips.
  • I get recommendations from friends but I also pay attention to recommendations that I see on Twitter or Goodreads.
  • I love to share my favorite books, even though my friends know that my very favorites need to be read quickly--I don't like to be without them for long!
  • I have learned to love Graphic Novels and they aren't hard for me once I understood how they worked.
Seeing Patterns: What Did I Notice That Would Help Me in my Teaching?

As a teacher, this is one of my favorite beginning-of-the-year mini lessons. Although it takes a long time, it sets the stage for talk about Reader Identity for the whole year. It sets us up to talk to other readers and to continually reflect on our own reading. It gives kids the message that readers always change and grow and that things that are hard or boring for readers one day might be different for them in a few weeks. 

This time also gives me the opportunity to listen for patterns and to find out what I can learn about the class as a whole.  I saw several patterns in the talk last week. I discovered that:
  • Several students had favorite authors whose names they knew. I want to help them build the number of authors they know and love and that now seems like something I can do starting soon.
  • Several kids have experience reading on Kindles or tablets.  Others are interested in giving that a try. Once our BYOD policy is explained to parents, I'll be able to support kids reading ebooks.
  • A few kids stated that they did not enjoy poetry and others agreed verbally.  That will inform how I introduce poetry this year.
  • Graphic novels are popular although most students who loved graphic novels couldn't name authors or series that they enjoyed.  We read Beekle on Friday so I took that as an opportunity to intro Dan Santat and his amazing graphic novel, Sidekicks.
  • No one had trouble thinking of a few things about himself/herself. Some years I have a few kids who are hesitant to write anything. This group seems confident in this kind of thinking.
  • Most kids enjoy fiction over nonfiction. Very few students mentioned nonfiction books, authors or topics. That will be something I need to address soon.  I'll build in more nonfiction early.
  • Many kids had something on their list that implied that they talked to others about books ("I read to my little brother." "I borrow books from my friend." etc.)
  • Very few (if any) mentioned any online reading that they do. (Luckily, that was already in the plans for next week-I'll begin introducing reading sites on our classroom website.)
Next Steps

We talk a lot in the book about having other adults come in to talk about their lives as readers. Next week, adults from our school will be starting to come in to talk to our class about their reading lives with us. We have 3 adults coming in this week and a few more after that. Later this fall, I'll invite parents from our classroom to do the same. I'll be listening in to see the kinds of questions the kids ask, the connections they make, and the new ideas that the readers bring into our conversation.  As readers visit, kids will sit on the floor with lists and pencils in hand in case they have something new to add to their list.  

I have found that agency and identity are two of the most important things for readers in grades 3-6.  When a child does not see him/herself as a reader, it is hard to engage and to grow. So I spend a great deal of time throughout the year helping children know themselves as readers and to see the ways they are changing. These first steps are so important.   As Peter Johnston says in his book Choice Words, "Building an identity means coming to see in ourselves the characteristics of particular categories (and roles) of people and developing a sense of what it feels like to be that sort of person and belong in certain social situations."

Even though to an outsider, this "100 Things" list might look like  a "cute" getting to know you activity,  we know that it is far more than that. It is a powerful activity that begins a yearlong conversation around reader identity.

*For more ways to nurture Reader Identity, read Paula Bourque's recent post at Nerdy Book Club.

(You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook starting September 1 by joining our group here.)
Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released this week!  You can preview it online at Stenhouse!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Quotable Mo

Mo Willems was in town last Friday night. He spoke for free! (Thank you The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Wexner Center for the Arts.)

I took this picture of Mo Willems just as he was telling the audience to put away all our devices and just BE THERE for the experience. I followed directions...mostly. I kept my notebook open and my pencil ready.

He told the story of his childhood Charles Schultz fandom. How he loved that the characters were easy to draw (so are his) and how Charlie Brown had it worse than he did. He even wrote and asked Charles Schultz, "Can I have your job when you're dead?"

We heard about his early cartooning jobs. "Anonymous or semi-anonymous failure on a regular basis is a great way to get started."

He was part of a standup comedy duo with a dynamic much like that of Elephant and Piggie. He also taught improv, which was evident especially during the Q/A session.

"If you're the smartest guy in the room, you're in the wrong room."

"I'm constantly failing."

In discussing why he reads primarily nonfiction, he said, "Books are the questions I don't know the answers to." and "I love the truth -- it's so messy."

His goal for his own writing? "I want a book to not look written." and "I need to be terrified to do my best work."

In the Q/A part, a woman asked how he felt about the possibility that people changed up his stories when they read them aloud to their children. He said, "The book is just a suggestion! It's a dialogue! I only bring 49% of the story -- readers bring the rest!"

About Elephant and Piggies names, "Elephant Gerald is my favorite singer." Elephant hides behind his name and his glasses. Gerald is neurotic. "That's a big person word for alive." Piggie is Piggie.

Just about the funniest moment of all was when a kid came to the mic and asked, "Can I have your job when you're dead?"

"Writing is really fun lying."

Which is your favorite book? "My books are like my children, which means some of them grow up to be disappointments."

How do you get your ideas? "I grow them in my notebook."

"My favorite book is my next book."

Then he read aloud his next book, from the F/Gs (F'in' Gs -- "Not as nasty as it sounds, it stands for folded and gathered").

You will want this book. You will want to read it aloud to children. You will never be as funny reading it aloud to children as Mo was reading it aloud to us. (See improv and standup comedy notes above.)

"I don't want to be this generation's Dr. Seuss, I want to be this generation's Mo Willems."

Mission accomplished, Mo.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Any Morning

Photo via Unsplash

Any Morning
by William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

I'm looking forward to a morning like this. Maybe tomorrow. Add in a trip around the Poetry Friday roundup, and you've got another little piece of Heaven to "be picked up and saved."

Speaking of the roundup, Dori is our hostess this week at Dori Reads.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Filling Book Bins on the First Day of School

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016.

Reading Workshop is one of the first things I want to have up and going by the end of the first week of school.  We get started with Reading Workshop on the first day of school and I want every child to have books for independent reading time. I want them to know right away that they own their reading.  

Our Reading Workshop is in the afternoon, so sometime before that time, we'll build our book bins.  I have empty 24 book bins set up in a few places around the room. (I purposely do not put them all in the same area to help with traffic.)  These bins are waiting to be filled!

I make sure that the first day of school is fun, slow and happy.  I want kids to have time to know the room, know each other and play a bit to transition into the routine. So for the first few days of school we have about an hour to explore various things in the classroom--Legos, Math Games, Straws and Connectors, Apps on iPads, Pixie on Laptops, etc.  During this exploration time, I meet with 3-5 kids at a time at a table to build book bins.  Each child finds a book bin in the room that they'd like to claim for their own.  We label it with a sticky note--knowing that our photo will be printed to label it later in the week.

Then we do a quick tour of the library--just to get the basics--picture books, series books, nonfiction, graphic novels, author baskets, etc  Kids often see a familiar book to add into their bins, others seem to have a specific book in mind that they'd like to read. Still others have no idea where to begin when it comes to choosing a book to read.

I take time with each group of children, pointing out books, asking about old favorites and what they read in the summer, suggesting titles. I suggest that kids have a variety of books in their bins--short books, long books, fiction, nonfiction, familiar books, new authors, etc.  My hope is that each child has 3-4 books in their book bin before our first Reading Workshop.  I'll take a picture of the child and their books to keep as our first piece of assessment.

This is a great time for me to listen in. It is my first conversation with individual readers and their first time talking to me about books. It is an important time. I know that every child will not have the right books in their bins--that is all part of the process.  My big goal is for them to know that they choose the books--that they are in charge of their own reading and that I will support them along the way.

As the week goes on, we'll have lots of reflection about our book choices. Many of our share sessions during those first few weeks of school will be about the books they are choosing. We'll reflect on questions like:

Did you have enough books to keep you reading the whole time?
Which book had you hooked?
Which book didn't seem right for your right now?
What kind of book did you wish you had in your bin today?
Did you find yourself sticking with one book or moving between books?
Is there a new book or author you discovered today that you are excited about?
Did anyone read a new book by a familiar author?

My rule for the independent reading portion of the Reading Workshop those first few days is that everyone Stays Quiet and Stays Put. It sounds a bit harsh but it starts as only a 10-15 minute time period. I want kids to feel what it is like to find a spot with books. I want them to determine how many books they might need. I want them to get used to not getting up and down for drinks or restroom breaks or even new books during this time. (Later I loosen up but these first few days are important to establish a routine that we can build on.

This means that kids can trade out books when they arrive in the morning. I'll also have many mini lessons around book choice and they'll be able to switch out books between the mini lesson and independent reading time. I'll confer with kids during this time to help them refill their book bins.  

I'll also be keeping an eye on kids who are comfortable with the books they chose.  I'll watch their engagement and behaviors with the books they have.  I'll ask them how it is going? I'll do a lot of observations during this time.

Throughout the year, the student book bins remain critical. Kids have their daily reading in these bins but they also have books they hope to read next. The book bin becomes a visual reminder of each child's current life as a reader.  After the first few weeks, readers change out their book bins whenever needed. After the first few weeks of learning what a 30 minute independent reading period feels like, reflecting on which books keep us engaged, meeting with me about the books in their bins and mini lessons around book choice, kids choose books very naturally. The lessons on book choice are critical and the book bin helps so much with this learning.

(You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook starting September 1 by joining our group here.)
Our new edition of Still Learning to Read will be released on August 15 but you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse!

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

for the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Round-Up!

Much of the reading I did was catching up on the amazing #PB10for10 booklists.  WOW! Cathy and Mandy have created quite an amazing event. Even though I did not create a list this year, I have been reading so many lists. I have been amazed at the ideas some people had for organizing. And of course, I've discovered new books!  No matter how much I try to keep up with children's books, there are always so many that I don't know.  A good problem to have for sure!  If you have not followed the #PB10for10 hashtag or visited their Google Community, you might want to block off a day or two to check it out!

I haven't done a ton of reading this week. I've done a lot of getting-ready-for-school stuff!  But I found 2 books that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE! It is not often that I find a book that is perfect for a transitional reader AND might make a good read aloud. Well, this year I found 2 amazing books for 3rd graders and I am so excited about adding them to our classroom library. These book might work for primary grades and I think because of what the visuals have to offer, they would be popular in 4th and 5th grade classrooms too.

Lucy by Randy Cecil is a sweet story about a dog, a girl and her father. Lucy is a small, homeless dog who the little girl feeds every day. This is a sweet story with lots going on and one that would make a good read aloud with a document camera.  Each page has a bit of text and a black and white illustration.  There is lots to see in the illustrations. There is also a lot to think about as to how the storylines work together.  I loved falling in love with this book and can't wait to share it with my students.

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina is another book that will be released in September.  Another perfect book for 3rd graders! And I read somewhere that it is the first in a series. WOOOHOOO!  Juana lives in Columbia and speaks Spanish.  Lucas, her dog is her best friend.  When Juana has to learn English in school, she is not happy. But she works hard to be successful. Juana is a great new character. The pages are filled with colorful illustrations, some fun changes in font and some amusing diagrams like the one below. 

This is a fantastic new series that is PERFECT for 3rd graders!!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Beginning...again

Photo by Mary Lee Hahn

A Teacher Turns the Calendar Page From July to August

It's the same feeling you get
just after you've nudged the sled 
over the shoulder 
of the hill.

Movement becomes momentum
and quickly shifts 
to catapulting and careening.

You relinquish control
and hold on 
for the ride.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

Next week is the official start of school in our district -- teachers on Monday, students on Wednesday.

And so we begin...again.

Julianne has the roundup at To Read To Write To Be.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Power of a Reading Community

Years ago, Mary Lee and I started to meet at Panera once a year to chat books. I was always amazed that she was able to read so many books a year. One year, I thought I remembered her saying that she tried to read 26 books a year. I decided that  I would try the same thing. That year, I read 26 books and told Mary Lee what a great goal that had been for me and I thanked her for sharing.  Mary Lee gently told me that I must have misunderstood—that she read 52 books a year that averaged out to one a week.  She had specific goals for the kinds of books she read making sure to fit in a certain amount of adult fiction and professional reads.

These were the years that I started to track my reading life.  I started to jot down books that I’d finished and reflect on my year. I liked to look at the books I read, when I read more/less in the year? Were the patters to my reading?  Was my reading balanced?  I loved the end-of-the year informal tallying I did to celebrate and reflect on my reading year.

Last week when I was cleaning/moving my office I found this scrap of paper. I knew immediately what it was. My first “formal” reading logs. These were the days before Goodreads so I jotted the titles I read in a notebook and then tallied to reflect on my reading life.  I loved the end of the year when I could look back and see what I’d read and set goals for the new year.  My coding tell me books I read each year,  a tally of the kinds of books I read (Children's, Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Professional, etc.). Another page in the notebook broke the totals down by month.

There is so much to be said for being part of a community.   It pushes you to be better. Just talking to Mary Lee over time and hearing the number of books she read pushed me to set goals for myself and to read more.   And there is so much power in this expanded community that we can now be part of because of social media. Now we are all part of an online community of readers and we follow other readers on Goodreads and Twitter.  Following people like John Schumacher and Donlyn Miller has helped me read more than I ever thought possible. Following people like Teri Lesesne has helped me read more young adult fiction.  Following people like Colby Sharp has helped me stretch the authors I know and read.   My daily reading of the Nerdy Book Club post has helped me start each day thinking about reading and books.  I feel so lucky to have the reading community that I do.

Our reading communities make a difference for us and for our students. I think specifically about our students who don’t see themselves as readers yet.  If they are in a classroom with a teacher who reads and they see classates reading on a daily basis and getting excited about books, chances are they’ll join the community eventually.   They will want to be part of the fun. And they'll build new behaviors, habits and skills because of the community that supports them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Picture Book 10-for-10 -- Incidental Diversity

I first encountered the term "Incidental Diversity" in the HornBook article "2015 in Review: The Year in Pictures" by Julie Danielson. Incidental Diversity is "the appearance of characters of color whose ethnicities are incidental to the story."

Now I'm actively on the lookout for such books. Here are 9 books that Julie featured in her article, plus 1 more too good not to share:


Narrative nonfiction about space/planets and light pollution.


Leo is a ghost who has a hard time making friends.


A beautifully illustrated collection of "poems for all seasons."
(truth in advertising!)


Sophia wants a pet giraffe, and with every ask,
is required to be less verbose. 
Great mentor text for writing persuasion.


A Classic. Peter goes out and plays in the snow.


"A Book About the Water Cycle" (more truth in advertising!)


The joys and sorrows of raising and keeping chickens.


What James really said and what came back to the main character via the mouths of several friends are two different things.


The trials and tribulations of raising a dinosaur in the city.


Okay, I'm cheating a little on this one. It's a nearly wordless graphic novel, not a picture book per se. But it's so fun, and it goes together with Peter Brown's WILD ROBOT in such interesting ways...robot washes ashore, learns how to be himself, is hunted down by the Robot Corporation to be taken back and made to be
what is expected from a robot.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Setting Up the Digital Classroom Library

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016.

School starts in a little over a week. My classroom set up is coming along (of course there is always something to do when it comes to setting up a room!)  This weekend, I worked on revising and updating the digital classroom library that will start our school year.  For kids to make intentional decisions, they must have choice.  I used to introduce a few sites for reading at a time and built over the first few months of school but last year I created a page on our Weebly with all of the sites kids could read. This year I revised it a bit by adding new sites and getting rid of those that were outdated or no longer active.

The Reading page of our Classroom Weebly is here.  I've found that Weebly is an easy website for young children to navigate because of the design and the visuals.  I am certain it will grow and change as the year goes on and I have no idea which of these sites kids will be most interested in this year (every class is different). But this is where we'll begin so kids know that digital reading is an option during Reading Workshop. They'll also have access to these sites at home by accessing our website. 

These are the sites that my 3rd graders can access from our website:

A few years ago, our class created a Symbaloo of Authors We Love.  We created this one day when we were playing with Symabaloo and it's become a great resource.  This Symbaloo links to many authors that kids love. It DEFINITELY needs updated and it seems like a good project for us once the year is started.  

Kidsreads is one of the best sites I know for kids to learn about books, authors, and series.  The website is packed with book reviews, announcements for new books and author interviews and it is perfect for middle grade readers.

Wonderopolis is a favorite source for shared reading and independent reading.  If you don't know this site, you should spend lots of time exploring!  There is a new wonder posted each day along with an article sharing the answer and more.   The site is searchable so kids can find past wonders that match their current interests. 

LivBits is a new addition to the Weebly this year.  Olivia has videos, Instagram post and more sharing her thinking about books, authors and reading. These are great videos by a reader close to my students' ages.  Love this site!

SI Kids, the Sports Illustrated site for kids has a variety of great reading material for kids.  The site is full of articles, videos, interviews and more and is easy for kids to navigate.

DOGONews is a kids's news sites. Articles are accessible to kids and most are about topics they are most interested in.  There site also includes book reviews "for kids, by kids".

Pebble Go is a membership site that is one of the best nonfiction sites I've seen for primary readers. There are several categories of nonfiction and kids learn to navigate for information in an authentic way.

Toon Book Reader shares early graphic novels with kids. We have many of the hard copies of the books in our classrooms.  Readers can choose to read on his/her own or to have the books read aloud. There are options to change the language from English to Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese also.

Friends with Fins is one of our favorite video sites for informational videos.   I know that learning from videos is important to digital reading so sites like this are critical for my students.  Watching videos to learn (as opposed to for entertainment) is new to many of them. The focus of this is on Ocean Conservation and the videos are the perfect length for middle grade readers.

I could spend all day on ZooBorns. The site focuses on baby animals in zoos around the world.  Each day there is an update about some baby animal somewhere in the world. So it is fun site to check in with on a daily basis. Or, readers can search by animal or zoo which adds to what is possible.  The photos on this site are fabulous!

Big Universe is another site that our school subscribes to for nonfiction reading. Students have an account and can read ebooks on a variety of topics.  They can log their reading, add books to their to-be-read shelf and more.

NewsELA is a site filled with news articles, text sets on current issues and more. There is so much to explore here! 

Animals for Smart People is another site of informational videos by author, Jess Keating.  These are a perfect length and the visuals she includes are supportive to understanding the topic.

Smithsonian TT Junior has daily news, photos audio and video. This has a good variety of interesting information for readers.

We discovered Emily Arrow last year and created a Padlet of her videos. This became one of our most popular sites as Emily Arrow is the best and the way she interprets books through song is fabulous!

I feel like this part of my "classroom library" set-up is as important as the bookshelves in my room. Knowing sites that are accessible to my middle grade readers and expanding what they "count" as reading is an important early-in-the-year message. I feel like we'll be off to a good start.

Are there any other sites you include in your digital classroom library?

(You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook starting September 1 by joining our group here.)
Our new edition of Still Learning to Read will be released on August 15 but you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse!