aha moment, being me, books, Literacy, MIEExpert15, Passion, Reading

6 Simple Ideas to Get Kids to Read

recite-1afdwu0

Loving reading, loving books, being a reader, and finding your own books to share are central goals in our 7th grade English classroom.  And I spend every waking moment at times it seems trying to find ways for students to find that special book that will make them feel like they are a reader.  I spend hours planning, prepping, buying books, and yes, reading them to make sure that I am the best teacher possible for all of my many students.  Yet, sometimes we do not need a lot of time, nor a lot of work to inspire a love of reading.  So behold, these are my 6 simplest ideas for getting students to fall (a little bit more) in love with reading.

Public Display of Book Affection

I believe in public displays of book affection every single day and on every surface allowable.  When students enter into our team area (Go sharks!), they are greeted this year with our giant poster wondering how many picture books we can read in a year (Thanks Jillian Heise for the idea).  They can also see what I am reading, as well as what my team is reading.  In our room, there are books everywhere.  Many are faced out and the displays change depending on our mood.  Books are everywhere.  Book love is everywhere.  I take great pride and care in showing that books are central to our world.  There is no willy-nilly displays allowed.

The 1 Minute Book Talk

I will start most classes with a 1 minute book talk highlighting the book I just finished, a book I cannot wait to read, or a book that I purchased for the classroom.  As the year progresses I hope to hand this over to students.  But think about it?  180 days equals 180 books talks.  That’s a lot of exposure.  since I have 5 English classes, there will be 5 different book talks every day.  Once done, they go on the whiteboard ledge for anyone to grab.

The Repeated Question

I always ask students, current and former, what they are reading.  Even when we are not in class.  That constant focus on literacy coupled with the innate expectation that they are reading means that students start to think of their answer before they see me.  And those that don’t read?  Well, this question opens up to a discussion of why not and I can usually sneak them a book recommendation or two as we talk.

The Pushy Book Handler

I am always handing books to students (and colleagues too).  Books do not get read by sitting on your shelf.  Books do not get discovered by being in a bin.  They get discovered and read by someone picking them up, flipping through them, and perhaps reading a few words.  So we have to physically hand books to students if we want them to get excited.  We do monthly (or sometimes weekly) book shopping in our classroom where piles of great books await the students.  With their “To Be Read” list in hand, they take five minutes to browse the piles and find new books to read.

The Getting Out of the Way Trick

Easy access and check out to books is a must.  Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne told us at ILA that if books are across the hallway they are too far away.  We need classroom libraries  in every room, not just the English classroom.  We needs books at the fingertips of our students so that at any moment they can be inspired to reach out and find a new text.  Books are not a distraction, they are a necessity in our classrooms and should be treated as such.  This is also why I don’t have a check out system really.  To see more about how I organize my classroom library, see this post.

The Guest Book Shopper

If you have that one child that will not read.  If you have that one child that keeps reading that one book and not because they love it so much.  If you have that one kid that never likes anything you have to offer, this is a great way to spark an interest in them.  Simply hand them a book catalog.  Get them on Amazon.  Take them to a book store if you can and ask them to select a few books.  Before the books arrive get them excited about their impending arrival.  And then when they get make it a priority to get them to the student that day.  It is a matter of urgency now that the books are here, so they should find their home right away.

Those are my top 6 ideas.  Very simple indeed and take very little time.  What are yours?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

advice, being a teacher, curriculum, MIEExpert15

3 Must-Do’s If Your School Purchases Curriculum

There seems to have always been pre-packaged programs available for districts to purchase.  Whether they came as a kit, a textbook, or just a set of ideas they have been a part of education for so many years and will continue to be as long as there are districts searching for the right answer, searching for guidance.  And there isn’t anything wrong with that.  I am not an opponent to the purchased curriculum, I am not an opponent of buying resources for teachers.  However, I am an opponent of buying a program, no matter how great it is, and then telling everyone to follow every single thing in it.

You see, we don’t teach the children that these researchers taught.  Our students will never share the same experience, nor the same background.  And that is important because if a program does not allow us to adapt it to our students, then it will not be as powerful as we need it to be.  If we are chained to a curriculum map based on other people’s students, then we are not teaching the students in front of us.

So by all means; go ahead and purchase the curriculum out there.  There are great ones out there that have a solid foundation,  but if you do, please make sure you do the following three things as well:

  1. Create an open dialogue.   Teachers need to know that they can question the program and that they have a voice.   There should be no sacred cow in our district.  Make sure that this is not a top-down decision and that you constantly assess whether this program is what you need.  Just because you spent money on something does not mean it is right for everyone.
  2. Allow teachers to modify, adapt, and change as needed.  That doesn’t mean compromising the program, but instead it means trusting teachers as the professionals they are to create an even better experience for their students.  One that allows them to teach the very kids they are supposed to teach.  That does not mean teachers are being subversive, it simply means that they are responding to gaps that they see and they are doing something about.  No program will ever be the perfect fit for all of our kids, all of our teachers, and all of our schools.  They are vast road maps, not step-by-step directions.
  3. Ask the students.  If students are losing their love of reading, writing, science, math or whatever program it is they are in, then we have a serious problem.  It does not matter that the program may be the best for creating deep comprehension if students hate doing it.  If a curriculum program is creating robots in our classroom then we should be worried.  And we should take action and we do that best by asking the students what is going on.  Then we listen and then we change.

So if you find yourself in the situation where you can tell that something is not working for your students, speak up.  Do it kindly, but do speak up, because administration cannot engage in a conversation that they do not know is needed.  Ask your students, involve parents, and collect your evidence.  Start a conversation before a program becomes an educational barrier to success.  Don’t stay silent if you see something harming students, the change starts with us and our courage.

PS:  And if you are using money to purchase curriculum but not using money to buy books, then the priorities need to change.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

assessment, attention, authentic learning, being a teacher, Literacy, MIEExpert15, student choice, student voice, technology

What About the “P” In Your B.Y.O.D.?

quotescover-JPG-45

The final quarter of last year, our classroom was a limited B.Y.O.D. zone, meaning yes, bring your own device but check it at the door unless we had a purpose for it.  I instituted this because I felt we were getting distracted, myself included, we were having a hard time resisting the instant temptations that our smartphones seem to provide for us.  So we left them out of the room and the students were just fine with it.  I was too.  In fact, there  were times where I knew that our conversations, our reflections, our thinking traveled to deeper levels because we did not have a device nearby to distract.

Yet, I felt like I had taking the easy way out.  That declaring our room a device free zone was limiting the students.  So I have been thinking a lot about meaningful purpose lately, because much like I would not take a pencil away from my students unless I had to, I don’t think we should be taking devices either.  What we need instead is purpose, and purpose starts with us.  Especially in our literacy classroom where we have such an opportunity to use the devices to further a love of reading.

The beauty of students with devices is not just the instant access to information, but the ability to give them a voice even if we are not discussing.  To give them a further purpose than just the immediate one in the classroom.  To create a digital platform for them to share their voices with the world.  Therefore, this coming year, we will not be device-free but rather device-purposeful.  Together we will be deciding how to use, when to use, and what to do with our devices.  There will be clear student-set expectations and they will be a natural part of our classroom, not something to always leave at the door.

A few ideas so far for the purpose part are:  (For students with  no devices we will have access to Chromebooks to do some of these things. )
An ongoing TodaysMeet backchannel.  This idea, shared by Ira Socol at ISTE, means that I am creating a TodaysMeet room for each class and having that as a place for students to discuss, ask questions, and also to take the pulse of my classroom.  Because, of course, students will probably veer off the prompted conversation, but will they do it all of the time?  This will allow my shyer students a way to speak up, allow students to help each other, and also a way to leave me questions that perhaps they don’t feel they need the answer to right away.  This backchannel will also allow me a way to assess to see engagement, interest, and confusion.  All useful tools as I prepare and plan.

A Goodreads community.  I plan on using Goodreads with my students this year as a way to log their books, share recommendations, and explore new books.  It is the same tool I use for myself and so adding it will be a natural extension of what adult readers use.  For those who teach younger students, you could use Biblionasium to do this as well.

A Padlet Wonder wall.  I really want us to start being more curious and wondering more, so having a Padlet with things we wonder about will be another tool for the students to access.  I plan on sharing a daily wonder as well, and may use Wonderopolis if we have time.

A Padlet book share wall.  This idea shared by the inspiring Kristin Ziemke at ILA is having a place for students to post “Book shelfies” plus a recommendation of the book.  I loved Kristin’s idea especially of opening this up to the world and having students around the world sharing their books as well.

Those are just a few ideas, but I am sure more will come soon.  I cannot wait to discuss these ideas with my students and see what else they have to offer.  What ideas would you add?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Be the change, being a teacher, believe, choices, MIEExpert15, teachers

We Are the Experts on Our Students

I don’t remember when I started speaking up as a teacher.  When my words no longer burned in my skull, my mouth tightly closed.  When I finally had the courage to raise my hand and give my opinion and then wait and see what would happen.  But I do remember how it felt; terrifying.  My cheeks flamed red, all eyes on me.  In my mind you could have heard a pin drop.  Time slowed until someone else jumped in.  Yet, in reality, it was probably not a big moment.  Not something etched into history, nor remembered by the masses.  So why is it we are so afraid to claim our expertise as teachers, ask questions, and speak up for the students we teach?

We seem to have no problem being told what to do as teachers.  Whether we are a product of the teaching conditions we endure, or we simply don’t think our opinions have value, we mostly keep silent when it comes to new programs, new initiatives, and new decisions.  We assume that everyone understands our students and thus the decisions being made will always benefit them.  But we all know that that is not always true.  And yet we wait for others to tell us what to do, so that we can follow their path.  Instead of carving out our own, instead of adding our voice.

The thing is, we are the experts on the kids we teach.  Not the amazing administrators we may work with.   Not the consultant brought in or the outside expert.  We are.  And we need to speak up when things are not going to be in the best interest of those children.  We need to at least offer our opinion, our advice, and then be allowed to adapt for the very students we teach.

If we know our facts.  If we know our craft.  If we know our research then we too are experts.  Then our voices matter as well.  But you have to allow yourself to have your voice heard.  You have to trust yourself in adapting programs to make them work for the kids you teach.  You have to allow yourself to ask questions, suggest modifications, create change so that the very students we are entrusted to teach will get the best learning experience.

Don’t wait for others to claim you are an expert, claim it yourself.  Give yourself the same value that you place on your students.  You know what is best for kids, so trust that. Stop creating more barriers than there needs to be because their future depends on you.

H/T to Jess Lifshitz and her early morning talks.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

aha moment, Be the change, being a teacher, being me, MIEExpert15, Passion, student voice

This Is For the Kids

This is for the kids who made me cry.  Who wore me out, who tore me down.  This is for the kids who wondered why.   Who dared to speak, who dared to question.  This is for the kids that didn’t give up, that saw something in me I would have never seen myself.  Who questioned persistently, who had the audacity to say they were bored.  And who never ever thought that school should be about the teachers and not about the kids.

Those kids that may be “hard” to teach.  Those kids that are definitely hard to reach.  Those kids with their chips, their baggage, their grudges.  Who couldn’t think that this was what school was meant to be, who didn’t believe that it couldn’t get better.  Who pushed me and pulled me, who got angry at times.  This is for you kids, and I hope you know who you are, because without your courage to speak up, I wouldn’t write.  I wouldn’t speak, and I wouldn’t be a better teacher.

So this is for the kids who dared to dream that being a student in our schools could be more than it was.  Who through their defiance shattered my illusion that I was a good teacher and drove me to become better.  This is for you, for all of you, who instead of giving up, got angry, who instead of fitting in, stuck out.  You gave me the reason to change.  Thank you for being those kids to me.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being me, choices, Literacy, MIEExpert15, Reading

My Child Is Not A Struggling Reader

She snuggles in next to me, holds up the book really high and looks at me expectantly, “Ready, mom?”  I nod and off we go, Thea trying to figure out what happened to Daniel Tiger and why he got so upset with his friends.  Every word is a thought. Every word is work.   She uses expression yet chops her way through.  Some words she completely misses, her legs moving, her body wiggling, and guesses fly out of her mouth because her eyes are not looking at the words but instead at the pictures.

Thea could be given a lot of labels.  The teacher voice in my head has a running monologue as she reads checking off the skills she still needs to conquer.  She is a reader that is behind where she should be after her first year in school according to the charts.  She is a kid that fights for every step forward she makes.  And yet, to me she is so much more.  She is a kid who doesn’t give up even when she gets frustrated. She is a kid that knows that she needs body breaks when her brain is processing words.  She is a kid that thrives on the routine of reading every night, not because I told her so, but because she wants to show me she can.  And she loves to read.

She is not a struggling reader.

She is not a failing reader.

She is a reader.  Period.  A kid that is developing their skills at her pace in the way her body and her brain needs.  She is a kid that loves to read even though it can be a struggle.  Yet that very struggle cannot define her.  That label cannot possibly sum up everything she is when it comes to reading.  So why do we continue to call our students struggling readers whenever they are working hard?  Is that really the message we want to send?  That reading is a struggle to them?  Or should we re-frame our conversation and instead empower them with their titles?  How about calling them developing readers?  Growing readers?  How about just readers?

Our students do not come to school identifying themselves as struggling in anything but they leave thinking it.  We give them the language that they use to identify themselves, so how will your students be identified?  You decide…

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.