Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Study: Reading in the Wild... Reading PLANS

If you have read The Book Whisperer, you must now add Reading in the Wild to your Reading Plan. You won't be disappointed.

One of my favorite parts about summer vacation is the opportunity to just READ! So it is with "Wild Readers" as discussed in Donalyn Miller's latest book, Reading in the Wild. My BlogFriend, Catherine, The Brown Bag Teacher, is leading us through a Book Study of this wonderful book. You can check in with Catherine by clicking her button below.

Wild readers always have a pile of books close at hand. Here is the pile of books on my desk at the moment... and that is only one pile... I have a pile of books in every room!

Miller knows this about wild readers: They are always thinking ahead about the next book.

Miller notes that disengaged readers don't have a plan for future reading. And this chapter offers suggestions to help them develop reading plans that will reading a lifelong habit.

Wild readers tend to do things that ensure that their reading life is uninterrupted...

Additionally, wild readers think about their reading experiences and habits and identify areas they would like to improve or enrich. They set personal goals based on their own tastes and needs. They take ownership for their reading.

And this point was a cause for some serious reflection for me. In my efforts to "guide" readers in my classroom, I have not put them in charge. In most situations I have plotted a course for them--almost ensuring that they will not take the helm... and that their reading lives will stall when I step away. If they are going to become life-long readers, students must have the opportunity to control their own reading lives.

In order to encourage students to develop reading plans that they can truly own, Miller suggests that teachers encourage students to develop two types of reading plans: Commitment Plans and Challenge Plans.

Students must commit to reading every day and they need to have strategies to put into place when they sense that their commitment might be ebbing. "Without this personal commitment to reading, students remain dependent on outside forces that temporarily drive their reading habits such as classroom expectations for reading" (Miller, p.143). Guilty as charged! In my zeal to ensure that my sixth graders read widely and read extensively, I have often imparted the message that they are reading to satisfy either a classroom expectation or the classroom teacher. I am anxious to send a different message when school resumes in the fall!

To help students develop commitment plans, students can be encouraged to 1) Finding reading time every day, 2) Increase book completion and 3) Look for specific titles, authors, genres and series.

Miller offers a range of options for Challenge Plans, including 1) the Nerdbery Challenge (based on Newbery Award winners), the Book-a-Day Challenge and the Book Gap Challenge (based on books or genres that have been avoided). These challenges may inspire students to set and meet goals that they establish to improve their reading accomplishment and enjoyment.

Miller then promotes the idea of using classroom conversations and reading conferences to help students develop reading plans. Students can become "experts" on different authors or series, increasing students' confidence and diverting attention toward students' voices and away from the teacher's direction. She also suggests that having reluctant readers read books from a series may provide a "comfortable" reading experience because of the scaffolding that comes from reading previous titles in the series. Completing a series can also provide a sense of accomplishment which motivates further reading and, hopefully, spur students to venture beyond their comfort zone into new authors and titles.the

Reflection and resolution-making can further cement reading plans. Resolutions can be individual or public, but should always lead to students developing a plan or routine that extends outside the classroom. The chapter includes some ideas for launching summer reading--which makes me wish I had read the book before the school year ended. I can now plan for next June when I will send the students off to summer vacation with hopes that their reading commitment continues beyond the school year and the school building.
The chapter ends with a commentary about keeping track of your reading life. Again, the onus must be on the students. "Encouraging students to take responsibility for their reading plans reduces their dependence on teachers and parents for determining when, where and what students read" (Miller, p. 156). Encouraging students to keep a list of Books to Read helps promote their independent book selection and their confidence that they can direct their own reading lives. The goal is for students to develop plans that promote their continued reading and their continued enjoyment of reading.

How wonderful it is to read a book and have it impact your teaching life so directly! I am looking forward to helping students design reading plans to guide the course of their own reading life!

For another perspective on this chapter, sure to visit Crafting Connections where Deb has reflected on reading plans as well (Don't you just love that button?!)

Have you read been Reading in the Wild along with us? We hope that you will join in on the discussion and link up your reflections below!

Book Study: Honesty... from What's Under YOUR Cape?

It is such a delight to write a post about someTHING wonderful that I care deeply about. It is even better when that post also includes the opportunity to talk about someONE wonderful! I am honored to share my thoughts about Barbara Gruener and her new book, What's Under Your Cape?

Barbara has been a BloggyFriend of mine "since the very beginning." Her blog, The Corner on Character, is one of my first check-ins in the morning because her blog posts always make me think. Sometimes they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry. But they always make me think.

When I first started blogging, Barbara and I quickly discovered how much we had in common (including our frequent trips to Starbucks!). It wasn't long before a true friendship developed. Two summers ago, I traveled to Texas and showed up at her doorstep. (And, yes, we did let her know we would be in town... I'm not THAT forward!) She was warm and welcoming--just like her writing. We stayed for three days! And, within minutes of arriving, I felt like I was part of the Gruener family. That's just how it is with Barbara. Complete JOY!

Here's my Texas Starbucks card!

At the end of June, I had the privilege of watching Barbara present at the Character Education Conference in southern California. It was so hard not to stand up and wave and say, "Hey! I know her!" She was motivating and encouraging and her presentations left the audience feeling, "I can do this! I can change lives! I can make things better for kids!" For me (and, I am sure, for others), the time with spent with Barbara was one of the highlights of the conference!

Barbara is a SuperHero in my life for many reasons. But for this post, I will narrow the list down to the fact that she challenges us to encourage "Superheroes of the Character Kind" in the classroom every day. I find that to be such a fitting subtitle to her book. In fact, when she said she was writing a book, I almost said: What took you so long?! Your writing has already led to character superheroes across the country!

The book is a "fun read," yet it is filled with possibilities. You read through each chapter and smile and walk away with lots of ideas and resources.... and a feeling of satisfaction. It IS possible to help students develop good character. And this book will help you make that happen. Within the pages, there is an always-discernible mantra that character education is at the core of educating strong, productive citizens.
Want a copy of your own? Just click on the book cover to order!
 For my part, I am talking about Chapter 6: H is for honesty.

"Honest people can be trusted because they tell the truth. They keep their promises and we can count on them. Honest people don't do these things so that they won't get in trouble. They do these thing because they're the right things to do. Honest people live life with integrity." (p.55). These are powerful words from our author. And they are the words that I plan to use when I discuss honesty with my sixth graders in the fall. And the chapter is filled with ideas and resources to accompany and reinforce those words.

Have you ever read The Empty Pot by Demi? Barbara provides a comprehensive plan to use this delightful story to teach the importance of honesty. She provides a list of thought-provoking questions to use after the book has been shared. Here's my favorite: What's the difference between doing your best and being the best?" All of the questions she has provided would lead to an insightful discussion and would help elucidate the importance of honesty. Barbara also includes enrichment activities for use with this book to help students explore the concepts even further.

See these shoes? They are shiny. And sparkly, And guess what? After wearing them for about five minutes, my toes are aching and a blister will be forming on my heel. In chapter six, Barbara provides a delightful commentary about shoes--and friendships--that are "a good fit." She also lists of a range of book titles to use in the classroom and suggests numerous activities to support students as they work to develop (and maintain) friendships--always a delicate dance throughout the year.

The next book offering is Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie.  Again, Barbara offers a variety of possible lessons to use along with this sweet story. There are movement activities, chants, discussion opportunities and more real-life applications. Such a treasure trove of ways to reinforce the importance of being honest! I hadn't even finished the chapter before I had jumped over to Amazon and one-click ordered this selection!

Children (of all ages) need to recognize that telling the truth is necessary when a classmate needs help making better choices "next time." Sometimes being honest can help them--and others--be safe. Sixth graders, in particular, have difficulty breaking through their allegiance with their peers and sharing truthful details with a teacher or trusted adult. Students need to realize that that there will be times when being honest is more important than "protecting their friends" (That is always how they see it!). The ideas in this chapter help to foster the importance of being honest... even when it might lead to losing a friend... because integrity will always be more important.

There is a need to teach the value of honesty and children at all grades need support navigating friendships. Barbara has managed to provide an inspiring commentary that weaves book suggestions, lesson ideas and personal anecdotes together with a desire for teaching good character in the classroom. This is a perfect back-to-school book that will help transform any classroom into a more positive respectful, honest place in which all students can learn and grow.

And, in keeping with the premise of the book, we've invited you to learn along with us! The linky is open to anyone who wants to add their reflections about What's Under Your Cape? and the strategies that can be used to support character education in the classroom. We hope that you will join us and become a part of this collaboration learning experience!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Made It (Forgive Me, Tara)

I don't know about you, but I am having a tough time getting anything done this summer. It seems like it takes twice as long to do half as much. Anyone else going though that?

So, even though it's late, and even though I didn't finish my task, I am linking up with my sweet buddy, Tara. I am hoping that this will give me the motivation to get the rest of the project finished! And I know Tara will forgive me for being a day late to the party.
Throughout the school year, I am always on the lookout for deals. I might see red pens on sale at WalMart, or folders marked down at Office Depot, or composition books with a cute design at Target (that list of stores tells you where I do most of MY shopping!). Unfortunately, these bargain finds usually end up in a bag somewhere in the garage "for later."

Soooo... It was time to compile my purchases--along with the "leftovers" that had accumulated along the way. Which brings me to the reason I never get anything done.

I really like the clear plastic bins from Office Depot (my ULTIMATE favorite place... after Starbucks, of course) because you can see through them. (I also use the colored plastic boxes to sort my curriculum--but I haven't made it to that part of the garage yet) Before I began sorting, I decided to make some quick labels to make the task more efficient. Two hours later, I had chosen a background and graphics for each box, and "prettied them up." Then the sorting began. YIKES! I had a much larger cache than I had imagined!

As I sorted, I also found myself making "temporary" collections. Since these would be emptied (either into the classroom or elsewhere in the garage), these items went into cardboard boxes... But, of course, these boxes also needed labels. And, as I bet you can guess, I had to choose the color of the paper to match the "spirit" of the contents of the boxes. 

MORE hours later...

I still have A LOT of work to do. I am further behind schedule because I stopped in the middle to take pictures, and then to blog about the adventure, and then there was a movie on...

I do find myself with funny combinations of things. Here's one of my favorites...

After a delightful iced mocha, I am standing in the middle of the living room with these thoughts flying through my head: I hope I finish the project before the weekend. Company will be arriving, and I am assuming they won't want to stand in the living room. Most of the surfaces are currently covered. There are boxes everywhere! Not to mention the pile of "What do I do with this..." items. Do you find yourself with those? Do you ever just throw them away? Can you find the Starbucks card?! Not sure where the light bulb came from. And, no, it doesn't fit any lamps or fixtures in my house. So... What box does it go into? Is it recyclable? I can't decide! Maybe I need another box. And another label. And there is another movie starting...

So I am counting this as Monday Made Progress. I'm hoping to be able to say, "Made It!" by next week.

Oh! Anyone need a light bulb?