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Chills and Thrills

26 Jul

Looking for that “just right” book to entice a middle or high school age reader? I have just the book for you… The Hill by Karen Bass, (Pajama Press) will reach out and grab the most reluctant reader.  With a fast-paced narrative, delivered through short, punchy chapters, readers will stay engaged in this thriller. Karen Bass does an excellent job capturing the voice, thoughts and fears of a teen-aged boy. Beginning with a plane crash into a wooded wilderness (reminiscent of The Hatchet), readers will dive through page after page to see what else is coming. Once our hero regains consciousness, similarities to The Hatchet quickly end. Karen Bass crafts an atmosphere that is at once both familiar and foreign. Can places be cursed? Can certain locations hold a door into an alternate, evil dimension? How does a scared, selfish, pampered city boy find the courage and skills to fight consummate evil? Pick up The Hill and find out!! Available August 15, 2016.

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SHAME

7 Mar

There are so many times over the years that I have talked to students (and teachers) about positioning themselves as learners. Oh, how often I have  given sage advice about how important it is to allow oneself to be a learner and to accept the fact that no one starts out as an expert at anything. One of my favorite quotes (that I picked up from a recent post on the Choice Literacy website) coincided with these thoughts. We often suffer SHAME- that is SHAME as an acronym for Should Have Already Mastered Everything. I’m not exempt from SHAME. I began the Slice of Life Challenge with a great sense of anticipation that quickly withered as I struggled to get the technology side in place. I let three writing days slide by as I thought about how I must be particularly obtuse since everyone else seemed to be gliding along just fine.  So, on Monday, I stiffened my spine, gave myself a good talking to about how I couldn’t possibly expect kids to take risks if I wasn’t willing to do the same and I dove back in. I was so filled with good feelings and my capacity to stick with it that I just had to show my husband my blog. Waiting for the warm words of praise that were sure to come, I proudly brought up my blog. As he began reading, my anticipation quickly turned to horror as I realized that the title of my blog was not BethFullerReadingCoach (like I thought I had written), but rather BethFullerReadingCoah. Eeeeeek!!!!! What kind of idiot was I to misspell my own title (one that I use at least once EVERY day?!?). The  warm feeling quickly turned to hot embarrassment and self-loathing. I was tempted to just chuck the whole thing (pretty wimpy, I know). But my husband patiently sat next to me and helped me go through the whole process to change the name (and oh yes, even the URL was wrong) and the URL. He kept saying, “This isn’t that big of a deal. Why do you keep saying so much about it? Just fix it and move on.”  Fix it and move on. Pretty good advice huh? Apparently this is advice I need to take more than I need to give!! So my challenge today to myself (and to any intrepid reader!) is to banish SHAME, fix any mistakes and move on.

Journaling the Reading Journey

6 Mar

As a teacher, I believe that we are always a model for our students (for better or for worse!). If we want our students to be literate, life-long learners, then we have to demonstrate that we are life-long learners who treasure literacy. It never stops surprising me how much I learn when I take a step back and think deeply about my own reading habits and what exactly I am modeling.

As a step toward demonstrating my “literacy life”,I  began to keep a reading journal during the Spring of 2008. My district was making curriculum changes and one major change in our district-wide curriculum was the integration of a “First 20 Days” approach to the beginning of the year . During these first 20 days, we would follow a systematic, explicit approach to establishing a foundation for reading (based on the work of Fountas and Pinnel). We would teach our students all of the routines and expectations for the reading block such as what independent reading looks like, how to choose a “just-right” book, what to do during the reading block, how to turn and talk to a partner and similar lessons. During the 2nd week of instruction we would also introduce our students to a reading journal. This journal was to have several purposes… it would be a place to record all of the books they read (offering the student a place to demonstrate a variety of genres and interests), a place to record books they wanted to read (which could be used anytime they heard or saw a book they might want to read), and a place to respond to what they read (with book reviews, interesting words, questions, reflections, etc.). I wanted the teachers that I work with (as a reading coach) to be ready to model  how a reading journal could be used as a real-life instructional tool, so I adopted the process myself. I bought a journal and put tabs in it: Books Read, Books to Read, Response to Reading. I also passed out similarly tabbed journals to the rest of our staff, thinking that if we began to use the journals in May, then by August (when school began) we would be ready to model how we used them.

Here’s the great part…although I started the reading journal as an instructional model, I have continued to do it because of what it brings to my reading life. Keeping a list of all  the books that I read, gives me the chance to take an objective view of my reading habits. I talk to students (and teachers!) about stretching as a reader and choosing from a variety of genres. Do my own reading habits reflect this? Keeping a journal helps  me be reflective and insightful (not to mention honest) about my own habits. A quick look through my reading list suggests that more narrative nonfiction would be in order as well as  more poetry. Another bonus of the reading list is the chance to set and measure reading goals for myself. We challenge our students to read “widely and wildly” (Harvey and Goudvis) but do I really do this? Since 2008 I have challenged myself to read at least 100 books per year. This number includes professional literature, children’s books, self-help books, and books for pure pleasure. So far, every year (since 2008) I have met and exceeded this goal. Lastly, my reading list gives me a ready reference of every title. When I want to share a title or author with another teacher or friend I don’t have to rely on my memory!

The “Books to Read” tab has been another favorite feature. When kids excitedly tell me about a title that I “have to read”. I can honor their enthusiasm and suggestions as readers by listing their books in my “Books to Read” section. When friends or co-workers tell me about a great new title, I have a central place to record those great ideas. Then, when I’m browsing the library or bookstore, I have a ready-made list of books that I want to read. When I’m going to the bookstore or library I always take my journal along!

Lastly, the “Respond to Reading” tab has surprised me. Although initially I recorded responses with mostly an eye toward modeling, eventually my responses became more authentic and I recorded passages and thoughts that truly had meaning for me. I recorded bits of poetry, lyrical prose, and curious phrases. I recorded passages that made me think,laugh, or cry. I often refer back to these musings when I need a bit of inspiration or encouragement.

Ultimately, I know that keeping a journal has made me a more literate person. I’m more thoughtful about my own literacy. I’m proud of the list of books I’ve read (400 recorded and counted so far!) and recognize the growth I’ve experienced as a result of those books. I love finding a title on my “To read” list and marking it off and dating it once I’ve read it. I love savoring the words of great writers that are recorded in the “Response to Reading” section and rolling the deep thoughts around in my mind. I know that keeping a journal has stretched me as a reader and teacher and made my literacy life deeper and richer.

How about you? Looking for a way to deepen your own teaching and learning? I challenge you to consider keeping a reading journal. It’s a challenge you won’t regret!

That Little Voice

2 Mar

Back in the ancient days when I thought I might someday become a writer of great renown  I seemed to hear a continual voice feed from the “writer in my head”. Don’t start worrying, it wasn’t that kind of voice. I didn’t hear commands from “on high” or answer back (usually)- but at any rate, there it was. As I would go about my daily business, I would think in terms of how it would sound if I was writing it. Or, I would hear a snippet of something and the voice would start spinning out a story and I would think to myself, “Hey, I should write this down.” However, I never actually did this. OK, a few times I would write it down, but I was never quite satisfied with how it sounded, so I eventually stopped writing it down at all, and the only writing I did was purely functional or informational (booorrrring). I think, after longing to talk and being ignored, my little voice has withered and died. I’m not sure if I can resusitate it (or if it is even worthy of being resusitated). Maybe this “blogging adventure” will help me either revive it or put it to rest forever. We’ll see….

Communication is a Miracle

2 Mar

ImageAs a teacher, I always try to remember how important it is to speak clearly in “kid-friendly” terms, but sometimes when I’m pressed for time, or feeling stressed, I slip. Last week, I was working with a class of first graders. Since it was not my classroom, I was scrambling to find things. When I couldn’t find the read-aloud anthology that I needed, I quickly turned to a student and speaking in what I thought was a distinctly clear voice and diction said, “Addison, go over to Ms. Duncan’s room and tell her that I need her read-aloud anthology”. I knew that those words might be tricky for a first grader, so I tried to speak even more slowly and distinctly than usual. In a few minutes Addison returned to the room trailed by the teacher-intern from Ms. Duncan’s room. With a puzzled look, she said, “What exactly do you need? Addison ran in the room and yelled that you needed a “loud apology”.

Here I am, world!

10 Oct

This is the brand-new, first ever, hot-off-the-press post for this shiny, brand-new blog. As soon as I get over the newness of blogging I’ll try to post something truly meaningful! So anyway- here is to happy reading (and writing!)

Hello world!

10 Oct

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.