Monday, May 26, 2014

Myths and Fairy Tales About Independent Reading in ELA

What does an effective independent reading program look like?  Is there strong research to support it?  Do young readers just choose any old book they like and it's okay for their reading time and thinking?  What are "just right" books for young readers?  What do readers do before, during, and after reading a self-selected book?

These are a few key topics around the discussions of effective independent reading instruction.  Far too many folks have misinformation or a misunderstanding;  the former is a bit of a concern for many of us who have launched independent reading programs within their ELA curriculums but hear about colleagues and parents who think it just a D.E.A.R. program…a throwback from the 1970's.  A good program takes time to tweak and bring to full maturity.  My own IR is still a work in progress too.

ELA folks who have studied Nancie Atwell and Donalyn Miller's work with reading will no doubt understand the knowledge, talent, effort and commitment it takes to bring a "mature" independent reading approach to ELA instruction.  Offering students opportunities to read and read like crazy takes much behind the scenes preparation.  First, and foremost, is a passion to read young adult literature and keep ones self in the know about contemporary literature, particularly the literature which changes lives.  Communicating with readers runs a close second, and offering students multiple opportunities to write about and talk about the books they're reading is a hot third.  A great deal of celebrating goes on in IR, Book Talks, record keeping, reflection, sharing, blogging, letter writing, cajoling, patience, and more.

More goes on than meets the eye during an Independent Reading session.  For more thinking about this topic, please check out this article which provides a basic framework as well as the current research to support it…Independent Reading- The reading & Writing Project.

If you're considering launching an IR program, you should be commended.  Find a mentor, build that library, follow some good blogs, and for heavens sake, you won't be sorry to have read the best book on the planet about reading and books:  The Book Whisperer.  This book, as one blogger put it, is like striking gold!

-views of a Middle School ELA IR Teaching Nut!

Friday, May 23, 2014

One Stop Shopping

Are your students reading informational text next week?

I try to include a Close Reading strategy for my students to practice at least once a week?  Today I modified this one to fit an entry in novel they're reading.  I thought you might find this helpful.  I think it outlines the process for close reading clearly and simply, and grades k-8 could work with it.  I like that.  Students are provided with the formative assessment questions for an article they read at the end of the sheet.  How cool is that?  One stop shopping!

 Aaaaand, OMG, have you seen this k-8 resource for articles?  Holy Hanna!

I wish you a wonderful long weekend.

Memorial Day Parade in Ellsworth

Friday, May 16, 2014

Has it really been 6 years????

Yesterday afternoon several members of the HGS Literacy Team met.  Our mission was to complete an "exit" survey for MCLP folks. They asked us to look back over the last 6 years we have been working with them.  Have our students changed? Has our instruction changed?  What gains have we seen in this work we have done?  Is there a visible change in how we teach content?  How will we continue to stay current with best practices in literacy?  The following insights were shared during our reflection.  Please feel free to add Comments and share your insights.

  • The book talks have been helpful in staying current with content literacy.
  • The desire exists to continue learning, sharing, and growing in our work with literacy.
  • How will we keep this a top priority?
  • Speaking a common language of literacy on our teams has been positive.
  • Some teachers believe they have become better reading teachers.
  • It's evident that the teaching of reading and writing is evident in our classrooms.
  • Coaching has been helpful
  • Sharing strategies on the blog have been helpful reminders about the many ways we can support kids with literacy.
  • Sometime we want to look at information text in our assessment scores and see the trend since our work with MCLP.
  • We like the times we celebrate reading successes. WE want to look at more ways to celebrate.
What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2014


While planning my lessons, I have been using Bloom's Taxonomy and various visual layouts of it to help me plan for questioning.  Okay, I understand the flip charts we were given are a handy resource for this but honestly, I am a visual learner so I've had my eyes peeled for the perfect BT poster.  Haven't found a poster version but found this handy online tool.

I am teaching my 7th grade students how to understand and write a variety of questions for their discussion groups.  Check out this neat online tool!