Sunday, August 28, 2016

Keep your students reading

In two previous blogposts, I wrote about the need to know your students reading readiness and interests (you can read about that {here}) and how to challenge your students to read more (you can read that {here}).

It is valuable for students to keep track of all the books they try during the year, the ones they finish and the ones they quit.  It doesn't take a lot of time for them to do that, and it's really helpful information for you, as you try to match them up with books. 

Here's an example I created of the Reading Log I have my students fill out whenever they start reading a book.

In this example, Fish in a Tree is the first book read and finished.
  • The author and genre are noted
  • The book is rated on a scale of 1-10
  • The book is counted as the first book completed.
Magnus Chase was the second book the student attempted, but it was put aside.  The students puts an X in the "Quit" column.

The War that Saved my Life was the third book started, but it was not the third book finished.  That happens a lot in my class with read-alouds.  Students mark the book on their logs, but by the time we finish the book, they've started and finished a bunch on their own.  

It also happens with students who have 2 or more books going at a time.  So they number the book as finished, when it actually happens, even if that messes up the order on their paper.  Trust me!  Kids are okay with this - it's teachers who have a harder time with it! :)

As students finish books, they mark it on the Genre Tally Sheet at the bottom.  When they're ready to turn the page over (I copy these back-to-back) their tally sheet should match the number of books finished.

This is a huge help at the end of the year!  That's when we total up ALL the books read by ALL the students on our team!  We subtotal by genre to see which ones are the most popular (in sixth grade it's usually fantasy and realistic fiction), but one year we spent some time reading mysteries and they were amazed at how many more mysteries students read, based on that project.

There's another sheet I expect students to keep in their binder all year long, and that's called "My Wishlist."  There are so many times when a student or I am giving a book talk, and students are listening intently.  And then, the next day, or better yet, a week or two later, a student will say to you, "Do you remember when you were talking about THAT book?  It sounded so good but I can't remember the title, the author, or what it was about.  I just knew that I wanted to read it,"  "That book?  Oh, sure."

And that's how the Wishlist came to be.....
It's nothing fancy.  But insisting that students keep it in their binder means that they use it when we go to the library, or when they're looking for a new book to read.

These two simple tools help students figure out what they like to read, what they want to read, and how many books they've read!  

On a whole other note, tomorrow is the first day of school for students!  I'm excited and feeling a little challenged this year.  I'll keep you posted on how that goes.  For all other teachers out there who are starting tomorrow (and for those who have started, and have yet to start) prayers for all of you that your school year may be filled with blessings!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Giveaway winner announced!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway!  KimJ, you are the winner!  Check your email for the code you can use when you shop on TpT.

740 × 400
TpT is throwing it's annual one-day Bonus Sale where all of my products are 20% off!  If you add their Code:OneDay, you'll get an additional 10% off the sale price, which leads to a nice 28% off.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jumpstart mornings with nutritious on-the-go breakfasts

I've listed some different breakfast ideas because if you're like me, you are always searching for nutritious, easy-to-make breakfasts that will keep your stomach from rumbling!  right?  Last year, I left for school at 7:00 (eating breakfast in the car, of course) and didn't eat lunch until 12:55.  Now, that was a LONG morning!

Disclaimer (well, actually, three of them):
  • My family has a history of diabetes so I'm careful about how much sugar and wheat I eat.  These recipes reflect that.  They are ALL easily modified!
  • I almost always eat breakfast on my way to school.  Yeah, shouldn't do it, but somehow it always happens that way.
  • I'm going to name some products that you probably have at home, but for the purpose of having pictures, I'll link them to amazon to show you where you can get them.  I buy them locally.  If that's not an option for you, get them online.  Buying them through amazon gives me, oh I don't know, a nickel for my link. :)

These pancakes have turned many skeptics into delighted eaters, including everyone in my family and tons of friends!  When I first started making these, people would ask what made them different and I said "cottage cheese."  You can imagine the response.  Now I don't tell anyone until they've eaten them.  Try these!  The cottage cheese gives them protein and 3-4 of these can hold me for hours!  I eat them with fruit, but my kids pour on the syrup.  Either works.

The recipe came from
The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today and it calls for garbanzo flour.  Use whatever you have.  I typically use either a gluten-free mix or almond flour. They all work just fine.

2.  EGGS
There are so many ways you can eat these!
  • Do ahead:  chop up some of your favorite veggies and keep them in the fridge.  
1.  When you have some time, make up a batch of scrambled eggs.  Add veggies, beans, cheese, whatever you need to keep you going.  Then, in the morning, heat it up and eat.  Or wrap it in lettuce leaves and eat (don't eat these in the car on your way to school, trust me!)

2.  Make breakfast muffins

  • I like this recipe but if you search for "egg muffins" (add "paleo" or "whole 30" to get healthier versions) you'll find tons of recipes.
3.  Make healthy egg salad - again, Pinterest is loaded with choices.  For me: hard boiled eggs, avocado, mustard, chopped dill pickles.  Mash a bit and mix.  Enjoy!


Most smoothie recipes are too sugary for me.  Just the fact that they're mostly made with fruit is part of the reason, but a lot of them call for very sugary fruits.  If that's okay for you, by all means, drink up!  But, you need to add this!  Don't be put off by the slightly illegal-sounding name.  These little seeds are chock full of protein and need to be added to your smoothie if you want it to carry you for more than half an hour.  Three tablespoons of hemp hearts = 10 grams of protein!
Here are a few of my go-to's:

There are lots and lots of other choices for breakfast, but I want to keep this post from getting too long.  I hope this gets you started!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 15, 2016

"PR" in Reading. Challenge students to their best reading year!

I wrote about the importance of learning about your students and how they feel about reading in a previous blog post.  You can read about that {here}if you'd like the background for what happens next in my classroom.

Now that I know a little about each student, it's important to set the tone for the reading that will take place all year long.  I expect students in 6th grade to read for at least half an hour a day.  If you gasped, that's how some of my students respond, too!
But here's the thing, and I have taken my cues from Donalyn Miller, Jennifer Serravallo, and John Schu, among others.  The research is pretty clear that the more kids read the smarter they get.  Plain and simple.

This was one of my favorite books and it shaped the way I looked at having kids read, including helping them set goals for themselves that were reasonable and motivating.  In her classroom, Donalyn Miller sets a goal of 40 books a year per child.  I set it a bit lower, at 25, but when we count at the end of the year, the average is always around 31-32.

Don't make reading a punishment! 
A couple of things you need to know about me:  I don't like to make reading a book a homework activity and I really dislike kids having to track their reading with reading contracts or logs (sorry!)  I just know when I pick up a book, I don't want to have to see how many pages I've read, I don't want to have to time myself for how long I read, and I certainly don't want to have to write a summary sentence about what I read!

So, how do I get kids to read at home?  Give them time to read at school!  Get them so involved in what they're reading that they want to know what happens next!

How to get to 30 minutes a day:
It doesn't have to be 30 uninterrupted minutes.  After all, most kids can figure out that if they read for 10 or 15 minutes at school, they're 1/3 or 1/2 way to their goal for the day.  So give them some time in school: when they first come in and you're trying to take attendance, deal with missing homework, lunch counts, etc.  Or when they come back from lunch or recess or Specials, and you want to give them a few minutes to get settled in for what's next in your room.  Those precious minutes add up!

I'm not such a rigid rule follower that I care if a student reads for 10 minutes one day and makes up for it on the weekends, and honestly, once they get into books, I move the focus away from time.

I only do that at the beginning to show them that they could be reading:
  1. while their sibling is searching around for his/her shoes before practice
  2.  in the car on the way to wherever (as long as they don't get carsick)
  3.  at a sibling's practice if they have to go along
  4.  to their dog or cat
  5.  to a younger sibling
  6.  while they're waiting for the bus
  7.  in the auditorium waiting for all the other classes to come in (Donalyn does this and I think it's brilliant.  Imagine how quiet the auditorium would be if everyone were reading.  You just have to make sure they take their books with them when they leave!)
Talk about books regularly
Make conversation about reading a regular part of your day.  How?  It doesn't have to be a lot!  Start small.
  • Find good matches for students based on what you know about them.  Put them on their desk with a note "Thought you might like to take a look at this book!"
  • Meet with a student or two to talk about what they're reading.  
  • Have students talk about books to the whole class.
  • Have students do book projects and display them
  • Group students and have them share why the book they're reading is so good
It doesn't have to be much.  But as books become infused in your day, watch the magic begin!  Kids will start talking to each other about the books they're reading.  Someone will notice a classmate looking for a book and walk over to offer some thoughts.  Kids come in to your room excited to tell you about what they read last night.

There are no magic solutions, no great graphic organizers or posters for this.  This one just requires good conversation and goal setting to start!

Next time, I'll show you how students keep track of every book they've tried.  In the meantime, have a great week!

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 for Friday linky!

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching with a pretty light-hearted 5 for Friday, since I've been away on vacation this week.
I found these a few weeks ago and thought it'd be a good idea to put them in my classroom.  Just so the kids understand who I am.
I got to meet my husband's great-niece and had a ton of fun with her.  Although I failed miserably at naming all of her Shopkins.  We had a lot of giggles over my major fails!

I think I scored big time when I let her paint my nails!
Partway through our trip which took us to Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, I had this idea that I would start taking pictures with the water bottle I'd gotten at TpTOrlando!  I posted the pictures to Instagram with #TpTwaterbottletravels.  You can search that hashtag or look at my Instagram

 We spent close to a week between Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  It's amazing to me how close these two parks are to each other (they practically touch) and yet how different they are from each other!
This picture shows a bison, but look behind him at all of the hotsprings and geysers = Yellowstone.  I'd seen geysers in Iceland many years ago and didn't know that here, there, and New Zealand.  That's it's for geysers.  On this planet!  
This was the view from our window where we stayed in the Tetons.  I can't imagine ever getting tired of this view.  It just takes your breath away!
So that's been my 5 for this week.  Next week returns to normal and gearing up for school.  I know some of you have already started.  Here in Pennsylvania, most schools don't go back until later in August.  

Whether you're already back, or getting ready to go, have a great weekend!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Focus in on Your Students' Reading Habits

It is so important to get to know your students in the first few weeks of school.  Who do they live with?  How much support do they have at home?  How busy are they?  What do they enjoy doing? What's important to them?

As you're getting to know them, you're probably also getting to know their data: state or district assessments, information from their cumulative folder, information passed on in your district-wide system, information from the previous years' teacher.

And you're asking for information:  who do I contact when I have a question or concern?  What should I know about you?

So it's hard to feel like giving students yet another form to fill out might be helpful.  But I believe it is!  One of the most powerful tools I use in Reading is a reading interest survey.  It doesn't take long to fill out and it gives you lots of valuable information!
So when you first talk to that student about books, even if he or she says they don't like to read, you have valuable information about what they like to do, what activities they're involved in, and how much free time they have.  

So you have a place to start as you help them locate their first good-fit book!

I like to conference with my students - and depending on the year, I'm more or less successful with meeting with them regularly.  I copy this form so I have one for each student.  In addition to marking down a few things from the reading survey, I also write down some data that I collect when I have students do an Informal Reading Inventory.  That way, if I see that a student is reading below grade level, I can suggest holding off on higher-level books for a little while.  Sometimes kids want to impress you and some kids have mastered fake reading.  But if you know them well, that doesn't last for long! 

I like to use CAFE and a modified Daily 5 in my room.  Actually it's more of a Daily 3: Read to Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  

During the time that I see a student reading to self, I just plop down beside them....okay, I put my trusty stool next to them and sit on it....and have a brief conversation about what they're reading. Early on, I might have them read a paragraph or a page to me to listen to their fluency, we'll discuss something that happens, and I leave them with a focus for their reading until the next time we meet.

My students learn from the beginning of the year, that when they read, no matter where they're doing it, they do it with their :
      • book(s)
      • pencil
      • Reading notebook
They write down the strategy or focus they're working on and the next date when we'll meet.  I mark the same thing down in the notes section.  And off I go to meet with the next student!

My students have come to love this individual time with me, and often remind me that they have a meeting scheduled with me that particular day.  To be honest, I have a hard time keeping to the schedule, but I know how important it is to them, and how much I know my students as readers.  That keeps me going!

The Reading survey is available in my TpT store, and with the Back-to-School sale coming up, you'll be able to get it for 25% off!