being a teacher, global read aloud, Literacy, Reading

What Are We Reading Aloud? Survey for K-8 Educators in the United States

I have written before about the read aloud and its power for older students. I have written about how read alouds brings us all together, how they offer us a new language to speak as we build our community. How read alouds allow us to step into a world we might not know or invite others into one that we already live in.

Since founding the Global Read Aloud in 2010, I have been responsible for selecting a read aloud to be shared around the world. The task always feels heavy. The task also brings a lot of joy, but as I have mentioned, the task of selecting the books to be read aloud have also made me curious; what is already being read aloud in the United States? What are the corner texts that, we as communities, keep coming back to year after year? What do our students get to experience from year to year as they travel through our classrooms?

Rather than just be curious, I figured I would ask. So will you help me out by taking this survey and sharing it with others? I tried to make it easy to take but still offer up valuable information. I will share the results once I have enough responses, because once we know more we can learn together.

conferences, connections, Reading, Reading Identity

Reading Action Plans: An Invitation into Further Exploration

This blog has been quiet. Not because life has been by any means but because what we are doing in our time together in the classroom is quiet. It’s not very flashy. It’s not really that new, at least not for us. Every day, the routines we have worked on all year are in place; most students quietly reading during independent reading time, most students finding great books, most students knowing more about themselves as people than they did in the beginning of our journey. Most because not all, not yet any way; some still lament about how they dislike reading, how they do not plan on reading a book over the summer, but many others devour books, seeing their own accomplishments, challenging themselves to grow.

But for those who are not quite there yet, where reading is hard, where reading is not a comfortable activity. For those where reading is something they have spent a lot of time avoiding or simply don’t see the value in yet, at this time of year I add in an extra layer; a reading action plan. A quick invitation into further conversation about their reading life that runs 2 weeks and sometimes more.

I have written about them last year, but the idea is so simple and yet so powerful that I wanted to re-share it. Because all it is is an invitation into conversation every single day for a few minutes about their reading life. No pressure, but instead extra personal support, and an adult meeting them once again where they are at without judgment and helping them along their journey.

The note sheet I use to keep their journeys straight looks like this at the moment, or at least the front does, they change when I don’t see them fitting our purpose. You can see it here. This is not for the students to fill out but for me to take notes, which they can see me take because no one wants another person taking secret notes.

I usually use our reading data (which is just how many pages they are approximately reading within a week by signing in with their page numbers as inspired by Penny Kittle) to see who may be great candidates for some extra care. Who are the kids where reading is still a slog, where they are not really making progress or jumping from book to book? I try to keep it to 3 or 4 kids a class at any given time for a few reasons; I want to make sure I am really focused on them and I also want to be able to still meet with another few kids every day. While we typically start on Monday’s, you can start them any day.

I ask them to meet with me during reading time and explain my idea for some extra attention, I don’t want to force it on them but instead discuss what they could gain from it. This is important because too often when students are vulnerable readers we remove all choice from them which leads to further resentment toward their reading lives. If we are going to meet every day, I like their to be a genuine discussion of why and how it may help them. This is instrumental to everything I believe in; keeping a child’s wellbeing in mind before I implement anything. I can’t do that without conversation. If a child doesn’t like the idea, we come up with something else for them, however, this has not happened in my years of doing this.

The first day takes longer because we discuss their current book. Questions I ask are pretty standard:

  • Which book are they reading?
  • How far are they in it?
  • Why did they choose it?
  • How are they liking it so far?
  • Where will they be in the book in a week?

Then I move down into the notes section, where I ask them about their outside reading life – this is an ongoing conversation throughout the year- and we discuss what their reading plans are for outside of English. My job here is to listen and to ask questions that explain their thinking when it is not clear, not to judge. They also tell me where they think they will be in their book the following day. This is again an important aspect because we so often set the goals for the students and those goals are unrealistic and also have little concern for the reading journey they are actually on. So instead we discuss what is a realistic goal and what the steps are they will take to reach that goal. Some students don’t have any plans to read so we discuss why not and how we can change that. Some have other obstacles in their path and so we discuss those. Whatever is going on, we discuss, and we brainstorm together. Once we have a goal and a plan in place it is time for them to read, so I thank them for their time.

The next day, we meet again, except this time I only ask about how far they got – no judgement – and what their reading life looked like in the past 24 hours. If they read, awesome! If they didn’t, why not? Again, I am not here to make them feel bad but coach and support instead. As we wrap up our quick 3 or so minute conference, they set a goal for the following day and then they are off to read.

And then we repeat that for a week. At the end of the first week, we discuss successes. These range from reading more than normal, to knowing when to abandon a book and picking a different one. From reading at home one night – wahoo – to actually not hating the book. There is no success that is too small to be celebrated, this is important as the goal here is for the kids to learn more about themselves as readers and people, not for me to punish them into reading.

The following week, we continue with our quick check-ins, celebrating successes along the way, and at the end of the week we decide on what the next step should be. There are different options:

  • Another round of daily check-ins for those that are not quite ready to fly on their own.
  • A gradual release to a three time a week check-in for two weeks.
  • A once a week check-in
  • Or released back into the larger pool, which means a check-in every 3 to 4 weeks depending on what we have going on.

Once again the child and I discuss and decide together. So why bother with this? Beyond the obvious of all kids deserving as much as one-to-one time as possible in our limited time with them, you also uncover so much of what is really going on in their reading lives and what they may need to move further in it. From recognizing that some kids simply forget to bring books home – we have plans in place for that – to not knowing how to fit reading into their lives – we have a plan for that – to still not being able to find books they actually like, having a few minutes every day can get them steered back on course in a way that wouldn’t happen unless you had more time.

While I wish I had time to discuss reading with every child, every day, I don’t, but this takes me one step closer to connecting with all the kids, to helping all the kids. It is not anything flashy. It is not anything brand-new, but it works, much like we know it works. Perhaps the idea can work for others as well?

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

Be the change, books, kids, Reading, Reading Identity

A High Five For All Of Us

I’m on the road again. February seems to have been a long list of travel. Of packing up the suitcase and saying goodbye to those at home, to the kids in my classroom. Sometimes that is the reality of what I do. It is hard, but worth it.

This week has been one filled with the worry that you get when one of your own children is sick. When they are up for hours at night with a fever so high you think your thermometer is broken as you call the doctor in the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation and the end of February in Wisconsin is a bundle not for the weak.

So I packed a book for my flight tonight, after all, the stack of to-be-reads is overflowing. A new book by my friend, Phil Bildner, that even though it definitely was about baseball and I still don’t understand baseball despite my 21 years in America, looked like it would offer me a world that I could sit in for a while and forget about the now two sick children at home, nestled securely in the care of my husband.

And I read, and then I finished the last page, and then tears came, because this book, A High Five for Glenn Burke, is yet another book we have so desperately needed. That our students so desperately need. They they deserve. That I fear will be ghosted by some educators or school districts because it is about a boy who loves baseball above everything else but is also finding the courage to share what he has known for while; that he is gay and he worries how the world will handle his truth and his heart as he bares it all. And this book is written for our middle grade kids. The kids that so often do not get to see themselves represented in our books because a long time ago someone deemed that anything that has to do with sexual identity or gender is “too mature” for ten-year-olds or younger.

I had tears for the kids who tell me their parents don’t understand. And I worry for the kids who tell me that their libraries don’t carry these books because they go against their “values.” And I get angry at the adults who stand in the way on purpose of these books being placed in the hands of children. Children who so deserve to be seen and heard and loved and protected because the world is already cruel enough.

So I write this post to not just highlight the incredible masterpiece that is Phil Bildner’s new book, but for us, the adults, in the lives of these children to understand just how much it matters for our kids to be seen. How much they hope to be represented in our libraries, in our classrooms, in our curriculum, in our teaching staff. That some kids don’t get to be accepted at home so they hope that school is the place where they will be. That some kids face hatred before they come into our rooms and hope that with us they will be accepted for whoever they are, wherever they are on their journey. And they hope but it doesn’t always happen and soon they learn to hide that part of themselves, because it is safer to live half-hidden than be known for all that they are.

So we can say that we value all kids. That our school strives for success for all. That we have high expectations and support for all. But it is a lie when we gatekeep our libraries. When we don’t ban outright but simply never purchase. When we shield ourselves behind doctrines that do not follow one of the biggest doctrines of them all; love others as you love yourself.

Sometimes love comes in the words that we share. Sometimes in the treats. The smiles. The opportunities that we provide after we plan lessons long past our bedtime. But love also comes in the books that we place on our shelves. The ones we talk about. The ones we make a part of our curriculum and ask all of the kids to read, to hear, so that they too can know about each other and so that every child, no matter who they are, will know that with you they are safe because you showed them a book that was about them.

Because your actions will always speak louder than your words.

You should buy, read, and share Phil Bildner’s A High Five for Glenn Burke and many more LGBTQIA+ books, it’s the least we can do.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

being a teacher

Fully Me

I had just turned 18 when I agreed to move to the US. Unaware of what the world would bring, unaware of what else the world could hold. I may have been a mature 18-year-old per regular Danish standards, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave my mother’s side even as my siblings had found homes around the world. The proud teen in me not quite ready to set off on my own rebellion as it was so much easier to fight against the system comfortably nestled within my own zones of safety. For all of my bravado, I was still a child looking to fit in and where else could I best fit in than right with my family, or what was left of it?

I flew across the Atlantic with a suitcase or two, my papers in hand, and muddled dreams that perhaps included going to school at some point but no plan for longevity, no vision for my life beyond this move that would uproot me in the most significant of ways. I was moving, period, but I wasn’t going to stay, surely, my roots where in Denmark after all. In Copenhagen where the university, and an apartment were sure to be in my future.

Perhaps it is the way of the foolish young mind that allows us to jump into situations without seeing the path before us. Of a new home. Of a new identity thrust upon me that I had never embraced before. Of what it would mean to get on that flight, choice already made for the next many years but not realized.

I have now lived in this identity as an inconspicuous immigrant for 21 years.

My Danish language slips through my fingers much like sand, still accumulating but the piles rapidly decrease. I haven’t thought in Danish in many years, nor dreamt in my native tongue. The morning I recognized this, I felt a deep devastation, feeling as if my world tilted as my language was replaced unconsciously. As my brain let go of what has been my voice for so many years.

Sure, I speak English fluently, write it well, and yet within my own home language was everything I held dear to me. I lose words that were once within my grasp. I stick to rudimentary language with my own children as my mother corrects my grammatical inaccuracies. I used to be fluent. I used to speak and write it beautifully. I used to be able to fully say what I wanted to say without the crutches of English to guide me through when the words that used to flow are outside of my grasp. I used to be fully Danish and not an imposter grasping to the things she remembers.

I hold dear to my traditions. To what I believe are my Danish values, but honestly after so many years as an assumed American I don’t know if I get to call myself Danish anymore. If I have been reduced to the shell that so many others use when they trace their proud lineage but are not really seen as from there. From somewhere else. When I am told I look like an American. When I am told I sound like an American. When I am told that I think like an American. When I am told which parts of my identity holds the most weight to others and I wrestle as the biggest part of me, that of Dane, is one that is pushed aside because surely by now I feel more American than anything else.

And nothing could be farther from the truth, but who listens to that?

Because I left my country behind.

Because I left myself at Vestergade 12, 8850 Bjerringbro. In that little red brick house. In the company of my friends. And nothing will ever replace what I once used to be, no matter how many new identities I add to myself.

And I think of how the world views us all as it boils us down to such few elements. At how we treat the kids we teach who are learning English as less than. How we only ask about their traditons but not their mundane. About the daily life that they left behind. About the essence of what made them truly feel like they were the person they were meant to be.

And we boil it down to traditions.

And we boil it down to small phrases.

We boil it down to dishes passed around the table, songs sung on special days.

And we break it down to trips once in a while across the Atlantic so that I can hear my name pronounced correctly and for a few short weeks I can breathe fully again, among the people that I used to call my own.

And we think that is enough. But it will never fully allow us to feel complete as we straddle new cultures, home in neither, but adapting to both.

And so my heart longs to go home. To bring my family with me. To go back to what once was while realizing that it will never be again. But something new could be.

To be fully me again without having to reconcile what I used to be with what I am now.

But until then that dream becomes a possibility, I will continue to to try to define myself as I want the world to see me and give every opportunity for those I teach to do the same. To let them tell me how they want to be seen. To let them tell me what they need. To be fully human as we go on this journey together.

To just be the person we were meant to be and seen for what we would want to be seen as.

being a teacher

On Honoring Student Writing Identity

I have been writing. Every Saturday morning, in the quiet before the house comes alive, I sit with a cup of tea, my computer and I write the words that I have been carrying about the work we do in room 203. Sometimes my fingers fly, other times they still as I reread each sentence, not quite sure where I am going but knowing that there is something there.

This isn’t the first time, I have written for a larger purpose. Somehow in my history as an educator, four books have been published under my name, and yet this time, it feels really vulnerable. This time, I am trying to stay in my lane, not overstep, but also write what I know best; the practice of teaching these kids that are put in my care every day. Imposter syndrome is once again a live and well, as well as the notion that perhaps my words are not needed in anyway. After all, does reading identity and the work we do to help every reader see themselves really matter in a world fraught with injustice? So I step away, mired in my own doubts, and don’t return until the following Saturday when I try again.

It makes me think of just how our students feel when we ask them to write. When we ask them to sit down in artificial environments and tell their story. How we cannot dismiss the emotions that are inevitably tied in with the task of writing. Not just all of the skills, but how it makes them feel to pour their words onto a page, not knowing who will receive them, who will carry them? Not knowing how these words will become a part of their labels? Their identity.

I don’t think I have paid enough attention to the emotions of writing for many years as a teacher. It has been a rediscovery, only reentering my reflections in the past few years, to recognize that much like I carry heavy doubts within my own skills, despite being a published author, so do the children I teach. That when they claim they hate writing, it is often more of a statement of the vulnerability they feel and how unsettling it is, rather than the act of writing itself.

So how do we take care of the emotions that are tied with the work that we do? How do we acknowledge, make space, and allow the focus to be on the identity of the writer and not just the writing itself? A few things come to mind.

We center our writing in humanity. Meaning that with every word we pass on to our writers when they hand us their work, we take care in our handling of the words. We pause, reflect, and ask; what would you like me to do rather than jump in with our edits, our no nonsense grammatical and editorial ways and sit for a moment to discuss what they hope to accomplish with the time we have together. Their words lead our work. And if they do not have the words to lead then we teach them.

We give them time to think. For so long, I asked students to jump right in, just start writing, but now we sit in silence. Now we ponder, now we begin with slow starts, and sometimes begin many times, playing around with the words that we want to see through.

We write authentically in front of them. Not aiming for perfection because our writers are already surrounded by perfection through the books we have in our classrooms, but instead show the struggle we also have with putting ideas on the table and forming stories to fall out of our hands. Too often, I rehearsed what I would write because otherwise my modeling would take too long, but it is this length of time that students need to see in order to understand that nothing is wrong with them when they don’t know what to write. Or we write something that is not good, that stinks of repetitive notions and clicheed ideas and we share it and proclaim that not all writing will be great and that’s okay. And we live it.

We fix our own imperfect writing, not using student models as a way to show how to make something better. I know I have asked kids in the past to let us edit their piece live and while the kids willingly gave up their writing, I now think of the weight of the words we wrapped it up in and how that inevitably lead to some kids once again confirming that their writing would only ever be good enough for the “before” version and never the “after.” So write you own imperfect models and use those.

We give them the power to answer who will carry their words? Too often we tell students to share because we assume they want to celebrate and we can only do that publicly and yet we forget that sometimes the only audience needed is ourselves. That sometimes kids take creative risks or their emotions are splayed out on the page and that they need to decide who sees it. That gives power.

We check our own social identities and honor the writing that kids do. Too often, I have erased the child themselves from their writing in my quest for “proper” grammar or spelling without recognizing the voice that a child wrote in. I break rules all the time in my own writing yet never offer up the same privilege to my students. I forget so easily that writing is about uncovering how you want to speak t o the world, so why not practice that in school, rather than always chase after what the dominant culture has decided is proper and real and the only way? Where is the room for experimentation, for diving in to linguistic pathways that model the writers that shake us to the core?

I don’t know if what I am writing will ever be published. At this point, I am at ease with my unsettled state. I write for me, to get the words out of my head, much like I do in this space. I write because if the words are not released then they freeze me up, they distract, they compound. But I am not ready to share them, not yet, and sometimes neither are our students. And that’s ok.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. 

being a teacher

Summer 2020 – See Me on the Road or Have Me Speak

As readers of this blog may know, I work full-time as a 7th grade English teacher, which means that most days I am found teaching my incredible 7th graders in Oregon, Wisconsin. It is what my heart loves to do. It is such an honor to work with these kids as they navigate these formative years and to be a part of a community that works so hard in growing together.  I have a dream of schools where all stakeholders feel they have a voice; that is my driving force and it is one I share with many other educators.

I am fortunate enough to be invited to share this vision, and practical progress toward it, with many different audiences.  Some key areas I have focused on center around creating environments where literacy flourishes, infusing global collaboration using technology, highly engaging student learning experiences, empowering staff and administration, and overall personalization of the student experience.   My workshops/sessions are interactive and blend storytelling with practical how-to’s that participants can implement right away.  Working with other educators is a thing I love and am honored to be asked to do. I do not take it for granted and I am so grateful for the opportunity to go and work through obstacles with fellow educators. There are so many of us trying to help each other. I never thought teaching other educators would be a part of my world, it is humbling, engaging, and brain-expanding work to say the least.

Even though the snow is piled high outside, I was asked earlier this week where I will be speaking and teaching this summer. Here is where I will be as of right now – will I see you on the road?

June  16th, 2020 – Hazel Green, WI – District Workshop

June 18th, 2020 – Keynote, Scholastic Reading Summit, Indianapolis, IN

July:

July 9th, 2020 – Keynote, Scholastic Reading Summit, Orlando, FL

July 16th, 2020 – Featured Speaker, Harmony Public School District, Houston, Texas

July 24th, 2020 – Featured Speaker, Longwood Summer Literacy Institute, Virginia

August:

August 3rd, 2020 – NerdCampMN, Minneapolis, MN

I am open for a few more dates of work during the summer, or during next school-year. If you wonder about the work I do, here is a sample of what I help others with:

Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students

Would you want to be a student in your own learning environment? In this keynote, based on the book Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students, 7th-grade teacher Pernille Ripp will help both novice and seasoned educators create a positive, interactive learning environment where students drive their own academic achievement by honoring the individual child. Attendees will hear practical strategies for how to build a meaningful relationship with your learners based on mutual trust, respect, and honesty, share ownership of the classroom and school with them, and break out of the vicious cycle of punishment and reward to control student behavior.  Based on common-sense strategies, personal storytelling and the research behind student engagement, this is a keynote meant to move you to action.  Whether you are just beginning or well on your way in your teaching career, this session is meant to inspire you, help you take some risks, and eagerly pursue your journey toward a school filled with passionate learners.

This session can also be geared specifically toward administrators.

Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child

With 26% of adults reporting that they have not read a book in the last 12 months, we are facing a mounting reading crisis.  So what can we, as the educators who teach this future generation of readers, do to create more engaging reading experiences?  In this session, based on the book Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, educator Pernille Ripp will help you re-discover the keys of creating a community of readers, no matter the constricts facing your time.  Focusing on teacher reading identity, classroom environment and library, as well as a commonsense approach to bolstering student reading identity, this is a session sure to create conditions for more reading joy and deeper engagement with reading. From re-thinking major literacy decisions to all of the small decisions we make daily; this is meant to be a practical session that will offer up ideas to be implemented the very next day.

This session can also be geared specifically toward administrators.

Passionate Writers – Helping Students Become True Writers

While writing continues to be a skill that all children must develop, how do we help students feel like true writers, the type of writers who feel like their work matters beyond the classroom lesson? In this session, we will discuss small tweaks and practical tips on how to help students develop their writer’s voice to see writing as something that matters to them. With this renewed investment, we can help them dig deeper in their writing explorations, to truly become passionate writers no matter their skill level.

This session can also be geared specifically toward administrators.

Using Shared Reading to Increase Reading Joy

Creating opportunities for students to interact with one another through the use of book clubs, short story discussions, read aloud, and other shared reading opportunities is a way to increase engagement, create reading joy, as well as teach important literacy skills.  But how do we set up our shared learning opportunities to guarantee access and enjoyment for students and educators alike? Join educator, Pernille Ripp, as she discusses best practices within shared reading, such as literacy circles, read alouds, and discussion, as well as the lessons her students have taught her throughout the years when it comes to developing rich discussions, community investment, and comprehensive understanding of reading.

This session can also be geared specifically toward administrators.

Cultivating and Retaining Passionate Teachers

For administrators and those who work with teachers, this session is focused on ways to help staff feel empowered, engaged, and excited to work with students.  From more meaningful staff interactions to building a culture of trust that reverberates within classroom work, this session is meant to inspire, as well as provide practical ways for your school or district to take it to the next level.  Based on the book “Empowered Schools, Empowered Students,” this session will offer up ways to cultivate the expertise within your school, create a purposeful environment of trust and collaboration, and implement sustainable ways to tap into student and staff efficacy.

But They Still Hate Reading – Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity

The message is clear among literacy communities; we want to help our students become readers for life, we want them to establish a positive relationship with reading, but we need more ideas that focus on the individual development of reading identity.   So what do we do when we believe in choice, when we believe in inclusive access, when we believe we have the components needed for each child to be successful, and yet, it does not seem to be enough?  What do we do not just on the first day of school but every single day after when those kids who hate reading just grow in their hatred rather than change their minds?  Focusing on creating authentic opportunities for students to recognize, (re-)establish, and cultivate positive reading identities this session is meant for the educator looking for practical ideas in their quest to help students become passionate readers.  Based on literacy research, personal anecdotes, and advice from her students, this session focuses on practical tools, reflective conversations, as well as easily implementable ideas that will help you continue the work you have started toward a thriving reading community.  

This session can also be geared specifically toward administrators.

A Picture Book Taught Me This

While picture books are a staple of the elementary classroom, there often is no place for them with our older students, yet these are the students that need picture books the most.  Discover how picture books can help older students read closely, critically analyze text, conquer complex messages, become stronger writers, as well as spark their love of reading again all through the use of carefully selected picture books.  Participants will leave with strategies for building their own picture book mentor collection, ideas for lessons, including using picture books as a tool for assessment while honoring each child’s unique reading identity.

Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration

Have you ever wondered what can happen when you integrate technology into your literacy instruction?  Pernille Ripp and her students have been reading, writing, and discussing with the world since 2010, fundamentally changing the way she teaches and how her students read and write.  Join us as we share ideas for how technology can take your literacy instruction to a new level, including ways to use Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, blogging, and many other tech tools that will allow for global collaboration, cross-curricular projects, and sparking the love of reading and writing in students.

All of these can be adapted to be a keynote, featured session, inservice training or half- or whole-day workshop and are all personalized to fit the unique needs of the educators I am working with.

If you would like to speak to me more about any of the events I will be at or if you would like me to work with educators in your area, please contact me at p@globalreadaloud.com or through the contact form found here

Pernille Ripp
Speaking at ILA

I hope to see many passionate educators on the road in the next few months, if our paths cross, please say hello! Until then, take care of yourself.