conferences, connections, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

An Update on Our Student Reading Action Plans

This is the form I use to keep track of my notes as I meet with students, to see the form and more details, go to the original post

A few weeks ago, I blogged about an idea I was trying in our classroom as a way to help the kids who seem to just not be “there” just yet. Who seem to just not have found a great book just yet. Who seem to just not be really reading more than a few pages a week. Who seem to be going through the motions rather than fully investing. Who seem to go from book to book without ever really sinking in. The idea was simple; do a daily check in for two weeks with just a few kids, ask them about the book itself but focus more so on their habits. It couldn’t hurt, right?

So for the past few weeks, this is what I have been doing. Taking a minute or two and checking in with just a few students, not ignoring anyone else, but starting with these few kids first to make sure we had a conversation about the book they were reading, as well as how they felt as readers.

What have we uncovered in these small conversations? Lots actually. Some things I already knew, such as how they felt about reading, but also some things I didn’t. How many of them don’t know when they should book shop, how many of them have a to-be-read list but don’t use it for anything, how many of them pick books that for whatever reason are the wrong kind of challenge for them at that time. And within these moments of revelation lies the entire heart of what I hope all of these incredible students will experience this year; a reading experience that is meaningful to them. And so these moments, based around a simple premise, it was exactly what I had hoped would happen; establishing a deeper relationship with these students as we unravel their reading identity further.

It turns out that almost all of them are having an incredibly hard time selecting a powerful book for themselves. That while they have had some positive experiences with books in the past, they don’t exactly know what made that book amazing. How many of them stick with the books, dreading every moment, rather than searching for something better. That they will “settle” on an okay book rather than pursue something better because they don’t think that better exists. That despite all of our conversations about book choice, book abandonment, paired with ample book access and book recommendations from their peers, from me, from our librarian, it is still not enough.

But these conversations; these few minutes we are having together every single day is helping them realize that there is more to reading than just going through the motions. That they deserve a great book. That they should demand for themselves to read incredible books and that that starts with knowing themselves better as a reader and also taking the time it sometimes takes to find their next read. So as the two weeks wind down for a few of the kids, some I am going to start seeing them every few days. Some I will continue to speak to every day, while some are ready for a trial period without me. New kids will be added, new goals will be set, new conversations await. And with that will come the continued reminder that all kids deserve our undivided attention, that all kids can have better relationships with reading, that all kids deserve to have outstanding reading experiences, even if they don’t know it yet. Some just need a little more attention to get (back) on the right path.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.   

conferences, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity

Who Wants to Read it Next?

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As they sit and read, every day for ten or fifteen minutes as we get ready for the day, I sit next to a student and ask them a seemingly simple question; What are you working on as a reader? As we discuss their reading life, their habits, and their goals, I always end with another question. One that seems to give many of our students’ pause, “How can we support you?” This question shouldn’t be a hard one, after all, these kids are surrounded by adults who are here to help them grow and yet for many, it takes them a moment to realize what they need, or even what they can ask for.

But one answer comes up again and again. Recommend me books. Book recommendations! Keep doing those book talks. The little talks that we do as a community almost every single day are making one of the largest differences.

I can recommend books to our students because most of the books I read are meant to be read by children. While I sometimes do stare longingly at some of my Danish crime stories that I haven’t yet read, I know that one of the biggest gifts I can give our students is a passport into the library, both the one in our classroom and the one that sits in the middle of our school. And that happens through a book talk, demystifying all of the books staring at them and making them look like journeys waiting to happen rather than insurmountable mountains.

By recommending books I have read, by other adults in the building recommending books, by students recommending books in our 30-second book talks, we are laying the foundation for a community that discusses their reading life openly. We are strengthening the notion that reading is something we all need. Something we all believe in as a way to build community. We are chipping away at the notion that some middle schoolers carry that reading is not cool or a waste of time. Instead through every recommendation, through every book held high over our heads, through every title suggested, we are laying the foundation for a readerly life. One that will hopefully expand beyond our years together, beyond this building.

And it is making a difference. Kids model the way we talk about books. Kids write down titles and then speak books to one another. Their to-be-read lists grow sometimes to delightfully impossible lengths.

So when a child reminds me once again that what they need from me is more book recommendations, it is a task I will gladly carry out. And one that I will gladly share with others. After all, they need as many books in their life as possible. They need as many book people as in their life as possible. They need as many happy reading moments as possible. And all of this can start with a simple book recommendation, a short book talk, and then another question; who wants to read it next?

To see what I am reading and recommending, follow me on Instagram

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.    

being a teacher, conferences, Literacy, Reading, Reading Identity, talking

How to Be A Teacher Reading Role Model – Without Actually Reading In Front of Your Class

I was taught in college that to be a teacher reading role model, I should read infront of my students; not just read aloud, but actually sit down and read in front of them so they could see how much reading meant to me.  So when I embraced independent reading, I did just that; pulled my own book out and read diligently next to them.  It didn’t matter that I was not reading books they could actually read, but instead that they saw me in the physical act of reading.  Yet, something felt inherently wrong.  I was distracted by my own book at times, not picking up on what kids were actually doing.  I didn’t feel like I was actually teaching them anything during that time, and, most importantly; very few of my students actually saw me as a reading role model, which baffled me for a long time.  It turns out that simply seeing someone read does not make them a reading role model and so I knew I had to change my ways.

It turns out, though, that I was not the only one that was taught this method of teacher-as-reading-role-model; when the kids read, you read right alongside them.  I was reminded of this just the other day when a brand new teacher told me that when her kids were reading so was she.  I immediately thought, “What a waste of time,” but then also realized why this seems like a great idea on the surface.  After all, we  know that kids will read more when they see others reading, we know that adults as reading role models are a powerful tool, and it also legitimizes independent reading time; “See how important this is by me doing it as well…”

And yet; we need that independent reading time to meet with kids.  To confer when we can.  To do reading check-ins with as many kids as possible to further enhance our own instruction.  To build relationships and community.  To truly understand the learners that are in our care.  Not to work on our own reading.  So how do we establish ourselves as reading role models without physically reading in front of the kids?

We give it time.  The first step is to make sure there is time for independent reading.  After all, if we value something then we must give it the thing we have the least of; our time.  So every day we should find the time for self-selected choice independent reading for all of our students, no matter their needs and abilities.

We read aloud.  At all ages and whenever we can.  Kids will understand the importance of shared book experiences by actually participating in them and so we must model what it means to be a fluent read-alouder, what it means to be carried away in a text, to be emotionally connected to a piece of literature.  We do this by reading aloud stories, poems, and other pieces that move us and then invite students into the experience.

We speak reading.  My students know a lot about my reading life because I speak about it often.  I book talk books I just finished or abandoned, I talk about the latest book I cannot wait to read.  I talk about how I sneak books with me everywhere, how I trained myself to read in the car without getting sick so it would give me more reading time.  We speak books and how they matter whenever we can, not just on the days it is our teaching point.

We showcase our reading.  Outside of our classroom, I have a display of all of the books I have read so far.  My students know my reading goal and see the poster fill up as the year progresses.  My students can see that I spend time reading outside of class because they see the covers get added.  The visual representation is also a constant reminder as they enter our classroom that in here the books we read is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed of.

We procure more books.  The first thing most people notice when they enter our classroom is the sheer amount of books.  The collection and its placements speaks to the importance of reading in our community.  Having books front and center means that reading is front and center.

We sometimes read with them.  If I cannot wait to finish a book, if the classroom is particularly still, or sometimes just because it is Friday, I will sit down and read with my students.  Not because I have to but because I want to.  It is not every week, we have much too little teaching time for that, but once in a while, they might see me reading, that is if they actually look up from the pages of their own book.

Being a reading role-model is something I take quite seriously, as do many of my colleagues.  Our schools speaks books because we feel the urgency with which we lose our middle schooler’s interest in reading every year.  So every minute matters, every minute counts, and while reading in front of my students would be lovely, that is not my main job in the classroom as they read.  Speaking to them is.  How have you become a reading role model in your classroom?

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, 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, being me, conferences, connect

Well Hello #NCTE15

For a few years I have sighed every November when it seems like every literacy genius that I follow have headed to NCTE and then shared all about it.  For a few years I have thought that maybe I would go, but then when it comes to be time, there never seemed to be enough time.  And so I haven’t.  And I have been fine, but boy ,have I felt like I was missing out.

So thanks to the amazing Lynda Mullaly Hunt who thought that maybe we should propose a session on the Global Read Aloud.  Thanks to all of my amazing Nerdy Book Club friends who told me that this was the best conference ever, thanks to my district for believing fervently in professional development, and thanks to Skype for believing in me and the GRA, this is the year I get to go.  And I am counting down the days like it is a countdown to Christmas.

So where will I be?

On Friday, I get to be on a panel with Franki Sibberson, Ruth Ayres, Bill Bass, Ann Marie Corgill, Katie Muhtaris, Katherine Hale, Colby Sharp, and Kristin Ziemke.  Yup, I am so honored to be presenting along these amazing minds on Keeping Reading Authentic and Student-Centered with Technology at 11 AM.

Later that day, I get to do my 3rd ever Ignite.  And I am nervous; how can you not be when you only get 5 minutes to share what you are passionate about?  But at 2:30, I am going to try.

Saturday at 8 AM, it is then to the session that started it all; The Global Read Aloud.  I will be the one pinching herself when I get to sit with Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Sharon Draper, Kate Messner, Jenni Holm, and Katherine Applegate, as well as Michelle Kedzierksi as we talk about the project and more importantly the community that it creates.

Now for some reason none of these come up with my name in the app, which actually feels rather symbolic, after all, I cannot believe that I get to go. I cannot believe that I get to learn and be inspired finally at this conference.But trust me, they are happening, I will be there, and I will be grinning from ear to ear.

So if you see me, and I look pretty much like me, please say hi.  Please tell me which book you are reading, tell me what you’re up to.  I will be the one amazed at simply being there, surrounded by so much passion.

 

 

aha moment, assessment, assumptions, being a teacher, being me, conferences, connect, Passion, student voice

How Can I Make This Better For You?

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For the past three days my students have read.  They have sat wherever they wanted, immersed in the book of their choice.  They have book shopped.  They have reflected, but mostly just read.  Whispered about their books.  Handed those in they have finished.  And waited for me to call their name, knowing that soon it would be their turn.

I have sat at a table and spoken to them all, one by one, taken the time it takes.  “How is English going…How can I be a better teacher for you….What is not working…”  Armed with the survey they have takes as we finished our very first quarter, they have told me their truths.  They have looked at me and then gladly told me everything I have needed to change.   And I am so grateful.  Think of the guts that it takes to look at your teacher to tell them that something is not working for you.  Think of what that says about the community we have.

So for the past 3 days, I have listened.  I have nodded and taken notes.  I have asked for further explanation, and I have also asked for help.  How can we make it better?  How can we find more time?  How can we make it easier?  More engaging?  More of what they need?  How can we…

We read books to become better teachers.  We ask colleagues for help.  We meet with administrators.  We reach out to parents.  We connect and we ask and we ponder together.  Yet, how often do we ask the very kids that we teach?  How often do we stop what we are doing simply to conference with them?  Not about their work but to uncover how things are going?  What they need?  How we can change?  How often do we stop so we can learn from them?  Not often enough, but that can change.  It starts with us.  And it starts with a simple question; how can I make this better for you?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

being me, conferences, education

It’s Time to Pass the Reins For #EdCampMadWI

Four years ago, I caught a tweet from the incredible Jess Henze wondering if anyone would be interested in bringing an EdCamp to the Madison, WI area.  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I immediately replied yes not knowing what to expect.  Soon Kaye Henrickson and Emily Dittmar joined our team and for the past three years we have been the driving force behind this incredible event.

Now with huge moves (Goodbye Jess, Montana will love you), almost new jobs (Emily spreading her magic in Muskego) and crazy busy lives (how many things can Kaye magically organize?), we are ready to pass the reigns.  This event should not die out, but instead should be taken over by a new team of amazing people that love EdCamp as much as we have.

So leave a comment, tweet us, or email us and let us know if you are interested.  To the lucky people who take over, we will give you the domain, the background info and any support you need.  If you are just curious, you can contact us as well.

I am so thankful to the three women I got to run this with.  We have shared many emails, voxes, Google docs, laughs, and even frustration, but it has never been a chore working with you.  You are why education has a chance to make a difference.  You are true leaders and I am proud to have been a part of this with you.