Category Archives: Reading

In the Classroom: The Problem with Reading Logs and What I Did About It

Long ago I was delighted when there was a strong movement to have students select and read their own books rather than teachers using those tomes known as basal readers. I happily jumped onto this band wagon. Wanting to be sure that all appreciated that reading at home was as important as the other homework my 4th grade students were expected to do, I had them, yes, log their nightly reading. I tried to keep it as simple as possible — they were to write down the title in their plan book once and then just write in the pages read (eg. pg 44-95) each night. Then I checked every morning, giving stickers to those who had done this.

However, over the years I discovered that doing this was most challenging for the strongest readers, the ones who read until they fell asleep. I suggested they leave the planbook open on their backpack and then log the pages in in the morning. But the whole thing, I have to admit, made me feel less and less comfortable. Other than accountability (a big buzz word in education), I didn’t see what this did for them. I had plenty of other ways to check in the weaker readers and this seemed a total pain for the strong ones.

Over the last few years I began reading more and more articles and blog posts decrying this practice, often from parents who were understandably disturbed that this practice was turning their enthusiastic young readers into kids who had to be pushed to read the designated time, to do the logging. (Here’s the latest of many.) Parents conspired with their children to lie — to write in fake numbers and then sign off. (I did not ask parents to sign off, but I gather other teachers often do.)  The result was I became much more relaxed about the assignment. I stopped checking every morning. I stopped giving out stickers. I had always been involved with the kids’ book selections, had been talking to them individually and as a class about their current reading, so the downgrading of the reading logging didn’t change what I knew about them as readers. The main reason I kept doing it at all was my colleagues all did and I didn’t want to rock the boat. And I wanted to be sure reading at home was valued — that student, parents, and teachers did not see it as a side activity — something to do if there was time after the other homework.

However, this year I finally decided it truly didn’t make any sense. For me to require this only because my colleagues did just didn’t feel right. So, at a team meeting, I told them that I was not going to do it any more (after getting the okay from my supervisor). I sent articles to them so they would understand why I wasn’t. They saw my point, but several of them still felt that requiring it was a way of being sure the children read. I should also say they were fine my not doing it — they saw it as an individual choice just as we did other things differently from one another.

What I did instead was have each child create and maintain a Book of Books (aka BoB), based on Pamela Paul’s, a journal of every book she read starting in high school. I thought it such a cool idea I wanted my kids to do that too. Not for accountability to ME, but for themselves. Additionally, I created a weekly BoB period where the children read, updated their BoBs, and met with me. At these meetings we chatted about what they had been reading and what they might read next. It was lovely. It was relaxing. It gave the information I needed about their independent reading. It gave me a space to check in with all my students. It did not single out the weaker readers. They all loved it as did I.

This past week I discussed with my class the summer reading requirement their 5th grade teachers are asking of them. They have one assigned book (A Wrinkle in Time because they will be reading When You Reach Me in the fall), are to read at least two choice books, and to record those titles. I suggested they do so in their BoBs with the hope that some may elect to maintain them beyond this year. One 5th grade colleague, seeing my post about this on Facebook, said she wanted to talk to me about it. Wouldn’t it be cool if she picked up the Book of Books for another year?

This coming week will be our final BoB period of the year. I’m going to ask the children to look through their BoBs and chose some titles to recommend to each other for summer reading. I’m also going to talk about Gene Luan Yang’s Reading Without Walls challenge as a way to select books to read over the summer.

The problem I have seen with progressive ideas in education is they start out being creative and flexible, but then are turned into orthodoxy. That seems to have happened with reading at home. What was initially such a great improvement over assigning specific books and pages has become as great a chore and not doing much for the intended outcome— turning children into life-long readers.

My students and I have loved our BoB experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year.



Filed under In the Classroom, Reading

Books EVERY Child SHOULD Read

I confess that anytime I see some sort of urgent recommendation that you MUST or HAVE TO or SHOULD read/view/see/do anything I get grumpy.  And so I was glad that the Independent’s The 50 Books Every Child Should Read, a response to the British Education Secretary recommending that all kids be required to read 50 books a year, stayed clear of that sort of language.  Rather they wrote:

We asked three of Britain’s leading children’s authors and two of our in-house book experts to each pick 10 books, suitable for Year 7 students.

The authors chose books that have brought them huge joy, while expressing their outrage at the “great big contradiction” of Mr Gove’s claim to wish to improve literacy while closing libraries across the country.

Among the recommendations are many I love and know kids still appreciate today too. Say Philip Pullman’s suggestions of the Alice books which he calls “Indispensable.”  He also recommends two childhood favorites of mine: Eric Kastner’s Emil and the Detectives and Paul Berna’s One Hundred Million Francs, but I have to admit I haven’t recommended them myself to any of my students fearing they’d not take.  He also recommended any Moomin book and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve been able to turn some of my students on to this delightful series.  I wish I could also get them to read another recommendation of his, one of Joan Aiken, also a childhood favorite, but so far no.

Michael Morpurgo has some interesting choices including another favorite of mine, Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child.  But he also writes of the Just William books, “These are a must for every child.”  Hmm…there are many around the world who are doing just fine without reading them.  He also suggested another childhood favorite of mine, Kate Seredy’s The Singing Tree, but do kids read her today?  Again I wonder.

Among others Katy Guest also recommends the Moomin (yay) as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid (double yay for a douse of reality).  I was also tickled by John Walsh’s recommendation of Geoffrey Willams and Ronald Searle’s How to be Topp.  An old favorite which reminds me a bit of How to Train Your Dragon in tone and look and style.

The great range and minimum overlap (I believe the Moomins may be the only one) is fascinating and also telling — how can any one person possibly make a definitive list of what EVERY Child SHOULD read?


Filed under Reading

Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp

Today Betsy Bird reminded me of this amazing summer day camp just down the road from me.  One of my students went and from what she told me, what Betsy wrote, and their blog posts — well, it sounds phenomenal for kids who are obsessed readers and writers.  Looks like a nice balance of talking about books, writing, engaging with authors, cool field trips, and more conventional camp fun (e.g. Capture the Flag).  And for those in the NYC area, there appears to be one session starting today with slots left, a YA one for kids 13-15 years-old.  Libba Bray, Barry Lyga, and Kekla Magoon, and Krista Marino are slated to visit.

WNYC did a feature on Norton Juster’s visit; here’s their video (with my student in it!):


Filed under Children's Literature, Reading, Writing, YA

Author’s Intent vs Reader’s Take

There is a fascinating discussion over at The Book Smugglers about Jackson Pearce’s YA fairytale reworking of Red Ridinghood, Sisters Red. The bloggers present clearly and compellingly why they were dismayed by the text while the author in the comments indicates that her intent was just the opposite.

(via Finding Wonderland)

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Filed under fairy tales, Fantasy, Reading

Whose Favorite Books?

David Elzey wonders about the suggestions Susan Orlean has been getting after tweeting a request for #booksthatchangekidsworlds.  They do have more to do with adults remembering beloved books than what Orlean’s five-and-a-half-year-old son will necessarily go for (and remind me of similar suggestions made in response to a Nicholas Krisof op-ed piece of last year).  Coincidently, J. Bell has a post on the art of recommending a book to a kid that could serve as a cautionary tale to all those nostalgic adults.


Filed under Reading, summer reading

Live! On Point! All About Summer Reading! For Kids! Of Course!

Today I was on the NPR program, On Point, along with Esme Raji Codell and Pete Cowdin, talking about summer reading for kids.  It was a blast! If you missed us live you can still listen to the show here.

Coming up with the requested “seven or eight” recently published titles was torture and so I ended up with nine.  (Our lists are on the website — just scroll down to see them.) Figuring the radio audience wouldn’t be as familiar with kids’ books as many of us and wanting to suggest books I know for sure are kid hits ( as I’ve read them aloud and/or given them to my students to read) my list is a mix of new, well-known, some less-so, some for slightly older kids, some for younger ones, a few quirky titles perhaps, and so on.  There’s a graphic novel (volcanoes!); one nonfiction (having just seen Philip Hoose and Claudette Colvin* at ALA accepting various awards it was on my mind); one picture book (fictionalized, but based on a real story); and the rest are novels for middle grade kids and up.  I enjoyed putting it together and had a great time doing the broadcast.  I’ve done a few radio shows, but always over the phone. Pretty neat, I have to say, to do it in an actual NPR studio.

* I first saw Phil and Claudette speak about the book last fall at the Schomburg Center here in Harlem.  Claudette had a lot to say to the teens that comprised the bulk of the audience.  Very, very moving indeed.


Filed under Children's Literature, Reading, summer reading

Hunger Mountain Online

The latest issue of the VCFA’s journal of the arts is full of superb stuff including:

Check it out!


Filed under Reading, Writing

In the Classroom: Sixteen Years Later

I just found this unpublished essay from 2004 about my teaching with technology.  What a leap from the word processors we were using in 1994 to the wireless netbooks all our 4th graders have today.  This coming Tuesday we will be introducing my current class to blogging — each child, as we’ve done for the previous three years — will be getting his or her own blog.  They and I can’t wait!

So what follows are my 2004 thoughts along with some additional comments from today, January 2010:


My article, “Empowering Young Writers with Technology” was published in the April 1994 issue of Educational Leadership.  In it I described my fourth grade students’ use of portable word processors for writing.  Ten years later I’m still a fourth grade teacher at the Dalton School and my students are still using portable word processors for writing.  So what is the same and what is different?  And what can I expect in ten more years?  (January 2010: still a fourth grade teacher at the Dalton School and my students are still writing on computers more than ever.  As for what I can expect in ten more years — see my notes in red below.)

A Look Back

Convincing my school’s administration to put those initial portable word processors into my classroom was challenging.  After all, I wanted enough so that every child would have access to one during our writing periods and that meant not only a substantial monetary commitment, but a pedagogical one as well.   At the time the school’s technological focus was on collaborative projects oriented around specific curricular content. The 6th grade, for example, worked one team to a computer, excavating a virtual archaeological dig as part of their study of ancient Greece.  Writing was done in response to such projects and was not seen as an end in itself.   It took much persuading to convince those in charge to buy that first set of portable word processors for our use in the 4th grade.

Fortunately, as I described in my 1994 article, my students quickly proved the worth of this purchase.  Given the choice between writing with a pencil and writing on a portable word processor, most soon preferred the latter.  Initial frustrations due to minimal keyboarding skills and technical knowledge gave way to delight as the children discovered how much easier it was to plan, draft, revise, and proofread their work.  Students became much more independent as they discovered that they could move around text, add and subtract information, and even correct spelling without adult help.  The level of their writing soared now that the arduous nature of handwriting had been removed.  More children began seeing themselves as serious writers, taking their portable word processors out during free time to write stories on their own.  It was clear that the introduction of the word processors had been a great success.

Using Portable Word Processors Today (That is, 2004, not 2010)

Ten years later not only is the idea of using computers in the teaching of writing much more accepted, but the technology is much better and less expensive as well.  Currently, each of our 4th and 5th graders is given an Alphasmart to use at home and school.   (January 2010: As I wrote above, we now have netbooks for each child.  Not only word processors, but easy Internet access, something we used much more occasionally six years ago.) After a focused course in keyboarding, the children use them in a myriad of ways.  Some take them to the science lab to use when writing up an experiment.  Others use them when doing interviews for the school newspaper.  When writing in journals, some chose to write by hand and some on their Alphasmarts.  During recess it is not uncommon to see pairs of children busily writing stories together on their Alphasmarts.  And of course, they are still used as I described in my article a decade ago — for intensive writing instruction.  These inexpensive computers have become part of the fabric of our classrooms, almost as ubiquitous as pencils.  (January 2010.  Fascinating to read this now and be reminded how far we have come.  Not only are computers part of the fabric of our classroom, but the current group of children come with the skills to dive right in to using them. And, as I wrote above, the easy online access they offer is a huge difference.)

What is the Same?

We still use the writing process approach. The children work hard to plan, draft, revise, proofread, and publish their work.   Come into my classroom during a writing period and you will still see children doing what children have always done during this time— working on writing in a variety of ways.  Over there is a child by herself busily typing away.  And over there, another child with a pencil, reading over a draft and marking it up.  Two children sit on the rug sharing stories while I sit with another child discussing a glitch in his story. The process hasn’t changed, only the tools.  (January 2010 I’d say this is pretty much unchanged.)

What is the Same and Different?

I’ve been publishing student work for three decades.  I still have copies of mimeographed books and magazines done by classes when personal computers were the stuff of science fiction, not reality.  As delightful as they are, I must admit that I have no wish to go back to the days of purple ditto sheets and sore arms from cranking up those big old mimeograph machines!  Today, not only does each of my students have an Alphasmart, but we have access to a class set of laptops and sufficient printers as well.  Once the children are ready to publish their writing, they are able to use these laptops to produce high quality final products.   So even though I still do as many publication projects as I did before I had access to computers, I must admit they are much easier to do today. (January 2010: One BIG change since I wrote this — we do most of our publishing now on the blogs!  Becoming more and more paperless. Just the easy Internet access for all sorts of things is another big change.)

A great example of this is our immigrant oral history picture book project.  I start, as I would have thirty years ago, immersing the children in the study of immigration with a variety of materials: books, videos, primary sources, museum visits, visits to immigrant neighborhoods and more.  Next I model the process of doing an oral history for the children and together we study a variety of picture books based on oral histories. (January 2010: This year one of my colleagues did this as a DVD, a lovely overview of the process that we can reuse in the future.) So far this is all that I would have done pre-computers. The children then tape record their own interviews and then transcribe them, usually by hand. (January 2010: I think we are close to kids doing these interviews on computers. Not there quite yet, but very close.) You would think, as I did initially, that this would be overwhelming for them, but remarkably they enjoy doing it. They then decide what parts of the transcript they want in their final picture book and type those into their Alphasmarts.  From that point on all is different as they use computers to revise these drafts for their picture books. Some children completely retell the oral history in third person, others keep the interview exactly as is, and still others experiment with a variety of writing formats for their books.  Conferring, multiple drafts, and proofreading are now a breeze with the Alphasmarts and laptops.  And then there are the illustrations.  With the Internet available on the laptops, the children can easily research their subjects’ countries of origin to be sure their illustrations are accurate.   Further, those children who do not like or do not feel comfortable drawing happily make collages using images from the Internet.  And so a project, pedagogically like those I’ve done my whole teaching career, is transformed with technology. (January 2010. We still do this project and the children end up with beautiful books.  This year I saw something a bit different from previous years, something only possible with the netbooks. This was a greater use of collage — more children found, printed out, and used images from the Internet than in previous years.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not.  Were kids would could have drawn, avoiding it?  Certainly, those who used images spent huge amounts of time looking for just the right one.  Will be interested to see what happens next year. Is this a blip with this year’s cohort or not?)

What is Different?

The Internet is probably the biggest difference in how I use technology in teaching everything, especially but not only writing.  Publications, for example, can go on the Web as easily as in a class book.  And do — over the past ten years my students and I have produced many Web-based publications for their families, friends, and those all over the world to enjoy.  Research is now done online as well as from books.  Communication is as often by email as it is by letter or phone call.  (January 2010:  It is now 99% via email.  The school now expects parents to read their email.  What is new since I wrote this is that the children have email too.  I have many children emailing me already with their own email accounts.  In a few weeks their school emails will be set so they can communicate with their teachers and I will ask them to write me weekly about their reading instead of in a dialog journal as they do in the fall. Last year some kids were great about this and some not so great.  I then added a little note at the end of my responses to those who wrote regularly telling them to come to me and to whisper a secret word.  When they did they got a lollypop.  They loved this and those who weren’t keeping up with their email suddenly did.)

(January 2010: Biggest change since I wrote this would be blogs.  I adore and love using them with my students.  I’ve done some presentations at conferences about this. Here’s a wiki and slide presentation my collaborators and I did for a conference last year that gives a good sense of how we approach individual blogs with this age group.)

A good example of change is my Alice in Wonderland unit. Ten years ago, after studying the book and its illustrators, my students would do their own illustrations of the story, which I displayed on the bulletin board outside my classroom.  In 1998 I started putting them on the Web.  Today technology has further transformed the unit.  After studying the book as always, the children create small toy theater productions of the book’s different chapters, which we film, edit with Imovie, and finally show at an assembly. Most of the script writing is done on the Alphasmarts and laptops. The children move easily and confidently back and forth between the 19th century text of Alice (available online), their Alphasmarts, and the laptops as they work on this project.  At the end they create individual Web pages complete with their movies, original scripts, puppets, scenery, and more for anyone to see. What a change!  (January 2010: And now we are doing Alice Comics!  I think this many be my favorite way yet to bring Alice alive with 4th graders!)

Some Reservations

Ten years ago I was completely focused on convincing others of the value of giving every child a portable word processor during the writing workshop; a bit of a zealot, I can’t recall having any reservations.  However, having now used computers extensively in my classroom for ten years I’ve had more time to observe, talk to others, and reflect on their pros and cons.

One concern ironically is handwriting.  Ten years ago, in my school, we decided that 4th grade was the right time to focus on keyboarding and urged the lower grades to be sure they saw to it that the children were comfortable with handwriting before they came to us.  That has been an uneven situation. The lower grades now also use computers for writing and there have been years when the children arrived in 4th grade with weak handwriting skills creating quite a quandary for us. Should we focus on handwriting and forget the keyboarding?  Try to do both confusing the children?  Or just focus on keyboarding and give up on handwriting? Because of our tremendous focus on writing on the Alphasmarts we have chosen to focus on keyboarding with only brief remedial attention to handwriting.   Unfortunately, the result has been that upper grade teachers often complain justifiably about illegible handwriting just as they, due to the alarming increase of cheating and Internet-based plagiarism, require that their students do more handwritten work in class.  Because of this, I’m beginning to rethink allowing the children to use their Alphasmarts at all times.  For the last couple of years, for example, I’ve insisted they handwrite in their journals unless they have a clear grapho-motor disability. Balancing the need for children to confidently read and write by hand with the empowerment the computer so clearly provides is a challenge indeed.  (January 2010:  Still a quandary.)

And then there is the digital divide. Some children in the upper grades bring their own laptops to school and there has been discussion of requiring them of every student, as has been the case in other schools.  However, not all have the same economic circumstances. Some students can work on a project comfortably at home because they have the latest and fastest computer with all the possible bells and whistles including the fastest possible Internet connection.  Others stay late at school to work because they may have a four year old computer at home, one telephone line (used by the whole family), with a slow dialup connection.  How do we deal with this iniquity in our schools not to mention in society?  (January 2010: My school has partially solved this by starting a one-to-one laptop program in the 6th grade and will be introducing the same in the high school next year. So all our students have the same computer and software on it. I’m not sure though what sort of connections they have at home — do they all have Internet access at home, I wonder?  And of course, this is just in my private school. While it seems kids do have more access than four years ago, I suspect there is still a divide.)

And in Ten Years?

Twenty years ago I was using the first Apple computers to teach Logo and just beginning to explore the potential of writing and technology. Ten years ago I discovered how children could be empowered as writers when given simple portable word processors.  What do I see for 2014?  I imagine computers replacing notebooks and textbooks. (January 2010: We are heading to that in my school.  I think it is very likely that in the next four years we will have textbook content online. I know that the school is looking at ereaders with this idea in mind.) I see students carrying them everywhere and doing much of their reading and writing on them. (January 2010: this is happening already and I think that textbook reading will be more and more online.  Not so sure about literature though. I think we teachers will still want real books that kids can mark up and consider in a different way from a digital book. Maybe in twenty years though we may be more digital with all reading material. Who’s to say?) I see teachers and students communicating almost more extensively on email.  (January 2010: Definitely the case.) I see media becoming more a part of traditional writing projects — film, music, images, and more. (January 2010: Definitely.  Our teachers are becoming more and more eager to do stuff.  Voicethread, movies, podcasts  — seeing way more of this.) I see more collaborations — even beyond the school to the world beyond. (January 2010: We are also doing more of this at my school.) I see writing continuing to be transformed in ways I can’t even imagine.   And I can’t wait!  (January 2010: Still can’t for whatever is going to happen next!)


Filed under In the Classroom, Reading, Teaching, Writing

In the Classroom: Reading Homework

“The only homework I assign is to read for at least 30 minutes a night.” (said I in yesterday’s post)

Had an interesting discussion w/ a friend on why I despise using the word homework for reading time. That fosters a hate in my opinion.”   (says @mawbooks)

No, no, no.  It doesn’t foster hate.  I mean, why should it?  It should foster joy.  Kids should go, “I’m reading the best book; I’m so lucky that my only homework tonight is to finish it! ”  In fact, I’ve had kids come to me and say, “I’m sorry, but I read more than 30 minutes last night. I just got to a great point where I couldn’t stop!”  (And then I make clear that the requirement is to read at least 30 minutes.)

I  feel very, very strongly about the importance of kids considering their nightly reading — homework.  To my mind it is the MOST important homework they do.  Fourth graders are just developing fluency, becoming independent readers,  learning what their tastes as readers are, etc.  They need to do it a lot more than in school. They need to do it on their own, away from the controlled classroom.  They need to figure out just where they read best (in bed, on the couch, cuddling a pet, under a tree, next to a parent?), whether they need silence, music, or something else.  They need to figure out just what sort of material they enjoy reading. What is their identity as a reader? And do they read in short bursts with little rests?  Or do they read in long gulps?  They need to do this in the classroom (where I can support them) and at home (where they will learn to do it alone, hopefully). I call it “independent reading” because they are learning to do just that.  Without teachers, parents, tutors, caregivers, grandmothers, friends, or anyone.  I want them to learn to be totally happy independent readers — anywhere.

While my nightly homework is that 30 minutes of reading, I should say that my students also get 30 minutes of math from their math teachers, weekly spelling from the associate teacher, and occasionally something else (like interviewing someone for our immigration oral history project).  While each of my fourth grade colleagues may tweak her homework policy a bit differently, we are all in basic agreement on what is done at home and what is done at school.

I often read that research indicates that homework doesn’t help elementary aged kids.  Not sure what sort of homework that would be, but I would pretty much agree for anything other than reading and a bit of math (mostly memorizing those math facts).  Our kids do a lot in school and need to do other things at home — stuff they enjoy (yes, television, computer games, shooting baskets, whatever is fun for them).  Of course that is the situation for the kids I teach; a different population might need a different homework policy.

Main thing is that homework does not have to be synonymous with drudgery.  It can be something kids look forward to doing or, at least, don’t dread.

Edited to add — thanks to @lbraun2000 I just saw  this timely piece in yesterday’s NYT’s about summer homework.  I don’t give it — our fourth graders have NO assigned book to read before they come in over the summer. Excellent points here about all sorts of homework.


Filed under In the Classroom, Reading

In the Classroom: Teaching Reading

In the past week I’ve read two completely oppositional articles on teaching.  The first was “Tyranny of the Test: One Year as a Kaplan Coach in the Public Schools” by Jeremy Miller.  It is a superb piece providing a disturbing, real, and moving view of the specifics of legislation that has made Kaplan such a player in the schools, the sad realities of testing, teaching, and more.  The second was “Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like.”  This is a very different sort of article, Mokoto Rich is a reporter for the New York Times, not a teacher, and so she comes to this topic quite differently — following a teacher as she begins this “new” method in her classroom — children choosing their own reading material.

The method is one of choice — individual reading rather than the whole-class-reads-one book method.  It isn’t, for all Rich suggests it is, new.  It was around when I started teaching in the early 70s and was around even earlier among those with a progressive mindset.  Choice is at the heart of Montessori, open classroom, whole language, constructivism, and many other pedagogies that have waxed and waned in popularity over the years.  I’m glad Rich featured Nancie Atwell, someone who inspired me twenty years ago with her seminal book, In the Middle.  She, along with others, gave me some  excellent tools that helped me to fine-tune a method I already had been using — now known as readers’ workshop.

A few years after that I spent a summer at Princeton studying classical children’s literature. I came back to my classroom determined to bring some of that magic into my teaching.  Since then other experiences have helped me to continually refine how I teach reading.  At the moment, in broad sweeps (leaving out the specific lessons that I do), here’s an overview:

  • Independent Reading.  My students are all expected to always have a book they’ve chosen to read.  The only homework I assign is to read for at least 30 minutes a night. I monitor the reading by having the children write the book title and the pages read.  I can easily determine how their reading is going by those pages.  If a child is only reading ten pages in 30 minutes night after night, for example, something is wrong and I will investigate.  I encourage them to drop books they don’t like and work hard to help them find ones they do.  Periodically I invite them to prepare readings from these books for the class for our weekly Literary Salons.   I have private conversations with them about their readings. They write about the books in response journals (and on blogs).  All the stuff mentioned in Rich’s article and many other places.
  • Reading Aloud. I always am reading aloud a book, ideally one the kids can’t get themselves yet. Last year I read The Graveyard Book and When You Reach Me before they were published, for example.  I’m still mulling over the first book for this year.
  • One Book for the Whole Class.  I do believe in occasionally reading a book together. I think that there can be a very special experience when a group comes together over a book.  And I have to say, I don’t get the vehemence some have against doing this. While I understand how it has been done badly, it can also be wonderful.  I mean, what about those communities that read books together?  Book groups?  Book clubs? Why can’t teachers orchestrate something similar in their classrooms?  Certainly, I hope I do.  We begin the year with Charlotte’s Web and end it with The Wizard of Oz. Both are wonderful experiences.
  • Group Books.  We do a study of historical fiction prior to the kids writing their own.  As part of the preparations I have the kids read books in small groups.
  • Research. Sometimes I think people are so invested in getting kids to love reading that they forget that there is all kinds of reading.  Sometimes it is to get information.  My students read widely when working on their historical fiction stories about Mayflower passengers. They read primary sources, secondary sources, all sorts of stuff.

Okay. I could go on, but I won’t.  Reading is so many different things to so many different people so it stands to reason there would be many different ways to teach it and many different ways to learn it.


Filed under Historical Fiction, In the Classroom, Reading, Reading Aloud, Teaching