Wednesday, March 2, 2016

SOL Day 2: Strong Readers

This post is the second in the 9th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for their hospitality and support!  Join Us!

9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge Invite

I'm in a new position this year.  I'm sure I've said that in every blog post I've written since August.  There will be a lot of reflection this month into what I'm doing in this new classroom.  Some of it is falling into places.  Other days, I absolutely feel like a first year teacher all over again.  

One of the areas that I'm watching take off is independent reading and book selection. It's one of the parts of my day I feel really confident about.   It is one of the most joyous times of day, when we are immersed in reading.  My students see themselves as readers, and they know that this is the most important work they do all day.  They love a great read aloud.  They love Elephant and Piggie.  They love Fly Guy.  They want to read all the books on puppies.  They want to read every book you read to them on their own.  They are readers.  

As I was setting up a new classroom library, I reflected on the roots of my beliefs on teaching reading.  So I went here first:

Lucy reflects on book levels and how they work in classrooms.  (pages 121-124 if you are interested.)  This section of the book was a blessing in how I approach leveled readers with my first graders.  "Find books that make you feel like a strong reader."  This has been our mantra in the classroom all year.  And it's working.  There are observations, informal and formal data to show this.  Even the most reluctant of readers are beginning to seek out "strong reader" books.  The kids will follow me around the room and ask, "Mrs. Limback!  Do you have any strong reader books for me?"  We don't ever talk about reading levels.  We don't need to.  

I was fortunate enough to capture a few images of what this looks like in my classroom as we sort, trade, discuss, and hold onto lots of books!  
This shot of Elephant and Piggie shows that we are looking at a wide variety of books.  You can see the other book boxes, yes?  This is a social activity.  Kids are recommending books to each other.  They are trading books from their boxes.  There is a lot of conversation as the day begins.  

I have about 41 smaller baskets of books. They are organized mainly by theme or commonality.   For the most part, I use the clear shoe box size baskets for the reading shelves.  As you can see, we encourage moving the baskets so you can find the book you want!  

So this friend might have "too many" books.  I encourage about 10 books a day.  My reading corner doesn't have traditional chapter books in it.  The reason?  Most of my kids this year aren't ready or interested.  And that's okay.  My friends who are looking for a challenge have adopted things such as:  Read All the Caldecott winners, reading about Manatees, and lots of choice.   All readers have choice in my room.  

The instruction piece?  We know that readers in first grade need to be supported at all levels, and we don't sit back when the kids are independently reading.
Here is some reading on that if you are interested:

My morning time is spent flowing between interventions, guided reading, and conferring.  I feel good about this part of the day, because student choice is honored here.  As I type this, I am already planning another slice about how I held off on teaching the meta-cognitive pieces to selecting books until much later this year.  (Mini lessons such as "Choose Just Right Books", "Don't Choose Books that Are Too Hard", etc.)  I'm so glad I did.  

What is your favorite part about your reading block?  What are your favorite picture books these days?



  1. Choice is so important! I absolutely agree. I teach 4th graders and reading is the time I value the most. I provide choice for my kiddos because I want them to LOVE to read by the time they leave me. What better way than to let them choose what they want to read? I find they grow in their skills and knowledge far more and to greater depth when they have choice and a say in what and how they are learning. Thank you for sharing your slice!

  2. Joyous reading! I thoroughly enjoyed popping into your room for independent reading time. It's wonderful to watch readers become a community and share their favorites with one another. You are giving your students such a gift. Thank you for sharing this moment.

  3. I loved the tour of your classroom and the peek into your reading instruction and philosophy.

  4. I loved the tour of your classroom and the peek into your reading instruction and philosophy.

  5. Oh, Kendra, your new position sounds like it's fitting you very well. I would always return to Calkins, too. Her books are still fitting. Love this: "student choice is honored here". That's what we do, isn't it? Choose what pleases us to read for our pleasure. Thanks for sharing what's going on with you lately.