Please help me welcome today's guest blogger, Megan Ginther. Megan teaches 5th grade language arts and social studies in Lebanon, Ohio. She has taught 5th or 6th grade for 12 years. She loves reading, cooking, walking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. When she’s not curled up reading with her four-year-old daughter, she’s found in various rooms of the house sneaking a few pages of the latest book in which her nose is buried. Megan contributes to Choice Literacy each month and blogs about her “Adventures in Learning” on her blog. She is also on Twitter.
Literacy Contracts--Engaging kids in reading and writing each month of the school year
When I first started teaching in 2002, a wonderful colleague introduced me to Reading Contracts. These contracts usually involved reading two books per month and completing some type of assessment after the reading was finished. The beauty of these contracts was that the books were chosen by the students and the contract was signed by the parents. Everyone was on the same page and there was the element of CHOICE in reading. The contracts were successful in not only getting students to read outside their comfort zone (often each month was devoted to a separate genre), but it got my sixth graders to read more than they had ever read in the past. Not only were they reading the two books on the contract, but they were reading more books on top of that. Reading begets more reading, afterall.
As the years have gone by, my reading contracts have evolved into literacy contracts. Because of the limited amount of time intermediate and middle school teachers have to teach Language Arts, I’ve adapted my contracts to provide the most bang for my buck. I’ve not only incorporated reading books (typically one book group book and one nonfiction book), but I’ve also incorporated writing about the reading the students are doing and technology. These contracts change each year, depending on the class I have. But one thing stays the same, the expectation for reading is high and my students beg for the next contract so they can once again be a part of a book group, sharing a common text with five or six other kids, and digging into the meat of reading and sharing in a reading community.
Over the course of this year so far, another colleague and I have been working on theme topics for our contracts. September was empathy, in which we focused on animal and human rights. We read aloud The One and Only Ivan and focused our nonfiction book on human rights. The book group book was realistic fiction that involved empathy. Students had to write a claim/evidence paragraph in which they made a claim about empathy and supported it with evidence from the text. In October, we centered our learning on the theme topic fear. What a perfect theme for October! We read another book group book, this time historical fiction, related to some type of fear. Upon completion of the novel, students wrote and acted out a skit of four major plot points of the book, in which they had to provide a summary and background about the time period. They loved it! The nonfiction book was self-selected about a fear the student had, followed by them making a claim about their particular fear and supporting it with evidence from the text. Finally, students found an infographic, video clip, or article that dealt with a fear. They presented to small groups. It was wonderful! This month our topic is family. We’re reading book group books that involve families, again realistic fiction, and students are reading memoirs. The culminating projects this month are creating a digital scrapbook of any “family” that is important to them and writing their own memoir.
We’ll keep working our way through topics this school year and incorporating close reading, writing about reading, and presenting. The possibilities are endless and so easily catered to the group you have! It’s not only fun, but also rewarding to watch as students delve into each contract and work their way through it all month long. And, it guides my teaching. I know I’m hitting all of the standards because I focus my contracts around the reading and writing requirements of the Common Core. My favorite phrase each year is, “When are we getting the next contract?”, followed by, “I didn’t know if I would like that book, but ended up loving it!” Contracts have not only helped my students read more, they’ve helped broaden their horizons in the reading world. You can’t ask for much more than that!
Check out Choice Literacy (in which my colleague Holly Mueller and I write a monthly article) and my blog, “Adventures in Learning” for more in-depth descriptions about literacy contracts. I think you’ll like what you see!
Thank you Megan for these great insights on how to make reading contracts work!
I am delighted to introduce my dear friend, Ann Whitford Paul, to you today. Ann and I go way back -- in fact, she knew me long before I was ever published. Her friendship has meant the world to me, and I am also very grateful for her critical eye when it comes to improving my manuscripts.
Brew yourself a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy Ann's post!
Friends and family call me, “Crazy for
mean it as a compliment.
I start decorating for the holiday
right after Thanksgiving.Nothing
gives me more pleasure than spreading the red and green patchwork quilt over my
sofa, placing needlepoint and ribbon pillows on the chairs, hanging cloth
gingerbread men from our sconces and Christmas pictures about the walls.I bring out placemats and table runners
and even the Christmas China I purchased years ago on sale after one
I love the preparations—the baking,
and yes, even the shopping and gift-making.Nothing pleases me more than to set aside my writing and
focus on family and friends and what might make them happy.It’s that rare time of the year when we
all think more about others than ourselves.
Of course, this takes work, and I
admit that I’ve been getting tired.Hence this new book
‘TWAS THE LATE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS
The book began several years ago as a Christmas letter.Instead of writing about our family’s
activities, I decided to try something different.What spilled out was my exhaustion about Christmas—exactly
like this mother on the cover.Someone had to help and the perfect person, the only one who would appreciate
the stress on women, would be another woman—Mrs. Saint Nick. (Read Mrs. Saint Nick's blog here.)
The response to the card was so
great, I wondered if it could be a book.I approached my dear friend and much published illustrator, Nancy
Hayashi.She loved the idea.I love how she envisioned Mrs. Saint
We’ve gone the self-publishing
route, because our book is not easily classified.It’s a picture book for kids and adults, too, especially
those who like me find the preparation work both wearying and wearing. It will
be available as an e-book and also the old-fashioned page-turning kind.
You can find it at your local store or
at www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.comCheck out the darling YouTube video Jane Kcazmarek (mother of
Malcolm in the Middle) made for the book.She also narrates the iTunes Version.
Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by
another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to
those who have rekindled this light.
On this day of Thanksgiving, I am extremely grateful for all of my guest bloggers for The Office of the Future of Reading. I can't tell you how many times my light has gone out in the past year -- dimmed by a bad review, a bad day of writing, bad news.
But then a blog post will show up in my mailbox and I read about another of the millions of ways this country's amazing and dedicated and professional teachers and librarians work to connect kids with books, to build lifelong readers, to build community around literature, and my light is rekindled.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the eighty plus educators who are sharing themselves this year on this blog. Be sure to treat yourself to that second piece of pie.
Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Michelle Glatt. Michelle has been the librarian at Chiddix Junior High School in Normal, Illinois for 17 years and is a member of the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Steering Committee. Her family of wild readers includes her husband, Dan, and children: Veronica (17) and Ian (11). Michelle has a blog, I Push Books: A Middle School Librarian’s Adventures in Reading, and is also on Twitter and Facebook.
Wild about School and Public Library Collaboration
For the past few weeks I have been happily devouring Donalyn Miller’s new book, Reading in the Wild. She refers to lifelong readers as “wild readers,” a term I love because it implies both a fierce dedication to reading and the freedom of reading on one’s own.
I am a school librarian because I am a wild reader, and my mission is to help create more of my own kind. Each day, my priorities are to provide an atmosphere that encourages wild reading, to promote books to wild readers of all species, and to support teachers growing wild readers in their classrooms.
By definition, a wild reader’s territory is not limited to the school building. Wild readers thrive when they connect to reading wherever they are. So my involvement in their reading must go beyond our walls. To that end, an excellent way to help cultivate wild readers is to connect them to their local public libraries and librarians.
For ten years, the teen librarians at the Bloomington and Normal libraries have visited my school once a month for Books and Bites. Students sign up to eat lunch in the library, get a treat, and listen to us booktalk. Books and Bites is so well-loved that students run to the clipboard when sign-up begins, and I must turn some of them away because there is just not enough room in the library.
Each Books and Bites has a theme. October is always scary stories. How can we resist starting booktalks like this: “Do you want to hear about the scariest, grossest, and most disgustingly gory book in the library?” (The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey). One of my favorite themes was “Lend Me Your Ears!” when we played songs to go with music-themed books and used The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” with Gordon Korman’s Born to Rock. The teen librarians always bring titles that are not available in my library, especially edgier ones for the eighth graders, in order to entice students to stop in to see them.
Each Books and Bites starts with “commercials” for upcoming programs at the public libraries. It’s the best way for students to find about Game Day, Teen Advisory Board, book-movie release parties, etc. Promoting the summer reading programs is a must in May, and many students participate. At the Normal Public Library’s hugely successful Doctor Who program this summer, a mad rush of current and former students greeted me at the door. Pretty wild, huh?
Time has shown that collaboration with the teen librarians is one of the best ways to help turn my students into wild readers. A couple of days ago the four girls in my reading intervention group lamented that Books and Bites was full. “We get to sign up early next time because we are in your class, right?” they cleverly asked.
One piped up, “Hey, or you should take us on a field trip to the Normal library—it’s not too far to walk. They have different books there--and more of them. I bet we could pick out some really good ones.”
“Yeah, let’s go,” the others chimed.
“That’s a great idea! I will see if we can do that,” I replied.
On the inside, I was shouting for joy--because now I know that they are on their way to becoming wild readers. And the wilder they become the better readers they will become.
Oh, yes, we are definitely going on safari to the public library. Let the wild rumpus start!
Thank you Michelle for helping to create wild readers!
Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Holly Mueller. Holly is a 5th/6th grade ELA gifted intervention specialist with a wonderful husband who understands her O.B.B.D. (Obsessive Book Buying Disorder), and two talented, amazing daughters. Holly loves to read, write, teach, travel, and hang out with friends and family. Holly's family have a hilarious Cocker Spaniel, Ben, who keeps her laughing and encourages her to take lots of walks. Holly is a Choice Literacy contributor and frequent blogger. You can find her on Twitter and her blog, Reading, Teaching, Learning.
PARENT/STUDENT BOOK CLUBS
I knew when I read two special books to my classes last year, I wanted the experience to be something the kids would never forget. I knew the books alone would take care of that, but I wanted to take it further. I invited parents along for the sense of community it would create. The first book was Wonderby R.J. Palacio. By now, every teacher has heard of this amazing book. I read it aloud as our first book of the year and to accompany our unit on empathy. At my fall orientation, I invited the parents to read along with us, and had gathered ten extra copies from our award-winning Cincinnati Public Library (they are wonderful about compiling multiple copies of books for classroom use). The copies were all quickly snatched up; parents then signed up on a waiting list. By the time I was done reading the book aloud, all the parents who wanted to join us had read it. Throughout the experience, parents sent me e-mails about how they reacted to the book. I loved thinking about my students and their families talking about Wonder around kitchen tables and counters, in the car running to practices, and in family rooms. Even siblings got in on the reading. I keep a classroom blog, and when I would post questions and student discussions on it, parents would join in on the conversations in the comments. To culminate the experience, we held a Parent/Student book club gathering on a weekday evening at my school. I prepared discussion questions, showed a couple of interview videos with R.J. Palacio, and then we talked and talked. It was amazing to hear the interaction and see the enthusiasm the book created.
It was such a great experience; I knew I wanted to do it again when we started the 2013 Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Again, I gathered multiple copies for parents, and they were all eager to join us in the reading, but how could we top the first experience? A student helped me with that! Olivia and I were talking, and she was telling me about a new baby gorilla at The Cincinnati Zoo. As we chatted about his circumstances and how cute he was, it suddenly dawned on me where the perfect place for our next Parent/Student Book Club meeting should be – the zoo!!
We planned the outing in the spring, and it turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day. We met at the entrance where amazing tulips in every color bloomed. Whole families came! I had scheduled stops at the Elephant Encounter to honor Stella and Ruby and the Gorilla Encounter to celebrate Ivan, of course. We learned all about those incredible animals from the excellent zoo staff and thought one gorilla looked an awful lot like Ivan!
When we ate lunch, I distributed discussion questions about the book to each table and floated around, listening to the wonderful conversations this book inspired.
It was quite a day, and one that I know I’ll never forget. I hope my students and their families feel the same way!
I got chills, too, Holly, thinking about your families all talking about the same book. What a fabulous idea! Thank you so much for sharing.