Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Ohio Residents-Write your senators and representatives! Save our libraries! June 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:26 am

At a news conference Friday, Ohio’s Governor Ted Strickland proposed cuts to state funding, including more than 50% of Ohio’s Public Libraries. Read the article here and then e-mail your local representative and senator. It is easy to find their e-mail address using this site.  It took me less than 5 minutes to e-mail both my senator, my representative, and send a comment to the governor.


Paper Towns by John Green June 20, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:43 pm
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papertownsThis is my first John Green book, even though it is his third published book. Like Franki at A Year of Reading, I didn’t have much time to read YA as I did the elementary and intermediate fiction. I have always enjoyed YA, but since it is for older kids, I wanted to be reading things I could recommend to students. Since I changed jobs last summer, I now have middle/high school students I can talk YA books with so I am making an effort to read quite a bunch this summer. I have a few middle school teaching colleagues that have raved about John Green books, I’d read some “reviews that made me want to read the book”, and he’s a graduate of close-by Kenyon College. 

I loved the book (although there were a few parts that I didn’t feel read as smoothly as the majority of the book, which surprised me some. I also could have done without some of the teenage boy commentary, but reminded myself that they are the target audience, not me. The characters of Quentin, Ben, Lacey, Radar and Margo Roth Spiegelman are greatly developed. Although I wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to be friends with all of them, I could imagine them running around  my high school or a modern high school. For people in my age bracket, think 16 Candles or Breakfast Club kind of relationships and characters. I love that what I thought was going to be a strictly realistic fiction book has a great mystery flair throughout! I will be adding his other books to my pile for summer.  

John Green’s website with his brother can be found at I know I’m going to need more time to explore it than I’ve had!


The Art of Teaching Reading and Assessment June 18, 2009

I know I have mentioned  The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, but I feel it  is a book I feel all K-8 teachers would benefit from reading if they have not done so.

Last night at baseball (I’ve figured I can get one chapter of something in if I leave my finger in it and read as the teams switch for in and out field without missing anything) I finished rereading the chapter on Assessment (pp. 137-157) and it, like everything else in the book makes so much sense. Here are some of the highlights:

Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work.

“Have you ever tried to change the tire of your car while driving along a mountain road? That’s what it’s like trying to assess your readers in the midst of classroom teaching.” (pp. 137-138)

The chapter is not about ideal methods of assessment, but offers guidance to teachers who find it difficult to fit assessment into the very real-world of classroom teaching.

Calkins strongly urges schools to support two days of one-to-one appointments between all teachers and all children before the first day of school. Wow! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

Schools need to develop a gradient of assessment expectations for teachers–first year teachers might need help determining which assessments are critical.

Calkins advises starting with a lean system of assessment and then moving the world to be sure that this assessment affects teaching and learning (the spot where many assessments or assessment programs fall down!)

According to Calkins, “What is the bottom rung of reading assessment?”

Every teachers must accomplish the following goals:

  • An efficient means of quickly and roughly matching readers with books so that the class is engaged in productive work from the first week of schoo and we can begin to assess individuals more closely.
  • We need to underand and support children’s habits, values and self-perceptions as readers.  If every converstaion with every child is all about weighing and measuring the child’s place within our leveled libraries, we end up teaching lessons we did not intend to teach-that we are trying to line up children according to whether they are better or worse readers.          Children should immediately and always sense our interest in the wholeness of each of them as a reader. teaching them  to not simply get through text, but to compose richly literate lives.
  • We need to understand the strategies and sources of information individual readers use and don’t use and need to tailor instruction to each child’s strengths and needs.
  • We need to take early note of (and then understand, teach, and track the progress of) children who are failing to thrive.
  • We need to hold our teaching accountable as we work toward clear and public goals
  • We will achieve a classroom system of assessment that forces us to develop multi-level teaching plans
  • Even the above goals are ambitious.  

Here are her starter questions for getting to know your students as readers:

What should I know about you as a reader?

With whom do you share your reading?

When has reading really worked for you in your life? Tell me about that time. When as reading really NOT been a good thing for you in your life?
What are some neat things you do with reading at home?

Can you walk me through a day and tell me about the reading you generally do? 

Goals: (students help form them-not just having them set by us)

What kind of reader are you right now?

What kind of reader do you want to become?

What do you plan to do to become that kind of reader?

How did this plan help you grow as a reader? Be specific.

What is your next goal? What is your next plan?

What texts will finish your fiction standard?

“It is too easy to become lulled into believing that by suggesting, mentioning, or assigning readers to do something, we’ve accomplished the job of teaching. “

Calkins also recommends that each grade level identify certain observeable signs of reading progress and look for them across the grade, and that we systemically collect data according to these indicators and bring what we learn to meetings and study groups with our colleagues. (We would all learn so much!)

Our assessment system should provide us with a constant source of feedback on our progress toward our goals. Our teaching should be more powerful when we hold ourselves accoutnable for having a real effect on our students’ work. Instead of teaching in a whole-class fashion to a hypothetical average students, we need to take into account thte range of development within our classrooms, designing a curriculum that meets all our children where they are and takes each child further.

I LOVE Lucy Calkins and Teachers College-they just make so much sense out of a very difficult job-teaching reading and writing to a whole class of individuals.

art of teaching reading


Hunger in my garden! June 17, 2009

Filed under: authors,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:05 am
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Not to give anything away, but if you are a fan of Gone by Michael Collins and have recently read Hunger: A Gone Novel (came out end of May) you will understand my fright when I went to pick strawberries from my patch, turned a gorgeous red berry over, pivoted it to pick, and dropped the berry in horror when I saw the holes and disgusting creature that made the holes! Hunger had come to my garden and even though it’s been many months since I’ve read the book the zekes




enough that for a nano-second I thought they were in my berries. Yikes!


Cynthia Rylant

Filed under: authors — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:55 am
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I will start by admitting my bias for anything Cynthia Rylant.  I’m not sure when my love affair with her books first came into bloom, but I think it might have beengive me grace with The Relatives Came in 1986.  I think she is brilliant. I love everything from God went to Beauty School to Henry and Mudge, and everything in-between. I believe every family needs the sweet volume Give Me Grace: A Child’s Daybook of Prayers and every classroom needs In November.  

I LOVE Poppelton and his cast of merry animal friends. I love the short stories of Every Living Thing-the stories are so great to use with older students. I love Mr.Tulip Sees Putter, Annie & Snowball. I LOVE Silver Packages-such a poignant true story highlighted with Chris Soentpiet beautiful illustrations. I LOVE Tulip Sees America. Who doesn’t love When I Was Young in the Mountains?

Now I am not Katie Wood Ray, and can not recite her books from heart, but I sure wish I could!

Didn’t love the redo of Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel, but that was due to illustration style, not the language or story. I LOVE Van Gogh Cafe and have given Heavenly Village to several friends who work with teens.

the relatives cameI do have an autographed copy of The Relatives Came-I always started my reading and writing workshop school year with that book . I think I’m lucky enough to have that autograph because she presented at a Children’s Literature Workshop at Miami University (my old stomping ground) one of my first years teaching (Back when Children’s Literature Conferences were more common-boy I miss the one at OSU). I have a vague memory of driving back to Miami because she was going to be a presenter. She is much more elusive than many authors or illustrators-I wonder if anyone has been fortunate enough to have a school visit from her? She’s such a prolific writer, she probably doesn’t have time for school visits, but boy would that be great!


16th Annual July Institute on Teaching Reading at TCRWP June 16, 2009

Here’s the highlights of yesterday’s mail–

Section Assignment: 4B

8:00 Registration Lerner Hall (on Columbia University’s Main Campus)

9:00 Keynote

10:00-11:50 Grades 3-8 Large Group-Lucy Calkins

11:50 Lunch

12:50-2:50 Small Group-leader Tiffany Nealy

2:55 Closings

We’ll receive ‘The Trail Guide’ (There was one of these for the Reunion Weekend-VERY HELPFUL to get yourself around) at registration, need name tag for all .

We’ll also receive a copy of The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, which we can turn in with a voucher for a different professional book if we already have it. I think it is one of the best books out there, and was rereading parts this morning. I’ll probably see what the other choices are, but probably keep it to use as a door prize for one of the back to school teacher meetings. If you are a K-8 teacher and you have not read the book, get yourself a used copy off Amazon for $24.00 (instead of $47 at the college bookstore) and start reading this summer! You’ll be so glad you did. 

For July’s Institute, I am driving from Ohio with my friend (the one whose very kind parents put me up for the last Institute) and her three young children. It should be a 11 1/2 hour drive, but seeing how it is a holiday weekend, that is probably  a low guess. I’m counting on children’s “Are we there yet questions?” not bothering me as much when they aren’t my own children (crossing my fingers!) Then the next day we’ll see how good my memory is from spring when I got myself from her parents house to Columbia everyday by train, subway and cab. Once there, I will stay in campus housing, which should bring back some fun memories! Seeing how summer is just starting this week for me, it seems a long way away. In reality, it is 19 days away. My husband is in denial and keeps asking, “When are you going to be gone?” and is sure the house will sell, we’ll have to move, and the world will spin out of orbit during the week I am gone. I guess I should take that as a compliment.


Strategies for Checking Comprehension June 15, 2009

Filed under: reading workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:28 pm
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Growing Readers-Kathy Collins

Readers Think and Talk About Books to Grow Ideas

Strategies for Checking Comprehension

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 

The Importance of Understanding

p. 180 Strong Readers get the words and the story p. 181 When Readers Really Understand Their voices sound smooth p. 181 When readers understand they can picture the story in their minds p. 181 When 

Readers really understand, they can retell it easily

p. 182 When readers really understand they just know
Week 2 p. 182 

review chart

p. 183 

Monitoring Comprehension

Huh? Catching yourself when you’re confused

p. 184 

Readers catch themselves when they’re daydreaming

p. 184 

Readers stop and think after reading chunks of text

Week 3 p. 184 

Readers check their retelling

p. 184 Readers check their book talks Strategies for Confusion 

p. 185 Readers Go Back and reread to understand

p. 185 Readers read back and read to understand the tricky part p. 185 

Readers stop and make a picture in their minds to understand.

Week 4 p. 185 

Readers read tricky parts aloud

p. 185 

Readers talk to a partner about tricky parts

p. 185 readers talk to someone who has read the book before Readers make sketches to understand CELEBRATION!
small big pics 

Teacher child