Saturday, October 15, 2011

book lists

A good book list is hard to find. Most are so long and vague they are virtually unmanageable, but the Elmhurst Public Library in Illinois has put together some great lists, organized by grade level, genre and gender. I have referenced these lists quite a bit when looking for literature circle options for my middle school kiddos so I thought I would share in case anyone else is in search of book recommendations.

Monday, April 4, 2011

where in the world...

...have the last seven months gone? The whole idea of this blog was to keep track of, and share my learning throughout my Reading Specialization masters program. And, here I am, seven months later with no updates. Yikes! I guess the trouble with my blogging plan was over estimating the amount of time a reading intervention teacher / mom of three / grad student would have to spend reflecting on best practices. But, I am now just four short weeks away from graduation, and maybe then I can be a more consistent blogger!

Speaking of graduation, I am in the final stages of my action research project. I have three fifth grade struggling readers cross-age tutoring three third grade struggling readers. The purpose of the study is to see if there will be increases in the levels of motivation (both in engagement with reading, and improvement in the students' self-perceptions as a reader). So far, so good! It is thrilling to see my students excited about reading with their buddy.

The whole process has had me thinking about some of the main factors that influence motivation. For my study I have done A LOT of research. But, for those of you who have, or work with, students who are reluctant readers, most of the research suggests some simple truths about helping your struggling reader. Richard Allington and Linda Gambrell are two of the many individuals who give us the following advice on reading motivation.

1. children need books or materials they want to read. they need choice!
2. children need books or materials they can read. make sure reading material is on their level.
3. children need opportunities to share what they read with their friends, peers, and family.

I think these three points are simple, and seem like common sense. But, so often, time and resources prevent children from having access to all three. It can be harder than you think to find a variety of material at your child's or student's level from which to choose, and also making sure they have a chance to talk about what they read with others. Literature circles are an excellent option for classroom teachers. There will be more on this topic to come. But the most important thing you can do for unmotivated readers is to expose them to many genres and formats of reading. Help them find what they like, and teach them to find books they can read. There are a few strategies such as I-PICK for finding "just right" books that I plan to discuss in the near future, but the idea is that for a book to be on your independent level, you need to be able to read 99% of the words on the first page. For kids, this generally means no more than 1-3 mistakes.

With books of interest, that they can read, and a chance to share what they are doing, you'll see an improvement an attitude toward reading!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the man who walked between the towers

Is it possible this book is not well known? I wanted to use The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein as a read aloud for my tutoring sessions this weekend, seeing as Saturday is 9/11 I thought it would be an excellent chance to use this wonderful picture book. I had forgotten to request  it from the library and had my fingers crossed this evening that there would still be a copy available. I checked Akron-Summit County Library, and sure enough, all 20 plus copies were available.

Maybe the book is so well loved that people have bought their own copies and don't need to check it out from the library. But if that isn't the case, let me introduce you to a Caldecott Award winning piece of literature that honors the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by highlighting the inspiring story of Philippe Petit's 1974 tight rope walk between the World Trade Center towers.  

I love this picture book for the illustrations, poetic text, and inspiring story that urges us to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and the human spirit that enables us to over come all obstacles. If you haven't had a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent and appropriate choice to read with your children or students this week, and currently there's at least 19 copies available through the Akron Library :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

word study

Word study is a key component of reading instruction - and according to a four blocks approach - should be about one fourth of your literacy instruction.

One way to incorporate word study is through the activity making words. The idea behind making words is to get students actively involved in creating words. Using this kinesthetic, constructivist activity keeps students attention and engaged in word study. (Nice use of edu buzz words, eh?)

Letters (either on cards, written on paper, I like to use magnets)
Surface (paper, table, or I sometimes use a cookie sheet with the letter magnets)

Come up with a "magic word" and from that word, derive smaller words, typically centered around a rime or word family. (ie, I've used the term wheelbarrow and used the rimes are, ole, ow, etc. to come up with words such as howl, owl, bowl, bow, row, etc.)

Determine the order you will have students construct the words, and think of cues. Either state the word you want them to make, or provide a clue to suggest what the words is. As you move through the words, you can say something like rearrange the letters in "bowl" to make the word "blow".

Walk the students through the activity. Let them know that all the letters can be used to make a mystery word. Students like to try and guess what the word is. End the activity with the mystery word.

Make sure the words you are asking students to make are age and reading level appropriate or you'll end up with bored/frustrated kids! Also, make sure that you gauge the attentiveness of the students to keep the activity from running too long.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 reasons your student needs more strategies beyond "sound it out"

The English language is a bit complex. Because of the many different origins of English words and the ever evolving nature of the language, students need more tricks-of-the-trade for decoding unknown words than the old mantra "sound it out."

Here's 10 reasons why:

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The soldier decided to desert the dessert in the

4. They were too close to the door to close it.

5. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

6. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

7. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

8. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Many literacy educators are familiar with countless word games - and they're great. I'm sure I'll post about some of my favorites in the future. But I think a lot of us are unfamiliar with wordle. Its a fun website where you use text to create graphics.  All the words use (removing all words except for nouns and verbs) are sized according to the number of times each is used in the text.

Below is an example of a wordle created from the most important sentences of manifestos on the use of multicultural literature in the classroom created in my most recent grad class.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

summer reading & a free book

Border's summer reading program - Double Dog Dare - gives a child under 12 a free book for reading ten books. Check out the link for the details. The free book is restricted to certain titles, but its still a free book! All you have to do is fill out a form you download from the website, read ten books, bring your completed form back to a Border's, and get your free book. Sounds like a great incentive for summer reading!