Monday, May 29, 2017

Building Our Reading Lives as a Classroom Community

7th Grade Language & Literature

Dear Readers,

Over the years I have learned that we must be kind and patient with ourselves. Teaching is one of the best professions to learn, share and grow together. However with all the resources we are bombarded with, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed or, "I have to do this and this and this." We are all unique in our own special way and we all put our personal twist on anything we do. 

Although I borrow many ideas from various resources and people, rarely do I implement anything exactly as it was modeled to me. We need to adapt (not adopt) to make our instruction and classrooms individualized for us and our students. Give yourself permission to edit, modify, delete or add to the amazing strategies, ideas and recommendations at our finger tips.

I am so fortunate that I get to live my passion of reading and writing every single day when I walk into the classroom. There really is no greater joy than watching students get excited about books. As I reflect on the school year as it draws to a close and look ahead to next year, I wanted to share some of that journey with you.

Speed Book Browsing

Someone had posted on Twitter an idea for Speed Book Browsing and I just had to give it a try. I took all the books from my classroom library and put them in bins. I then lined them up on a counter and students were given time to browse through books, write down titles that looked interesting and find their first independent reading book of the year.

Thinking ahead to next year, one element I would spend more time on would be the list of books students wanted to possibly go back to later. I admit, once we made that initial wish list, it was not revisited at a later time. Watching some students standing in front of the books and not really having a direction, made me wish we had spent more time with it. They would have had some ideas to move forward with. I think it would benefit some students tremendously.

Classroom Librarians

After our book browsing, students signed up for jobs and librarians were one of those. Students were able to shelf the books (I already had them organized by genre due to time constraints.) and choose books for the display racks. I find the more they are actively involved in the reorganization or set-up of the library, the more familiar they become with what is available.

Thinking ahead to next year, I would give students more control over re-shelving books, changing the display racks, etc. One of my students who has difficulty finding books he enjoys, was changing out the display racks and I heard him say, "This book looks good." Then a few minutes later, "This one looks good too." After he had just told me he did not like reading. This also ties in to the book wish list mentioned above, in hindsight, he could have added those so he would not forget.

What Are You Reading?

Earlier this year, principal Beth Houf (co-author of Lead Like a Pirate) gave me an idea to post what we were individually reading as a class. I thought it was a fantastic idea to post outside the classroom in hopes that others would see them and possibly get some ideas. 

However, I realized that "out of sight out of mind" started to set in. As a class, we were not updating them as we chose new books and I was not sure how to bring attention to them for others to use. I decided to create a chart and laminate it. The chart now hangs by our class reading goal and is updated regularly. It is a huge benefit to me as I see who is changing out books and how often. It also serves as a resource for students to see who is reading what and get ideas for books.

Thinking ahead to next year, I would like to use the chart to guide more book talks. We did a few this year, but would love to carve out more time devoted specifically to them. Another thought is, I love the Barnes and Noble recommendations from staff. I would like to extend this concept and have an area where students can recommend books to each other.

Classroom W.I.G. (Wildly Important Goal)

Being a Leader in Me School (currently awaiting Lighthouse Status!) we create individual, classroom and school wide goals. In the beginning of the year, we created a bulletin board with genre categories. The idea was to have a resource to go to if you liked a particular genre. 

However, as the first quarter came to a close, a student and I came up with a different idea. We turned them into a huge graph and set reading goals as a class! Each quarter we set a goal to work towards together of how many books we want to read. It has been highly motivating to watch was approach our goals. I am happy to report, with four weeks left, we are 3 books away from our 4th quarter goal!

Thinking ahead to next year, I would start this right from the beginning in September. I would also have the students reflect more throughout the year on how they were contributing to the class goal. In addition, we did not set clear expectations regarding when to post your book read. (As you checked it out? When you were finished?) I found most students finished the books they checked out and would be more likely to remember if they posted it as they received a new book. There are definitely a few that were abandoned, but not enough to impact our overall progress and achievement. 

Choosing Independent Reading Books

One of the most important aspects, I believe, in building reading lives is choice. My students always have choice over their independent reading books. Throughout a unit, I frequently offer titles associated with the genre or topic, however the decision of what to read on their own is ultimately theirs. We did have one week where I had them read a novel on their own as a whole class, as a result about half of them wanted to read the sequel. Other than that, they had free reign over their independent reading.

As I get to know students and build relationships, I am able to recommend books to them. They start to trust my suggestions as time goes on. On the other hand, I also read their recommendations as well. Here are just a few of our favorites from this year:


Thinking ahead to next year, I would still have them practice skills and strategies in their independent books. (One student even asked if we could do this recently!) However, I would like to have them create book talks or videos, etc. regarding their independent reading books. 

A few ways I get books they want into their hands?

  • Buy titles they are interested in.
  • Check out books from school or public library for them to borrow.
  • Ask colleagues if they own the title.
  • Pull from our teacher bookroom.
  • Read, read, read and keep up to date so I can recommend, suggest and talk about books with them!

Coming Next Time.....

My next blog post will chronicle our writing lives! May you all find that perfect fit book you have been looking for!