Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Last week I blogged about adding a Book Pick of the Week to your reading block in order to ramp up reading conversation in your classroom.  If you missed it, check it out here.

This week we are continuing to build our reading conversations via TECHNOLOGY!  

It’s 2017, who’s with me?

For this blogpost, I will be referring to my all time favorite tech educator, Kristin Ziemke (@KristinZiemke)  Have you heard of her?

She has inspired educators to use technology in our classrooms in the most innovative, yet simple ways!  Less is more, she says.  And I couldn’t agree more when it comes to all things technology.

Kristin, based out of Chicago, co-wrote Applify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom,  which is a great PD summer read focusing on technology.  It will absolutely change the way you view technology in your classroom!

Amplify by Katie Muhtaris  Kristin Ziemke. Digital Teaching and Learning in the K 6 Classroom   Heinemann Publishing.png

She suggests one easy routine to incorporate into your weekly reading block that will rev up the reading conversation in your classroom: Shelfies! Let me explain.

A shelfie is a ‘selfie’ taken with your current favorite book and posted to an online bookshelf for others to see.  Get it?  Shelfie (selfie plus shelf)

Here’s how I’ve seen this idea used in Noelle’s first grade classroom: (She’s one of my consultants.  If you haven’t read her guest blog post about the Scholastic Reading Summit, check it out here.)  

It’s Wednesday morning.  Before starting Reading Workshop, Noelle’s students gather on the carpet with their book bags and iPads.  She is lucky enough to have 1-1 iPads! I know- sick right?

Each Wednesday morning begins the same.  On her smartboard, she posts the QR code for the padlet (a website that allows others to collaborate with each other by posting onto a page).

Students use their iPad cameras to scan the QR code and open up the padlet page. (Noelle has already created the padlet page for the day prior to the students coming to school.  She titles it “It’s Wednesday.  What are you reading?” with directions at the top of the page: Take a Shelfie with your current favorite book)

At this point in the school year, her first graders are independent in this activity.  Crazy, right? But it’s TRUE!  She has explicitly taught them how to add their own post to padlet.

Students always title the post with their classroom numbers, avoiding putting their names or initials online (digital citizenship 101).  You could have students write the title of their book here instead.

Students add a description of their book/why they are recommending it to others (think BOOK TALK) under the “caption” section.

Last, students take out their favorite book from their book bag and snap a selfie with it.  The only rule for the photo is you must be able to see the front cover.  Viola!  As students finish uploading their Shelfie, they can browse other students’ posts to get ideas for future books to read.  

Later in the week when students are browsing the library, they already have an idea of what book they want to read next!  As the classroom teacher, you can share the padlet link with parents or other classrooms to connect with the reading community outside of your four walls.

The possibilities are endless with technology!  If you do not have 1-1 iPads, don’t worry!  You can still tweak this idea to fit your tech availability.   Maybe you only have one laptop or your personal cell phone - it can still be done!  Students could sign up to take turns posting their shelfie with the technology at hand, or you or another adult could help take photos of students throughout the week.  Kristin Ziemke says “It’s not the technology, it’s what we do with it that counts.”  

How are you using technology to amplify your reading conversations?
Post in the comments below.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Freebie: Book Pick of the Week


I am sure you have heard of a book talk, right?  

One reader talks about a book with the intent of convincing the other reader to read the book.  The booktalker gives the other reader a sneak peek into the characters, setting , and plot line of the text without giving away the ending.  The listener can be left with a cliffhanger and wants to do nothing but read the book after the talk!

Book talks can take anywhere from one to five minutes depending on the speaker.


Have you heard of the 6 word book talk?  This is where the reader creates a book talk by only using six words!  

@TechNinjaTodd (Todd Nesloney) and @brandonkblom (Brandon Blom) introduced the idea to a crowd full of educators at the Scholastic Reading Summit.  

I would encourage you to give it a try, first with your favorite summer read, and then in your classroom.  Let’s have a little fun with this!  
Comment below in a six word book talk your favorite summer read.  We will reply by guessing the title!  An example of a six word book talk for Wonder might be: different looking boy overcomes some adversity

If you are using book talks (any kind, short or long!) in your classroom, a great way to extend the conversation around books is to display a “Book Pick of the Week” in your classroom library.

This can be a book that has been previously talked about for students to read.  

We can display this book on a special place in our classroom library for students to check out and read on their own.  A simple poster like the one below could be placed behind the book so that once a student finishes the book, they return the Book Pick of the Week for others to read. Or a picture of the book could be inserted into the template and the book pick can be easily changed every week!

Book Pick of the Week.pdf.png

Eventually as student become more familiar with book talks, they can share their own book talk with the class.  As we create a culture for reading through consistent daily book talks, students can nominate books for the Book Pick of the Week.

Creating a space for students to have a voice and share their opinion about books is essential in developing a love for reading.  One easy yet powerful way to give students a platform or sharing their ideas about books is to allow them to nominate the book for that week! Afterall, isn’t that our goal as reading teachers?  To allow our readers to think for themselves?  I’d say so!

Don’t forget to comment with your six word book talk!  Click HERE to get your FREE Book Pick of the Week Template!

Happy reading!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Have You Attended a Scholastic Reading Summit?

Howdy from Central Texas!  This is Noelle guest blogging about the Scholastic Reading Summit because Melissa’s boss wouldn’t let her take off to go- so she sent ME! (PS- Melissa is Melissa’s boss!)

Last Thursday, I traveled to Houston to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit.  If you weren’t lucky enough to attend, keep reading to learn, grow, and be inspired with the great ideas that were shared!

I started the day by checking in and received a goodie bag full of BOOKS!  It wouldn’t be a Scholastic conference without free books, right?  And what teacher doesn’t love another teacher bag?  I was already hyperventilating with excitement and the conference hadn’t even started yet.

The front of the bag has a quote from Donalyn Miller: “I can learn anything, travel anywhere, ask my own questions, seek my own answers because I read.”


Cute, right?

Here’s a peek at what was inside:


Not only did they give us children’s books of all levels, they also included pure GOLD in our bag! That’s right.  Scholastic has put together the latest research on reading- A Summary of Research!  


Every educator needs to get their hands on this resource. It is pure gold, I tell you!

The keynote speaker this year was the one and only, John Schu (@MrSchuReads) He started the day with ENERGY and inspiration for reading!  He talked a lot about the need for school librarians. He said, “Every student deserves to have a FULL time librarian.”  That couldn’t be more true!

Here are a few of my favorite quote that were shared:



One of my goals for the day was to get retweeted by Mr. Schu and guess what?  I was retweeted within the first hour!  


If you are not on twitter for educational purposes, after reading this post you should create an account!  Twitter can be a fantastic learning community.  So many times educators will tweet as they are in the conference, and if you follow the right hashtags, it feels like you are sitting right there in the conference yourself! If you are already on twitter, are you following Melissa?  She has great ideas that can inspire you and your students! Go follow her @LeachLiteracy.

After Mr. Schu, next up was Kylene Beers (@KyleneBeers) and Bob Probst (@BobProbst).  I’ve been following Kylene for a while, but hearing her speak was truly inspiring.  

She talked about how our readers need to be encouraged first.  She said, “Skill and will go together. You cannot improve competence without first improving confidence.” That right there started blowing up Twitter!

During their talk, they introduced us to a way of engaging readers with text besides the basic recall questioning.  Through their research in classrooms, they have created three questions to ask students while reading that works in any grade level.  Through their research they found that students who were asked to read a text and then answer basic recall questions (think ten multiple choice questions for a quiz) could not even remember what the text was about the next day.  These students were simply reading to answer a question….they weren’t reading to THINK!

Kylene and Bob suggest using these three questions instead to engage our readers with thinking:

What surprised you?  
What did the author think I already knew?
What changed or confirmed what I already knew?

They have just published a new book called Disrupting Thinking.

After those keynotes, we split up into our breakout sessions.

I attended “Building a Love of Reading Campus Wide” with @TechNinjaTodd and @brandonkblom . Both are principals (in TEXAS) changing the way students and educators view reading.

Their session was incredible!  These two educators are funny, inspiring, and truly have a passion for reading! I walked away with so many great ideas, way too many to share in a blogpost.  So I will share my absolute favorites...

  1. Advertise what we are reading: Create a poster that announces what educators (every single adult in the building is an educator) are currently reading.  Laminate it so it is a quick update with dry erase markers. (Shout out to MAGNOLIA ISD- they are DOING this!)
  2. Guest readers: Invite all kinds of community members to bring a book to read.  Create a mystery Skype read aloud by turning off the camera but keeping the sound on.  One teacher invites grandparents to Skype in and it drives the students wild to try to guess which grandparent is reading!
  3. 6 word book talks: Silently write a 6 word book talk for a favorite book.  Next, have students share their 6 word book talk and have other students guess the title. Tech option to share via Padlet or Twitter.
  4. Secret Society of Readers: Pass out ‘golden tickets’ (Willie Wonka style) to the avid readers in your school.  You know the ones.  They always have their nose in a book.  So often we put all the attention on the struggling and reluctant readers, but in order to build a school-wide love of reading, we need to tap into the students who read any chance they can. Pass out the tickets.  Tell the students to meet in the library at a certain time, to bring their current favorite book, and to tell no one!  (Teachers are, of course, in on the secret and all the students need to do is use the code word to get out of class. Brilliant!) The first meeting can be held with flashlights under the tables of the library.  During the meeting, we allow these readers to be readers!  Encouraging them to talk about their books.  A second golden ticket is given to students and their job throughout the next week is to be on the lookout for other readers to join the secret society!  It will only take a few days for the buzz of reading to grow in your school!  I am so excited to implement this at my school.  Will you try it with me? (This is Melissa piping in- if I were in school I so would have wanted a GOLDEN TICKET!)

The afternoon session I attended was called “Independent Reading: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going”  It was a panel chalked full of the best of the best in education!


The biggest takeaway from this panel would have to be the discussion of independent reading vs. reading in isolation.  

Often we think those are the same thing, yet independent reading can and should be collaborative.  (AMEN says Melissa) The only time our students should read in isolation might be on a test.  The session closed with Donalyn Miller (@Donalynbooks) discussing testing.  This left a lasting impression on me: “You don’t get a prized cow by weighing it every day.”

The conference came to a close with JJK (@StudioJJK) as the last keynote speaker.  The New York Times Bestselling Author and Illustrator walked us through his writing process (so cool!), read aloud one of his published books (so entertaining!), and inspired us to accept all reading as reading in our classrooms (even graphic novels!).  

To say I learned a lot is an understatement.  I could go on and on about all of the inspiring ideas and latest research that was shared.  But I will leave you to go sign up for Twitter (if you haven’t already) and to add those speakers to your follow list!  

One last thought before I go:


Kids who read self-selected text rather than teacher-selected books read more and student selected reading is 2xs as powerful as teacher-selected reading in developing reading engagement and comprehension. (DROP THE MIC)


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday Special: We're Going on a Letter Hunt

We’re going on a letter hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
I’m not scared!
What a beautiful day!

Have your students ever been on a letter hunt?  

Letter hunting provides our youngest students a chance to practice foundational reading skills- recognizing letters!

It’s a great way to practice letter recognition and automaticity, and is a must in any primary classroom.

It’s simple, really.

You just need a few supplies to make this activity an engaging, meaningful work station!

Gather up your magnetic letters (if you don’t have a gigantic stash in your classroom, I’m sure you can find them hidden in a dark closet at your school or even at a local garage sale for cheap!  Every reading teacher needs these in their classroom.  

You don't need to buy special magnetic letters, but these are my favorites... consider having a set of uppercase and lowercase. Start with uppercase as that is what you'll find on the word searches. Then later, switch to lowercase! Then they are working on MATCHING!

You’ll also need a few magnifying glasses (ask to borrow from your science teacher friends, they should have plenty to share), then get some crayons, and printed word searches.

Students doing the letter hunt activity (probably in a work on words stations or a fluency station)  will use the materials to ‘hunt’ for specific letters depending on what you are teaching that day/week/month- or just based on the letter they pull out of the bag!  

Students choose a magnetic letter from the bag, get a color crayon that matches the color of the letter- then they go hunting for as many of that letter as they can find on their word search. When a student finds that letter, they color it on their word search.  When they have hunted and found as many first letters as they can, they choose a second letter, match the crayon, and continue to hunt! Students can hunt for as many letters as their station time allows.

While it’s certainly FUN for students it’s also FUNctional!  Kids are learning tracking left to right and return sweep too!  As long as you model how to do it that way before you place the materials in a station!  :)   At the end of the station time, the student’s word search page will be a rainbow of letters found and recognized!  

And you will be a happy teacher because your students will be solidifying their letter recognition skills. It’s a win-win!  It wouldn’t be Friday without a freebie! Or in this case a Saturday Special! :)

Here are the directions to get your students started in your classroom.  

Feel free to snag this, HERE and let the letter hunting begin!