#sol15 Reading


I’m excited for tomorrow.  The fifth grade begged to read The One and Only IVAN, and tomorrow we’re starting it up again after an interruption. Because we were interrupted we did something fun that ended up being a terrific review and thoughtful understanding of what we had read so far.

Each student took 10 pages to read and create one or more images on poster paper about the main idea of those ten pages. They included labels and captions and a main idea sentence.

Next, we created sketches of the characters — the faces on paper so we could attach them to rulers as masks.

Then we posted the first poster for the first ten pages and discussed it.  Then each student took one page in those ten pages, read it, and determined the most important part to read. Sometimes it was a sentence, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a few paragraphs.  The students did well at choosing what would best help us remember and understand the story.

For the readings, the person who drew the poster would choose one or two students to be the actors. They would hold character masks in their hands and put up the one in use at the time for that section of reading. The actors would ask someone else to read their section while they were acting.

After that section of ten pages was read and acted, we put up the next posters, and repeated  the process, with discussions, laughter, and explanations as we progressed. The students used their Common Core State Standards for speaking and listening and collaborating. It was very fun and full of learning.

Now we’re ready to begin listening to our audio book while we read along in our own copies. What will happen to Stella? to Ruby? to Bob? to Ivan?


Image Source

Reading Together by Sheri Edwards

Student Actors by Sheri Edwards

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#140WC #CCSS Reading



Reading. Some kids still struggle. Our classrooms, by age, are filled with students who read at different levels and for different interests. How do teachers meet those needs, and teach to the high standards of the Common Core State standards?

A Resource for Lessons and Texts: ReadWorks.org

readworksOne help for teachers is ReadWorks.org. This free site for K-8 provides thousands of nonfiction passages and literary connections paired with Common Core structured questions. Structured means they are aligned to the Common Core, and are presented to build student understand and gradually release responsibility to the student to be able to answer deeper questions. Kindergarten students provide text/image responses and allow for draw and text responses. The lessons are built on I-We-Me format: teach modeling, guided practice, and student independence.

Lessons are organized according by standards and in units based on Skill and Strategies, Comprehension, Novel Study [5 and 6], and Reading Passages. In Reading Passages, the search allows for specific criteria: key words, grade level, lexile level, domain, text type, and skill/strategy.


The articles are engaging to students, and I am able to find several lessons that allow for differentiation and skill progression as we read through and discuss the passages.

Vocabulary Adaptation

My students read the passage first with partners, and circle any “interesting” words. They write the words on scraps of paper, and I collect them. We discuss each word, first looking at context to figure out what it might mean, and then I fill in information the student need to understand the text. This helps build vocabulary and understanding of the text.

Questioning the Topic for Main Idea Adaptation

Next partners write questions the text will answer in a shared Google Doc. We discuss the questions and choose or revise one to write the best question that the reading passage answers, which becomes our focus for finding the main idea and supporting evidence. We refer to the question throughout the rest of the lesson provided by ReadWorks. It provides a final reflection for students when they discover they are able to write and explain their own questions.


I’m so glad to have discovered this resource: ReadWorks.org.  It’s free. It’s all aligned to the Common Core State Standards [and many other state standards]. As I dig deeper into the Common Core, a resource like this is invaluable.

Have you tried  ReadWorks.org ? What are your resources?

WC: 397

Join the #140WC Challenge

#140WC Reading Together



#140WC Engaged



This week my sixth grade class and I worked hard. We have a book to read and understand before we connect with other students in a game about our book, GiverCraft, a Minecraft EDU game based on the book, The Giver.

Obstacles have been thrown at us: I’ve had training and have been out of class; testing started and took time away; sports takes kids out of class. But we have used every minute we could find to get the book read and understood.

This is not a class who likes reading, but we are listening to the story on Audible and following along. We are reading it like friends who are enjoying a book together. We listen and use post-its to mark important places to share with each other. We pause the story and the students share. And they are sharing the important parts of the story– and explaining how it fits with what went before and predicting what might happen. They are discussing the main character and how he is changing. They are wondering about a world of sameness and rules.

They are engaged in reading. They are engaged in authentic, can’t-put-the-book-down reading. They are leaving class commenting on the world within the book. They are arriving in class and readying themselves for the days’ story and conversation. And they are anticipating success when our tasks are presented in our Minecraft game next Monday, ready to support each other with their understanding from our authentic conversations.

I’m glad I threw out the teacher’s guide and left the learning to their choices, their moments of insight, and their conversations. I’m glad I reached out to be authentic with them; our shared learning shows they are real readers.

If only reading class was always like this. Shouldn’t it be?

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Independent Reading = Connected Learning

Marsha Clements at English Companion Ning questions current practices of teaching reading, reminding us that independent reading is so important in the development of lifelong readers.

I teach the curriculum required from a terrific series, The Language of Literature by McDougall Littell with Judith Langer and Peter Elbow among the many senior consultants. We base our reading discussions on reading strategies and the Washington State’s “stem” questions for standardized test preparation.

However, half my class period is MOTT, ND : My Own Topic Time, Notedly Displayed, modeled after  Jim Burke’s Weekly Paper. Students’ papers (as hard copy, blog, or wiki) are due the 1st and 15th of each month, and after the third paper, students create a presentation to share in groups about what they have learned.  Of course, because they are reading what they want to read, they share daily.  It’s almost difficult just keeping them reading because they want to share and discuss the fiction/nonfiction/poetry they have chosen. And on days when my text lesson starts to go over time, the students begin to fidget and look at the clock.  They want their own reading time.  I love it! They love it.

And, yes, one student slammed his book shut one day and called out to his peers, “Wow. I just finished my first book.”  Eighth grade. One book. How will kids ever learn to read well if they don’t read? And how will they learn to love reading unless they are allowed to read what interests them?

I agree: Bring back Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), or as Dr. Marvin Oliver (1973 !) called it way back in time: HIP (High Intensity Practice): read 20 minutes, write 5 minutes, share 5 minutes. Find more research at NWREL , at the Internet TESL Journal, a Houghten Mifflin Report on Independent Reading, A PowerPoint, and an American Association of School Librarians on Independent Reading.

I realize some differences exist in the procedures of these formats, but the important issue here is to get kids reading. Common sense tells us that if we read more, we’ll be better readers. And if we’re better readers, we’ll be better writers from the information we’ll possess and from the modeling of other writers.

Now, as an aside, kids today really are reading: txt messages, My Space, video game instructions and cheat sheets, and other online connected and networked venues. And they do all of this without us, and perhaps without a thoughtful eye towards what and how those interactions affect others. Part of our responsibility is to bring them into the global world with a sense of responsibility and ethics. What better arena to venture into social etiquette than through an online discussion on books they’ve chosen to read?

That said, think of how much our students miss because they don’t know a reference to a book or idea on which adults have knowledge (Viet Nam, Moby Dick).  These are the connections and issues that arise when sharing student chosen books. I am amazed at the simple ideas that my students don’t know because they haven’t interacted on intellectual levels with adults; they have been drilled and “strategied,” but not engaged and compelled in the true queries of literate readers. If we have these discussions on their books, on their terms, we’ll be helping them with their online presence as well. See the video from Meridith Stewart’s classroom. These conversations on student chosen books both in class and online would offer them another path to engaged and lifelong literacy.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if all our students found the local bookstore as the place to hang out — SSR indeed, and lifelong learning…
Photo Credit: Flickr by bookworm2

Thank you, Marsha Clements, for renewing the conversation.  Won’t you join us at the English Companion Ning?  Would you implement, and how would you implement Independent Reading time?