Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I was working with a group of readers when I turned to my right and saw something that just brought a smile to my face. A room full of readers. I went quietly to get my camera. They were so engrossed they didn't even notice.

When I returned to school in January I did it with a new mindset. I wanted children to spend less time doing "centers" and more time reading. In the past I had trouble with independent and partner reading in my classroom. I struggled to keep children actively engaged. This year I have made some changes that have made a huge difference. First, I got rid of almost 200 books from my classroom library, and donated them to other teachers and a local charity. (Don't gasp.) I weeded according to the following criteria: 1. If it looked old, I got rid of it. 2. If I hadn't seen a child read the book in the last year, I got rid of it. 3. If I had never been inclined to use the book as a read aloud, I got rid of it. I purchased new numbered tubs and labeled classroom books so that children could place them in the correct bin when they were finished reading. Second, I stocked my classroom with first grade friendly books. (Not leveled readers, but with books by authors such as Mo Willems and Jan Thomas.) Like all teachers, I do have a budget so I have used my local library as a huge resource. Right now books that kids love like Punk Farm, Punk Farm on Tour and many others are on loan from the library. I have almost 90 books checked out from 4 different libraries. Finally, I do four read alouds a day. I make sure that at least two of those are new books that I will be adding to the classroom library. Kids are always more inclined to go for books I have read to them.

It was such a simple fix that has had such a huge impact. I'm so proud of how far many of these children have come as readers. Instead of a worksheet or game at the word study center, children are looking for a particular word chunk while they are reading so that they can add it to our class chart. Now the only talking going on in the classroom library is being done by a few children negotiating over who gets a certain book for their reading tub. It's an amazing thing to see and be a part of.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Days Like This

Dear Mr Blueberry by Simon James has always been one of my favorite books to read to kids during our unit on letter writing. When I attended Katie DiCesare's session on Routines That Support Word Study in the Primary Classroom at the Dublin Literacy Conference, she showed everyone the book Days Like This a collection of poems illustrated by Simon James. I got the book from the library last week and I fell in love with it. I think that this book is now at the top of my list of books of poetry for young children. I think that every poem in this book could be used as a poem of the week for word study. My personal favorites are The Seed and an original poem by Simon James called Bounce.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What's with the name of the blog?

I have to answer this. I really wanted to start a blog, but the difficult part was that I couldn't think of a name for it. Believe it or not "The Blog with No Name" was already taken. Anyway, it was late at night and I had something to write about but I couldn't start the blog because it had no name. So I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?" It came to me. Because Thinking Matters. Reading blogs and blogging makes me self reflect and think about my own teaching and well..........thinking matters.

I made a Voice Thread!!

I made a Voice Thread! Check it out by going to the following link. This is my first one. It's a book done by a child in my class. Feel free to leave Leah a comment. If you don't know how, there is a short tutorial on the Voice Thread website.

The pictures are sideways because I think I should have rotated them when I scanned them. (This is a learning process after all.) My microphone has some glitches, but overall I'm really proud of myself. I'm still learning about all of the little parts to Voice Thread, but my brain is going so fast just thinking of the possibilities.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Of Primary Importance

I finished Ann Marie Corgill's book Of Primary Importance over Christmas break. I was so inspired by the work that Ann Marie Corgill did in her classroom that I couldn't wait to get back to mine. Her book has an entire chapter on teaching nonfiction writing and I was anxious to launch a nonfiction unit with my class.

After 7 weeks, we have finally wrapped up the unit. Children used many features that we had learned about including text boxes, captions, diagrams, close ups, labels and comparisons in their published posters. I was so amazed by what they were able to accomplish.

Ann Marie's book does not give a step by step outline for how to launch a particular unit, so I was definitely learning as I went. There were many points during the seven week unit that I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" However, in the end I was so amazed by what the children were able to do. I was also amazed at how much I grew as a writing teacher. I almost didn't try this unit because I was afraid that I didn't really understand how it would work. It proves that as teachers sometimes we just need to begin with the end in mind and eventually we will get there......sometimes with amazing results.

Keeping track of class reading

I got this idea from the Choice Literacy website. It was in a video done by The Sisters. They were showing parts of their classroom and they showed a space on their wall where they kept track of the books that they had read aloud to students. When they finished reading a book, they simply wrote the title down.

I have found this simple little thing to be very powerful for my students. They never forget to remind me to write down the name of a book we have read. We label books as being poetry, non fiction or fiction. This helps us to see where we need to expand as readers. I also think that having this list in a place of prominence in our classroom helps them to feel proud of the amount of reading that we have done.

I made the log out of the paper used to cover bulletin boards. When the list got too long for the board, I simply rolled the top of the paper around a pencil to create a scroll.