Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ways we are using our Reader's Notebooks!

One of my favorite parts of reading workshop is teaching students how to talk and write about their reading.  I LOVE creating charts to write about our read alouds and to help lift the level of our conversations so I am constantly modeling how to write about reading through chart-making with my students.  I always tell my students that the chart is our giant reader's notebook and during read aloud I model a variety of strategies to organize, keep track of, and deepen our thinking.  This consistent modeling helps students transfer the strategies into their own reader's notebook to write about their independent books.  To read my post I wrote a couple years ago about reader's notebooks, click here.

Below are some examples of charts created during read aloud to model a variety of writing about reading strategies:


Each year, I encourage students to not only try out the strategies that I model during read aloud, but to also create and try out their own strategies.  I want my students to always feel ownership over their reader's notebooks and know that it is a place for them to choose how they want to express their thinking about their reading in a way that makes sense to them and is purposeful for them.  I don't want it to feel like a chore or something they are doing just for me.  I want them to see and understand the purpose and value of writing about their reading and how it helps them grow their thinking and conversations.  Students have the choice to use pencil, different colored pens, post-its, sketches, and more.   By giving students ownership of their notebooks, they truly do use it as a tool and it is amazing to see the strategies they create and use! 

I think it is important for students to teach one another the strategies they create and use so I make time for students to share and teach one another.  Last week, during reading workshop, students had the opportunity to share a strategy they are using in their reader's notebook.   They used the document camera to share a page from their notebook to visually show the strategy and teach their classmates how and why they use it.  In addition, they share the name they chose to call the strategy if they created it - some of the strategy names are very creative! As students share strategies and explain them with an example from their notebook, I record the strategy name along with an example on a chart for the class to use as a tool.  Next to the strategy, I write down the name of students' who shared the strategy so their classmates can check out their notebooks and/or talk to them more about the strategy.  

Below are two of our class charts that were created while students shared strategies from their notebooks: 
Class chart created while students shared ways they are using their reader's notebooks

Second class chart created while students shared more ways they are using their reader's notebooks.

Below are some examples from students' reader's notebooks:


Students also showcase colored photocopies of pages from their reader's notebooks on one of our bulletin boards.  If they want a page photocopied, they mark the page with a post-it and put it on a table in the back of our classroom at the end of the day.  Once it is photocopied, they hang it up along with a colored label where they write their name and the name of the strategy they used.  This bulletin board not only gives students a chance to showcase their writing about reading strategies, but also serves as a teaching tool where students learn from one another! 

Reader's Notebook Bulletin Board 

Happy Writing about Reading! :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading...

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson could be my new favorite mentor text. I loved the New York Times review by Veronica Chambers where she wrote:

"You can read “Brown Girl Dreaming” in one sitting, but it is as rich a spread as the potluck table at a family reunion. Sure, you can plow through the pages, grabbing everything you can in one go, like piling a plate high with fried chicken and ribs, potato salad and corn bread. And yes, it’s entirely possible to hold that plate with one hand while balancing a bowl of gumbo and a cup of sweet tea with the other. But since the food isn’t going anywhere, you’ll make out just as well, maybe even a little better, if you pace yourself."

I found myself reading Brown Girl Dreaming holding the plate in one hand and gobbling as I went, so I had to ge back and savor it after I made it to the final page. My family humored me and listened to several of the entries, especially since they were stuck in the car with me as we drove home from Rhode Island last night. I plan to continue to mark pages and savor pages...

Many parts of this book remind me of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, except that instead of just having 32 pages of images, powerful memories, and sensory language, Jacqueline Woodson provides 330 pages of evocative writing. While a strong plot winds through the lyrical verses, many of the chapters can stand alone as individual stories to inspire both readers and writers to pay attention or create sensory details, foreshadowing, parallel structures, minimalism, characterization, figurative language. Many schools have upper elementary students write I Am From or I Believe poems and one of my favorite chapters is What I Believe at the end. Do not miss this!

In addition to providing incredible lessons for powerful close reading and writing mentorship, Brown Girl Dreaming also weaves American history and geography throughout the twentieth century. This book will definitely inspire questions about segregation, civil rights, and equality since the Woodsons' experiences included the north and the south over the course of the sixties and seventies. One seven line chapter, Ghosts, relays history in just these lines:

In downtown Greenville, 
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs, 
except on the bathroom doors, 
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.

Themes of perseverance, resilience, and acceptance run throughout this book, as well as messages about growth mindsets and the power of believing in yourself.  I could go on. What a beautiful, inspiring book!
#don't miss it!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading...

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Unusual week for me , as I have no picture books on the list...

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff has been on my list all summer, but I had loaned it to my 13 year-old nephew who doesn't love to read. (He loved it. Do I need to write more?) When my blogging partner, Melanie Swider, listed it on her list of favorites, I cut the TBR line and I am glad that I did. Absolutely Almost is a wonderful book to read and talk about empathy and kindness. I wasn't prepared for how sad I would feel for Albie, the main character, in this book, as he grapples with learning difficulties, friendship issues, and parental realationships.  This is also a wonderful book to talk about the power of voice in writing, as Albie is funny, honest, and insightful.

I had two long car rides last week, one with my going-to-college daughter and another by myself. Larkin had tried to pick a book that we would both enjoy and had selected The Here and Now by Ann Brashares. Not a book I would normally pick up since it is young adult and I rarely venture from my world of middle grade and picture books, I have to say that I enjoyed the plot. I'm selective with my seventh grade daughter's books, and I would have no problem with her reading this (no swearing, only one mention of sex, a short violent scene) and I think that she would learn a lot, as woven into the plot were strong messages about global warming and our disregard for the warnings in our world. The main character is a "time traveller", and is in our world from a world that is 80 years ahead of us. Her community had to escape blood plagues along the lines of AIDS, as well as deadly and prevalent mosquitos. Overall, the audio kept my attention along long highways, and I listened to the last third without Larkin, who bought the hard copy in Michigan.

Before I let Larkin put in her choice, we listened to several chapters of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the COO of Facebook. I think that her TedTalks and her book are important reading for young women, as she delivers a strong message that women need to be more represented in leadership positions. Larkin (18) and I had some good conversations about the truth of Sheryl Sandberg's points--we found ourselves nodding as we listened, agreeing that she was right about how women behave versus how men behave--and I was glad to have shared this experience during an important time in Larkin's life. I will also have my younger daughters watch her Tedtalks, found here and here.  I have read many books about raising strong daughters, but I felt like there were messages in these talks that young women should definitely hear.  It's also a book that fathers should read, as well. 

Happy reading (and listening!)