Poems to kick-start the year!

It’s hard to believe that the school year has already begun.  The start of this year also marks the one year anniversary of this blog!  In one of my first posts (Paving the Way with Poetry), I wrote about something near to my heart: poetry.

As I plan beginning of the year lessons for my own 2nd grade classroom, I like to select and read poems as a way to introduce daily procedures and routines.  I do this for several reasons.

First, they are fast and fun to read.  Second, there are many poems written about the school day, which makes it easy to connect them to the students.  Third, reading poems early on (instead of waiting for National Poetry Month in April) helps to foster a love of poetry.  Finally, poetry opens a door to literacy that is not always accessible with other genres.  This is especially true for struggling readers and writers.  Because they are shorter by nature, poems often feel less threatening to these students.  And ALL students can enjoy and be challenged by poetry.

Ready to get started?

Here is a list of some of my favorite beginning of the year poetry books and poems, along with procedures/routines that connect to them.  Don’t have the books?  They should be easy to find in the school library or even online.

1. Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields

Suggested Poems to Read             Routines to Teach  

Word Problem                                   Introducing Math Workshop/Journals

Gotta Go                                              Bathroom Procedures

Almost Late                                        Arrival Routines

After School                                         Dismissal

2. Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard

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Suggested Poems to Read                        Routines to Teach  

Fishes and/or Frog Serenade                    Partnerships and teamwork

These are “poems for two voices” and lend themselves well to introducing the concept of “working together.”  Let the students decide how to read them together as an initial team building activity.

3 & 4. Chicken Soup With Rice, by Maurice Sendak

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and

A Child’s Calendar, by John Updike

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

September (or August)                             Reading a poem to introduce each month

5. Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

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Suggested Poems to Read                      Routines to Teach  

Scared, Shy, Excited                               Beginning of the year feelings

This is a fast read and I recommend reading through the whole book if you have time.  It’s also a great segue into Morning Meeting/Responsive Classroom.  The students can state one feeling that they have as part of the “share” portion of the lesson.

Note: Today I Feel Silly by Jamie Lee Curtis is another great read aloud for discussing feelings.

6. I Like it Here at School, poems collected by Jack Prelutsky

*You can purchase this for $.01 on Amazon! Now that’s a good deal….

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

Why My Homework is Missing            Daily homework

Look in a Book                                            Independent Reading

7. If I Were in Charge of the World, by Judith Viorst

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Suggested Poems to Read                       Routines to Teach

If I Were in Charge of the World             Creating classroom responsibilities/rules

Apology                                                              Problem Solving/working cooperatively

Summer’s End                                                 Back to school

8. The Mouse Was Out at Recess, by David L. Harrison

*You can buy this used on Amazon for $.084!

This book is chock full of poems that connect to the school day.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Suggested Poems to Read                                                          Routines to Teach 

The Bus                                                                                               Arrival/dismissal

Mystery Lunch                                                                                 Lunch

They Call it Science                                                                        Science

In the Hall                                                                                          Hall procedures

Raise Your Hand if you Know the Answer                              Raising hand

Teacher’s Eyes                                                                                  Staying focused

9. Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield

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Read Things to introduce writing workshop. (Click on the link to for “Things” to see a Brain Pop activity on Eloise Greenfield.  This is one of my favorite poems to read with students so I’m sharing the text here:

Things

Went to the corner
Walked in the store
Bought me some candy
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it

I like to read this poem to introduce the concept that our writing is special, something to be treasured.  It’s also fun to act out.  Give one stanza or line to teams or partnerships.  Let the students be creative!

11. Lunch Money and Other Poems about Schoolby Carol Diggory Shields

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Suggested Poems to Read               Routines to Teach

Pledge                                                  Pledge of Allegiance and/or school announcements

Decisions, Lunch Money                Lunch routines

Far Away                                              Independent Reading

Moonwalker                                        Dismissal

I’m Doing my Homework                Homework

Read this book to hook your students on poetry!

12. Alphathoughts, by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Suggested Poems to Read                                 Routines to Teach

Books and Library                                               Independent reading

Pencils                                                                     Classroom pencil routine

Those are a few of my picks of poems to kick-start the school year.  Please let me know if you try them and/or if you have other favorites.  For additional book recommendations (poetry and otherwise), read:

A is for Musk Ox and a few other good books…

Launching a Love of Reading from Day One

Recommended Picture Books

And for more ways to integrate poetry into your lessons, click here: 5 Easy Ways to Get Your Class Excited About Poetry.

Here’s to a successful start of the year!

Happy reading,

Lisa

 

Will Read for Cookies

Summer is in full swing and nothing motivates children (at least my kids anyway!) more than the promise of sweet treats.

Here is what my son, Joey (age 7),  received at the local library today after returning his summer reading club sheet:

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My next several posts will all offer tips, strategies and ideas to keep your child reading and writing in fun, meaningful and authentic ways.  Summer Reading Tip #1?

Join your local libraries program.

Most libraries have them and are a wonderful way to keep kids excited about reading.

Here is a link to the site for our local library system (Lower Merion Library System):

http://www.lmls.org/summer-reading-clubs/

On the first day we joined, Joey came home and wrote a poem on Spiderman so he could check off the box for “Write a poem.”  After 8 checks, he will earn a reading certificate.  He also receives a prize at each visit (with a free book on the third time).

IMG_2095 IMG_2097 A cookie, plastic toy and free book might not seem that exciting to us.  But if it keeps my kids motivated to read and write (and engaged with something other than asking to watch t.v.), it’s well worth it.

So join a library program today.  Or at the very least, go visit your local library and take home some books.  Read my next post for a few of my favorite titles to try and for more summer reading tips!

Traveling with Tulip

Looking for some end of year ideas to fill those last few days of school?

Here’s a fun and easy read aloud by author Cynthia Rylant that you can use to spark conversation about summer travel plans.  And because of the repeating language and beautiful imagery, it’s a no-brainer to connect this to a follow-up writing lesson.

Note to parents: Try reading this book at home and then using the attached handout Tulip Sees America as a summer writing activity.  A great way to document your summer travels in a meaningful, authentic way!

Possible Writing Objective: Use descriptive details to describe a setting

Possible Reading Objective: Create mental images to support comprehension

The Book: Tulip Sees America, by Cynthia Rylant

Before Reading (intro and possible language)

“This is about a boy who never goes anywhere as a child.  When he grows up, he decides to travel across the country in his VW Beetle with his dog Tulip.  (Show different states on map: Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado).  In each place, he notices something different about the setting.  As you listen, put your thumb up if you get a picture in your mind because of the details that the author uses to describe each state.”

During Reading: 

Stop to discuss parts of the text that stand out to the students.  Try one turn and talk: “What images stayed with you on this page?” or “Share your mental movie with a partner.”

After Reading:

Make a list of the descriptive words that the author used to describe each state.  If time allows (or during another lesson), try out the writing extension (see attached) Tulip Sees America.  The students can write their own “Tulip Sees America” stories based on a place that they have visited.

Disclaimer: I read this recently with some second graders and they got a good chuckle from the Nevada section.  I won’t give it away but be sure to preview that part before you read!

 

 

 

 

 

Knuffle Bunny Too to the Rescue

Before winter break, I had a few minutes to do a read aloud and word wall lesson in a first grade teacher’s room.  The teacher had been working on word wall words with her students, yet they needed more practice.

I wanted to read something fun, yet purposeful for her class, to foster a sense of excitement for books, reading and the word wall in general. So I pulled out one of my old favorites, Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems.

Before the lesson (planning):

This book is amazing in so many ways, with endless instructional possibilities. And the illustrations! I could look at the pictures forever!  For this situation, however, I decided to focus on word wall words.  Prior to the lesson itself, I took a few moments to jot down the many high frequency words that I noticed in the story:

saw

they

very

well

not

day

to

was

her

but

that

down

want

did

were

Then I compared them to the list of words that she had not yet taught to her class and chose these:

1. very

2. but, not butt (yes, this caused some chuckles when I introduced it. I have my own first grader at home so I should have expected that!)

3. that

4. day

5.were

The lesson:

Part One:

I began by introducing the words.  They were prewritten on index cards and I held up each one.  As I did, the students:

*said the word

*read the word in a sentence

*bounced each letter of the word like a basketball *click here to read more about ways to interact with the word wall: literacywithlisa.com/2015/11/09/word-wall-101/

*students “sky wrote” the words using their imaginary pencils (i.e. their fingers)

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Part Two:

We read the story!  It helps to give the students are purpose for reading.  In this case, I reminded them to listen for the word wall words.  To keep them engaged, I asked them to put their thumbs up for each word wall word that they heard.

Did I mention how much I love this book??  No matter how many times I listen to it, I still chuckle, especially when the two dads come to school the next day, tired and unshaven.   Meanwhile, Trixie and her friend are peppier than ever, chatting away about their Knuffle Bunnies. I also love how the mom gives Daddy a knowing look, when Trixie wakes them both up to say that Knuffle Bunny is missing. That it doesn’t matter if it’s 2:30 in the morning  He better get his butt (yes, Joey, I’m using your favorite word in the right context now!) out of bed and find Knuffle Bunny.

I could go on and on about this book.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

Reflections on the lesson…

If I were to do it again, I would highlight some vocabulary words as well, like: realized, devoured and/or marched

These are great examples of words to post on a “wow” word wall.  Displaying the words will help students remember to use them in their speaking and/or writing, which will ultimately increase retention and overall vocabulary development.

 

 

Overall, this entire lesson took about 20 minutes from start to finish (read aloud and activities). I enjoyed it and judging by the students (and teacher!), I think they did too.

How do you use read alouds and/or interactive games to reinforce the word wall or other phonics lessons in your classroom?  Feel free to share and comment here so we can borrow ideas from each other!

A is for Musk Ox and a few other good books…

Since I love children’s books – and it’s also the holidays – I can’t help but share a few now.  If you wait until the last minute to shop (like me!), maybe you still need a few gifts for the children in your life.  But even if you’re finished shopping, these books are still ones to consider buying or at least borrowing from the library to use in your classroom (or to read at home).

A is for Musk Ox

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This is my new favorite read aloud and if I hadn’t already finished shopping, I would buy it for my own children.  (Maybe I still will!).  It’s not only an alphabet book, but the story of two characters: a zebra and a musk ox that don’t get along.  The book is humorous, silly and also filled with good tidbits of information about musk oxen, such as:

Did you know that they form a ring around their calves to protect them from predators? And their fur is sometimes called a skirt?

Grab the book today to learn more about musk oxen and also for a few good laughs!

Teaching Idea/Home Connection: After you’re done reading, have your students choose their favorite letter to create their own alphabet page.  See the example here from a first grade classroom:

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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A teacher told me about this book before but I never read it cover to cover until the other day.  I had goosebumps at the end!  It’s the story of a boy who falls in love with books at an early age. If you want to promote a love of reading in your classroom (or at home), read this book to your students! Also, it inspired a short film that won an Oscar.  Need I say more?

The UnBEElievables

Love insects?  Or great poetry?  Informational texts? Beautiful illustrations? This poetry book is a combination of all these features and more.  Each page has a different poem about bees, along with a short informational paragraph that further explains the content explored in each one.  For example, what is a worker bee, a drone, etc.

This is a great way to expose your students to poetry and informational texts, in a fun, engaging way. It’s also fun to read and like all poetry, can be read in short doses.  For example, keep it out and read a poem or two whenever you have a couple minutes to spare.  And if you haven’t seen any of Douglas Florian’s work before, his illustrations are original paintings.  It’s worth the money just for that!

John, Paul, George & Ben

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Do you teach the American Revolution? Are you a history buff?  Then you HAVE to get this book.  It’s written by Lane Smith, author of Math Curse and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, among others.

This book tells the story of John Hancock, Revere, George Washington and Ben Franklin, in a humorous and engaging way.  I laughed out loud several times.  Trust me, you will too!

Measuring Penny

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A great way to provide context and real life examples of how we measure (and use math) on a daily basis.  This book is the story of a girl, her dog (Penny) and the multiple ways that she measures Penny. Not just in height and weight, like you would think but also in time (how much time does she spend taking care of Penny?), money (how much money does she spend on dog food, etc.) and even volume (how much water does Penny drink?).  As you can see, this illustrates multiple math concepts and can therefore be read and re-read several times throughout the year.

A is for Angry

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Are you looking to improve your students’ vocabulary?

It’s obvious that this book can be used in K and 1st grade classrooms for alphabet recognition, letter sounds, etc.  But what I like about this book is that it also leaves room for vocabulary development.  Alphabet books aren’t just for emergent readers and this book is a great example of that. Could a third grade teacher use this as a way to show examples of more sophisticated language that students can then use in their writing? Absolutely! This book is filled with rich vocabulary like:

T is for tangled

O is for Outraged

Z is for Zany

You could even use it as a springboard to have your students write their own alphabet books.  The possibilities are endless and it’s also fun to read…

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So start your shopping list and grab one (or two or three) of these today!

Happy reading and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Lisa

 

Word Wall (Sight Word) Center Activities

My students need extra practice with our word wall words,” is a common theme with many teachers that I know.  It’s also something that my own son needs extra practice with at home and was a frequent need in my own classroom.

Here are some engaging activities that you can integrate into your literacy centers, another portion of your word study block or even at home (for parents).

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Note: for additional information on word walls, read this post: https://literacywithlisa.com/category/word-walls/

  1. Rainbow writing: students write the words, a different color for each letter.
  2. Word wall hunt: students search for word wall words in their independent reading books, big books, class charts, poems, etc. They can record the words in their notebooks or on a designated recording sheet.
  3. Partner read/spell: Students work in pairs.  One partner reads a word from the word wall while the other person spells the word (without looking).  First person checks and then they switch roles. IMG_1128
  4. The Wheel: Just like the Wheel of Fortune, one person will play “Vanna.” This student will choose a word from the word wall (without telling anyone else) and then write a blank for each letter in the word on a sheet of paper.  Students in the group take turns guessing letters until the word is spelled.
  5. Bingo: print a reproducible sheet here:  http://www.bingocardprinter.com/pdf/blank.pdf  One student will read the words while the other students play.
  6. Word Wall Memory: Materials needed – word wall cards written on index cards, two for each word. Students turn all the words over.  They then take turns turning two cards over at a time, reading each word aloud.  If the two cards match, he/she takes the card.  If not, play continues with the next person. Player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.     IMG_1127
  7. Syllables: Have the students write two columns on their paper like this:           Word                 Number of Syllables  The they choose words and record the number of syllables for each.
  8. Word wall sort: Materials: set of cards with word wall and non-word wall words written on index cards. Students sort the words into two categories.

What other games/activities do you use in your own classroom to reinforce sight words? Please share them here!

 

Give the Gift of Poetry

It’s the end of December and you’re still plugging away, counting down the days until winter break and some must needed R & R. Are you looking for some engaging – yet literacy based, authentic and meaningful – activities to round out the end of 2015?  Turn to poems and look no further!

 

Poetic Presents: Creative, Festive and Fun

There are many ways to integrate poetry into your classroom.  (See https://literacywithlisa.com/category/poetry/ for more ideas).

But one of my favorites is to have students give poems as gifts to someone special for the holidays.  There are two ways to do this: the student writes an original poem or the student chooses a favorite poem to share as a gift.

Option One: Student writes an original poem

If you’ve written any other poetry this year, allow your students time to reflect on their work and choose a poem that speaks to them.  Or, they can create a new poem just for this occasion.

List poems are a great place to start because they are just like they sound – a list!  Have a class discussion of different topics/words that relate to the season and create a chart.  Then let the students choose one that interests them.

They can create bookmarks:

 

Or just copy the poem onto paper, glue onto construction paper and illustrate.

Another idea is to make cards and place the poem inside.

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Option Two: Student shares a favorite poem from another author

How special is it to receive a piece of writing that someone chose just for you?  Give your students time to read poems and find one that reminds them of someone special. (Or just a poem that they really love!).  Then, like the example above, they can copy the poem over, illustrate it and give as a gift (on construction paper or inside a card).

Option Three: What other ideas do YOU have?

Be creative and share them below in the comments section.

And for more ways to get started with poetry in your own classroom, read this:  5 Easy Ways to Get Your Class Excited About Poetry. Then choose one idea and get started today.

You’ll be glad that you did.

Happy holidays,

Lisa

P.S. Parents – read the connection below! Continue reading

Write Your Heart Out (at home or at school)

Looking for a way to get your child to do more meaningful, authentic writing at home or school?  Maybe you encourage them to write only to be met with cries of, “I hate writing,” or “I don’t know what to write about?”

Try having them create a heart map.  It’s fun, easy and something that will be sure to foster ongoing inspiration in them (and you). And if you’re a “artsy/crafty” mom (or dad!) or teacher, even better!

What is a heart map?

I first discovered the heart map in the book, Awakening the Heart in 2003.  It changed my teaching and also my view of poetry and writing in general.  I highly recommend the book, especially if you are a classroom teacher.  A few years ago I even heard the author, Georgia Heard, speak and it was truly one of the most memorable workshops in my teaching career.

A heart map is a visual representation of “all the important things that are in your heart, all the things that really matter to you.  You can put: people and places, that you care about; moments and memories that have stayed with you; things that you love to do, anything that has stayed in your heart because you care a lot about it.” (Heard, 1999, page 108).

How do I get started?

Whether you’re doing this at home or at school…

1. Start by creating your own heart map as a model.

Materials needed: construction paper or chart paper for the model, sturdy paper for the child’s heart (consider tracing a heart on a file folder because they are sturdy), colored pencils, crayons, markers, cut-out photographs, tape and other art supplies

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(Map of a 2nd grade teacher’s heart)

2. Share your map with your students.  Discuss why you put each person, memory, etc., in your heart.  Illustrate the importance of choosing items for the heart that are truly meaningful (i.e. really part of your true heart!).  This “thinking aloud” will help the students understand the planning process that you go through as a writer.

3. Have the students plan the components of their hearts.  They can sketch our their heart on a separate piece of paper and/or make a list of what to include.

4. Let them get started! Play some quiet music in the background for inspiration, if that moves you.  Nutcracker (my daughter’s favorite), classical, jazz.  This will help them to relax and let go in the moment.

5. When finished, display the hearts and/or glue to the inside of their writing notebooks or file folders.  The students now have an ongoing list of writing ideas to carry them forward for the school year and beyond.

6. And last but not least, encourage them to choose something from their hearts and start writing!

Center Link: If you use literacy centers in your classroom, consider creating a “Write your Heart Out” center or add this as an option to Independent Writing.

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Let’s all remember the importance of what’s inside of our hearts and help our students to do the same.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Family Bingo Night

Looking for a fun Friday night activity? Pop some popcorn, pull up a chair and play Word Wall Bingo!

Playing games at home is one way to support our children with sight word recognition, a critical piece in reading fluency and overall literacy growth.  When students can read sight words, this frees up their efforts and energy to focus on harder, decodable words.  Moreover, these sight words account for approximately 50% of what we read! It’s no wonder that fluent readers can read these words in a snap.

Why play games? First of all, they’re fun! They can also provide a springboard and the motivation for continued learning and effort.  Make it a family routine and involve older and younger children as well.  Your child can also help choose the words for the Bingo board, when you use one of the reproduceable sheets below.

http://www.bingocardprinter.com/pdf/blank.pdf

Bingo board
Bingo board

How do you know which words to choose?  There are a few ways.  The fastest and easiest is to print a copy of the Dolch or Fry word lists.  Look at the list for your child’s grade and do a quick assessment by having your child read them to you.  Use that to decide which words to include.  (I would suggest including some words that he/she knows well – to build confidence – and some that need to be mastered).

http://www.dolchword.net/printables/All220DolchWordsByGradeAlpha.pdf

Other ways to choose high frequency words include listening to him/her read and taking note of the words that he/she misses.  And last but not least, consider checking with your child’s teacher for words to focus on.  My son’s teacher sends home sight words to practice each week, which is a big help.

For more information on sight words in general, read this post:

You have your words…the next step is to add them to your board and make copies.  

Note: Make sure to write them in different order on each game board.  I’m embarrassed to say that I recently learned this the hard way in a second grade classroom.  I came prepared to model a Bingo lesson and realized that I had created 28 identical game boards.  Everyone won!!

Finally, grab some bingo chips (or a bag of coins, your child’s rock collection, etc., etc.), pop some popcorn and settle in around the dining room table.  Winner gets to keep the coins or possibly pick the ice cream flavor, if dessert is in your plans.  Your child learns new words and the family bonds around fun, games and dessert.

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Can you think of a better Friday evening?

The Book is the Hook

Have your students ever said, “I don’t like to read.” Or, “I can’t find any books that I like?”

Sound familiar?

When this happens, it’s easy to throw our hands in the air in frustration and give up.  Why can’t these kids stay focused? Why can’t they can’t read independently? Why can’t they be quiet?

In her book No More independent Reading without Support, Debbie Miller states that “the best way to build stamina is through engagement.” (2014, pg. 58) She then cites a study that when students have access to a wide variety of interesting texts (that they are able to choose on their own), reading gains are roughly four times as large as the small effect of systematic phonics instruction alone. (Guthrie and Humenick, 2004).

How do we help students find books that interest them?  When we add this to all the other responsibilities and strategies of our already busy teaching lives, this can seem like a daunting task.

It doesn’t need to be.  Here are a few quick ways to help your students get “hooked” on their own books. So you can spend more time actually teaching and less time monitoring off task behavior.

  1. Model how you choose books. Are you sharing the process that you go through as a reader? Try this with different baskets and genres in the classroom.  And if you are an avid reader at home, discuss the types of books that you read and how you find ones that you enjoy.
  2. Teach students about the different genres in your library. Showcase different genres in your daily/weekly read alouds and keep a living chart that lists all the books that you read as a class, along with the genre for each.
  3. Have class discussions about favorite genres/authors. Make a chart and display.

Our Favorite Books/Genres/Authors:

Judy Blume

Horrible Harry (series)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Flat Stanley

Jack Prelutsky

  1. Encourage students to keep track of their own favorite genres and books. Create a chart of click here for a sample recording log. Reading Interests
  2. Allow students time to choose books thoughtfully.
  3. Create a book rack or basket where students can display individual book recommendations. Customize the format of their recommendation, depending on their age and developmental level. For example, in third grade, they might write a summary of some of the highlights of the story on a notecard, without giving away too many details (or the ending). They can attach the card to the book. In primary grades, they might write one or two sentences about why they liked the story and/or draw a picture of their favorite part.
  1. Create a bulletin board with each student’s picture, along with the name of their favorite book. Allow this display to rotate throughout the year.
  2. Read books to your students that you love. Display them proudly and encourage the students to read them as well.

Read Aloud Spotlight: Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind is the story of a boy who absolutely hates reading and his teacher who is determined to help him find books that he loves…Take a moment to read it to your class as a way to develop a community of readers.  It is also good for a few laughs too, especially when the principal dyes his hair purple!

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Parent Link: You can do this at home too!  Model how to choose books that interest you with your own book collection or on your weekly visits to the library.  Have conversations about favorite books and encourage your child to make a list.  And most importantly, read with your child every day!  We can never underestimate the power of reading aloud.

Ready to begin?  Just choose one of the tips above and get started today. Then share your progress and/or any other comments/ideas that you have!

Happy Reading,

Lisa