Sunday, March 22, 2020

Transitioning to Online Education

We are in new times and are likely overwhelmed with information, so I am keeping this post as brief as possible.  We changed the Twitter Tues topic for this week to respond to 'just-in-time' needs.  We will get back to our 'normally' scheduled educational topics for the future dates starting again on Tuesday, April 7th.

Q1:  What's your name & area of teaching?   (first question will post at 9:00)

Q2:  What's your biggest concern moving forward in this online environment?  (9:05)

Q3:  How can we best keep our student's needs at the center of the learning?    (9:10)

Q4:  Share any resources (personal or educational) that have been helpful to you during this time.  (9:15)

Q5:  What areas of expertise do you have that you'd possibly be willing to help others with? (9:20)

Q6:  What else is on your mind?  How else can we help each other? etc. (9:25)

Take care and we got this!

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Voice and Choice: Independent Reading

When students have the chance to select their own books to read, they have opportunities to read what interests them and discover books they enjoy to read. Self-selecting books does not always work the same way for striving readers as it does for proficient and advanced readers.

A few years ago after one of my read-alouds, I told my students: “In this class you’re always safe. Everyone will celebrate reading by choosing books you can read and enjoy.” That comment seemed to be a turning point because during independent reading time, several students selected books they were able to read and enjoy. However, it took several weeks for all students to feel positive about selecting books they could read with ease.

This story was crucial that students had the opportunity to make the decision to choose books they could read. Striving readers often need time to feel safe that no one will make negative comments about books they select. Give the students time and create an environment where everyone feels safe and truly learn to enjoy independent reading. Self-selection develops responsibility and independence, and gives students control over their learning.

In addition to choice, there are other things that create joyful reading and allow students to spread the word about a beloved book to peers.

Reflection Time

Have you ever closed the last page of a book and wish you could read it again? The need to revisit events in a book and to think about the characters and their decisions is often achieved through reflection. You feel obliged to ponder over and relive favorite parts of a favorite book. These moments in reading are special and it is important to offer students a time to reflect and savor parts of a book that were memorable or impacted their lives. Reflection can be accomplished through discussions and recommendations of books.

Power of Discussing Books

Reading is social and that is why students love talking about books with a partner or in a small group. Discussions reveal a range of interpretations supported with evidence from the text. Students also practice their active listening skills and communicate their thinking to peers. It is also valuable to offer students ways to promote or advertise books to their peers. Promoting and advertising books provides students with a list of books their peers enjoyed. Book recommendations offer students choices they may never have considered.


The following are four ways students can hear about and explore books that their peers enjoyed. The students then have knowledge about books they can check out to read.

1. Elevator Talk: Vendors often have to sell a product quickly by focusing on what makes the product special or different from other products. Students set up an appointment with their teacher when they complete a book and want to present an “elevator” talk. Have students jot some notes they want to include in the brief talk. The presenter has sixty seconds to sell the book to classmates.

2. Graffiti Wall: Students have the opportunity to write short book recommendations to their peers. Place a large piece of paper on a bulletin board or wall. The students write short reviews that are positive, point out one important reason why the book was a great story, and to recommend the book to a peer who may enjoy it.

3. Class Blog: Set up a class blog and invite students to create and post original book reviews or trailers. Students read the blog to explore books classmates posted and also to add a comment to a peer’s post.

4. Flipgrid: Students enjoy sharing what they are currently reading or have read in the past. Set up a class Flipgrid to allow the students to give book recommendations, share their stories, and to reflect on reading strategies and story elements (character, setting, plot, theme, etc.). The resource allows students to answer questions or respond to a peer by simply asking students to use their voice.

Discussion Questions:
1. How do you engage students in book reflections and discussions in the classroom?

2. In what ways do you promote voice and choice to your students in reading?

3. Do your students promote and/or advertise books they have read and enjoyed reading? If yes, how?

4. What was a personal experience where you had the opportunity to share a book you enjoyed reading? How did the experience make you feel?