New from Aimee Buckner!

Be sure to check out Aimee Buckner’s contribution to the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour.  It’s a great read!

Aimee is the author of one of my favorite writing workshop books, Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook. I use it everywhere during our first unit of study. I am especially excited because she is coming out with a new book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook. I can’t wait to get my hands on it! And if you check out Aimee’s post above, there is a link to a sneak peek of the book!

Day 4- Share a Story – Shape a Future Blog Tour

Today is Day 4 of the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour.  Today’s theme is  “A Visit to the Library” and is hosted by Eva Mitnick at Eva’s Book Addiction blog.

Posts:

More Great Posts
Tiger’s Bookshelf: Shopping Mall Library (Thai Knowledge Park) – PaperTigers
Time Travel in a Thai Library: A Visit to Neilson Hays - PaperTigers

 

Share a Story-Shape a Future image created by Elizabeth Dulemba

Slice of Life #11

As I perused the rack of sunglasses at TJMaxx, I was shocked with what I found.  A gorgeous pair of Coach sunglasses……for $15!  I immediately snatched them up, thrilled with my find.  

TJMaxx is one of my favorite stores.  I have to do some digging, but I always find great deals there.  Today, I spent a few minutes exploring the shoe section, housewares, bathing suits, dresses, and women’s clothes.  I ended up leaving with a pair of Coach sunglasses, Lilly Pulitzer sunglasses, and a peacock Vera Bradley 3-ring binder for my new desk.  

Some days I spend 30 minutes digging through the racks at TJMaxx and come up empty-handed.  But today was a great shopping day!  I left the store, bag in hand, thrilled with my purchases.

21st Century Read-alouds

Earlier this year, I was presented with a dilemma.  I wanted to read  Diamond Willow  to my students before the Newbery announcement.  But because the story is told in diamond-shaped poems with bold words throughout, I knew my students would need to see the text in order to fully appreciate it.  I couldn’t afford to buy a class set this late in the year- how could I share this great read-aloud while not going broke?

Then it hit me.  This is the 21st century!  I realized I could share the novel by utilizing my classroom document camera! On January 15th, I posted this idea on my blog.

…the students can see the poems as I read them, just like if they had the book in their hands.  It’s the first time I will be combining technology and literacy this way, and I can’t wait to see how it goes!  Will the experience of reading the book on the board, via the camera, be the same as reading the book in your lap?  It should be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to find out!

I was a bit hesitant at first, as my normal read-aloud routine involves all eyes on me, the one with the novel.  I was afraid some of my students would be distracted by the document camera, the projector, or just the opportunity to stare at the book’s projection.  But as we began, all of my fears dissipated.  My students were enthralled!   They loved reading along with me and were mesmerized by the diamond-shaped poems with the embedded bold words.  Thanks to technology, I was able to share a read-aloud with my students that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience together. 
Both classes loved the novel.  I shared some of their reactions back in January:

“More books should do the bold words thing.  It’s so cool!  They tell you what the character is thinking deep down.”

“It must have been really hard to write a whole book using the right diamond shapes and making sure you had all the words for the bold parts.”

“This was my favorite book that we read all year.”

“This was an awesome book!  

 

Thanks to my document camera and a projector, I was able to share an amazing read-aloud with my students!

Slice of Life #10

As I cleaned my room, I scanned it quickly with my eyes. Anything that would stand out to a parent? I looked over the bulletin boards, made sure I had the chairs set up in the hallway, and the table set up for conferences.

The memoirs! I had forgotten to put them out! I paused for a second, trying to remember where I had put them. Oh, that’s right! I made my way over to my desk and grabbed the large, bound scrapbook. As I walked out to the hall, I flipped through the memoirs. My students did a great job! I was so proud of them and couldn’t wait for their parents to read their published memoirs, mounted on scrapbook paper, and bound in the class memoir book.

I glanced at the clock as I walked back into the room. Only 5 more minutes until my first conference!

Day 2 Share a Story-Shape a Future: How Do We Select Reading Material

Wow!  Day 2 of Share a Story – Shape a Future is up and running!  Day 1 was a rousing success, and Day 2 looks to be just as good. :)

As Terry said yesterday, it all starts with raising readers.  By surrounding children with text and stories, we are helping them blossom into the readers they can and should be.  So maybe yesterday you decided to set aside some time every day or so to read with your children.  But now you are overwhelmed- where do you begin?  How do you find books to read?  How do you know what books your child will enjoy sharing with you?  

Today’s bloggers have fantastic ideas and suggestions for selecting reading material for different age groups.   Whether you need booklists, story ideas for pre-readers, help selecting books for middle graders, or ways to incorporate your love of non-fiction into read-aloud time, there is something for everyone today. So grab a cup of coffee, maybe a snack, and sit back to enjoy the amazing posts today.  We even have some giveaways for you!

As posts go live, I will add the links.


Day 2: Selecting Reading Material

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Great Sites about Selecting Reading Material

 

Do you have suggestions for selecting reading material? Throughout the day, I’ll be reading through the comments to post ideas here. If you have written a post, please be sure to put your link in the comment. We invite you to visit the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog to get the event image to add to your post.

image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story – Shape a Future logo.



Read-alikes and Booklists

When we share books with our students, it is inevitable that they will fall in love and want to seek out similar books.  How can you find read-alikes or booklists for popular books and series?  Why, with the wonders of the internet, of course!

Popular novels and series are frequently the source of “If you liked_________, You will like _________” lists. Earlier this year I was constantly referring to read-alike lists for Twilight in order to satiate my students’ desire for my vampire love stories.  Below are links to some read-alike booklists that you can use with your children.

The best way to have a go-to read-alikes list is to read, read, read yourself.  I am constantly reading children’s books and thinking of specific students that I think will enjoy a particular book.  Over the last few days I have given Don’t Die, My Love to a Twilight lover (she is a romance addict), The Alex Rider Collection for my Roland Smith fan, and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things for my Diary of a Wimpy Kid superfan.  The more I read, the more books I have to draw on.  I can make personal recommendations for students, based on their previous favorites.

I Don’t Know What I Want to Read Next….

It’s the statement I hear everyday.  The signs are obvious- wandering through the classroom library.  Randomly flipping through books.  That disinterested state.  Diagnosis?  A reader without a book.  A floater.  So how do we help middle grade readers  select books?  And how do we select books to share with middle grade readers during read aloud time?  Luckily, we can answer both questions the same way!

Middle graders are famously picky about their reading material.  They have more in common with Goldilocks than they would ever admit- each book they choose has to be “just right”.  Not too long, not too short, not too gross, not to lovey-dovey.  Just right- for that student.  “Just right” is, of course, vastly different for each child.  So how do I help my students choose books?  By being a voracious reader myself.  I read blogs, book reviews, trade magazines, newspaper articles, and every book I can get my hand on.  I read books that interest me and books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself, because I have students who might enjoy them.  When a student tells me, “I don’t know what to read next”, I can engage them in a conversation about books they have enjoyed over the past few weeks or months.  

Everyday I have one or two readers advisory sessions, based on what I know about my students as readers and recommendations I think I can make for them.  And this doesn’t have to just happen in the classroom– parents can do it at home, too!  Engage your middle grade reader in conversations about the books they are reading.  Tell them about books you enjoyed.  Have discussions!  Pay attention to what they read and enjoy, and what their friends are reading and enjoying.  Go to the library or bookstore and flip through books together.  When kids see that you take an interest in their reading, they will be more engaged.  Soon enough, they will be making recommendations to you!

When it comes to read-alouds, I approach the decision in a similar way.  Because I will be sharing the book with 50 students, I take into account their various tastes.  Obviously, I know I will not choose something they all love.  But I take the read-aloud as an opportunity to choose a book they wouldn’t normally choose for themselves, yet I know it is a book they can enjoy.  I read voraciously throughout the year and I usually have a few books on the back burner, books I might read next, after the current read-aloud.  Right now, I am making the final decision on our next read-aloud.

Earlier this year, I read Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, after reading rave reviews on blogs. Immediately after finishing the book, I knew I wanted to share it with my class. Sometimes, a book just hits me that way. The Underneath wasn’t a book my middle schoolers would typically pick up on their own. But the writing was magical, lyrical, and provocative. I knew it was a book we could dig our heels into and have great conversations about. Because I loved the book, I knew my enthusiasm would be contagious.

And boy was it!

We couldn’t put The Underneath down. The students begged to read it.  They made connections, predictions, inferences, and dug into the text.  When we finished the book, I was so immensely proud of them.  Months later, they are still referring back to the novel.  And the same thing has happened with each and every book we have shared as a class.

So far this year, my classes have read a variety of books.

Each book I was chosen because I enjoyed it, I had a connection to it, and I knew I could share that passion and enthusiasm with my students.  While each student has a personal favorite, they enjoyed all of the books.  Reading aloud together has brought us closer as a class.  It’s a tradition I would never give up and one I look forward to sharing with each new class.  If you haven’t tried reading aloud with your middle schooler, I can’t recommend it enough!

What are some of your favorite read-alouds to share with middle schoolers?  Or what books do you suggest parents read with their middle schoolers?

Slice of Life #9

As I sat with my current teammates, I realized I was starting to get anxious.  For the past 4 years I have worked with the best team of teachers.  Now our school is the victim of restructuring and all the teams are being mixed up.  Besides one of my best friends being my special ed teacher next year, I will be working with a whole new team!  It’s a scary thought.

Today was our first team meeting.  As we introduced ourselves, I slowly started to feel at ease.  These girls (and one guy) seem like they are fun, down-to-earth, and passionate about their subject areas.  I have three of my favorite special ed teachers with me, we get to name our own “houses”, and I get to teach a 36 minute enrichment period each day.  That means I can teach my monarchs more in depth!  And maybe even hold a mock Newbery Award!  This is shaping up to be a better year than I first though it would be…

Change is hard, but sometimes it can have unexpected positive results!

Making Time in the Classroom for Read-alouds

Reading aloud to my students is my favorite part of our daily routine.  I like to think it is also my students’ favorite part of the day. When I pull out our latest book, a silence descends upon our classroom.  They are on the edge of their seats, ready to begin!  Throughout the year, our read-alouds bring us closer as a class.  We laugh together and sometimes we even cry together.  (Reading Marley: A Dog Like No Other as a class was an experience like no other!)

When I mention read-alouds to most other middle grade teachers, I am usually met with a look of amazement.  “How do you have time?” they ask.   It’s not always easy- I’m the first to admit it.  In this day and age of shortened class periods and little wiggle room, it can be difficult finding time to share books.  But it is worth it.  The time I spend with my class during read-alouds fosters a strong sense of community along with modeling my own love of reading while sharing various genres with my students.  Reading aloud to my students is the #1 way that I encourage my students to read!  

Read-alouds are usually an integral part of the day for elementary school students, but the practice dwindles as students enter the intermediate and middle grades.  However, this is also the time when students begin to set aside books for video games, computer time, and various social activities.  While these are also important parts of growing up, modeling our own love of reading can foster the joy of reading in our middle school students.  So how can classroom teachers make time for read-alouds?  

1) Establish a regular routine- I share our read-aloud each day at the end of reading or writing workshop.  Our schedule is different each day, because of specials and assemblies.  But my students know that read-aloud will happen each day and they know it will be our wrap-up.  My read-aloud time is written into my lesson plans each week- nothing complicated, just a simple box with the title of our current book.  But this ensures that I include it each day.  Are there times when I don’t fit it in?  Of course.  But I make the effort each day.  And I am successful 90% of the time.

2) Choose books that you enjoy- This is so, so, so important!  Your students will be able to tell immediately if you aren’t enjoying the time you spend reading aloud.  And if you aren’t enjoying it, neither will they.  Share classics that you enjoyed as a child.  Or new favorites!  What you read isn’t nearly as important as the enthusiasm you share with your class.  Your passion will be contagious!  And when you are passionate about the book your are reading together, making time to share it will come naturally.  It won’t seem like a chore.  And your students will be begging you to read more.

3) Make connections to your read-aloud throughout the day and the course of the year-  In my classroom, we have a bulletin board where we hang up copies of the covers of books we read as a class.  Throughout the year, we refer to our past read-alouds whenever possible.  As a class, we have a group of common texts that helps bring us together.  I try to read a variety of genres, so that the students can draw on these books during various units of study throughout the year.  It’s a great way for the kids to come together and share a common pool of knowledge!  In this day and age of less time and stricter curriculums, making connections ties your read-aloud into your day and year.  It becomes an integral part of your classroom routine.

4) Read aloud books that connect with various parts of curriculum- In middle school, teachers are usually specialists in their subject area.  Because of this, we sometimes forget about the other content areas.  A class read-aloud can be an opportunity to bring content area reading into the language arts classroom, or language arts into the content areas.  Science teachers can read novels with scientific or environmental plot threads- Carl Hiaasen’s books are a great example.  Social studies and history teachers can choose from a plethora of historical fiction!  

These are just a few of the ways that I make time for reading aloud in my classroom.  Reading aloud with my students is honestly my favorite part of the day.  In fact, I am signing off now to go through my pile of possible read-alouds to begin this week.  We just finished our current book, Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. Choosing our next book is always extremely difficult because there are so many great books to choose from!  It will take me a few days to narrow it down, but in the meantime I will share picture books and short stories with my students.  No matter what, we always share read-aloud time together!


*Be sure to check out the rest of today’s posts on the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour, hosted by Terry Doherty at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog.

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