Best Book I Have Not Read

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

TCRWP Fall Reunion October 19, 2009

The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

presents the

Saturday Reunion

October 24, 2009

9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Join the entire Project Community as we open our doors to thousands of educators from New York City and around the world for more than 140 free workshops, keynotes and closings throughout the day on state-of-the art methods in the teaching of reading and writing for grades K-8. Special guest speakers and literacy leaders from all over the country will join us to discuss such topics as: Help Students Think, Talk and Write Well About Reading, Teach Higher Level Comprehension; Use Assessment to Inform Instruction, and dozens and dozens more….

Katherine Paterson
The day will open with a keynote by Katherine Paterson, the author of young adult novels that have uplifted generations of children.  Her stories of perseverance in the face of impossible odds and her treatment of weighty topics, such as death and jealousy, have earned her numerous awards, including the National Book Award for The Great Gilly Hopkins, and the Newbery Medal for Bridge to Terabithia, and Jacob Have I Loved.

Speakers Include:

Lucy Calkins, Founding Director of the TCRWP is the author of many professional books including The Art of Teaching Reading, A Principals Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing, and two series about units of study for primary and upper grade writing.  Her upcoming Units of Study on Teaching Reading for Grades 3-5 (Heinemann, 2009), co-authored with Kathleen Tolan, is due out from Heinemann soon.

Kathy Collins is the author of Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom. Kathy is a frequent guest lecturer at national conferences.  Her latest book is titled, Reading for Real: Teach Students to Read with Power, Intention and Joy in K-3 Classrooms.

Mary Ehrenworth is the author of Looking to Write: Children Writing Through the Visual Arts and The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language. Mary is the Deputy Director for Middle Schools at the TCRWP.

Amanda Hartman is Lead Coach at the Project and has co-authored three works with Lucy Calkins: Authors as Mentors, The Conferring Handbook and One-to-One: The Art of Conferring with Young Writers, as well as a CD-ROM: Conferring with Young Writers.

Laurie Pessah is Senior Deputy Director at the Project and leads study groups for principals, assistant principals, staff developers, and teachers, and she is co-author with Lucy Calkins of Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports and A Principal’s Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing.

Kathleen Tolan is Senior Deputy Director of Reading at the Project.  Kathleen co-wrote a FirstHand series on literacy coaching and co-authored with Lucy Calkins the upcoming Units of Study on Teaching Reading for Grades 3-5 (Heinemann, 2009).

Having found the “storytelling” behind history, our Closing speaker, Joy Hakim, author of the ten-volume series A History of US, will speak about shedding a new light on the teaching of history.  She put “the story” at the center of nonfiction again with her subsequent book, The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension.  Her passion and style have brought her wide acclaim and recognition, and her awards include: The 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award for Education/Teaching/Academic, and the 2007 USA Book News’s Best Book in General Science Category.

The Morning Keynote will be held at Riverside Church9:00 a.m.

490 Riverside Drive (between 120th and 122nd Streets)

The remainder of workshops will be held at Teachers College, 525 W.120th Street, NY NY 10027

No registration required.

For more information, visit our Web site at:


Reading toolbox January 17, 2009




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Metacognition Venn Diagram January 16, 2009

Filed under: comprehension,comprehension strategies,Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:37 am
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Maggie’s teacher’s wall chart-based on Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregorimg_0960


Stephanie Harvey and Smokey Daniels new collaboration November 25, 2008

Filed under: authors,books,comprehension toolkit,literature groups — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:24 pm
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smokey-ncteStephanie Harvey and Harvey (Smokey) Daniels have a book coming out that just sounds fantastic! I SQUEEZED (only my ear was in the session, the rest of me was in the hall! There were people all over every inch of the room and hallway hoping to hear about the latest and greatest additions to literature circles) into the session they lead at NCTE and was very impressed by what I heard.


Comprehension and Collaboration:Inquiry Circles in Action is the title and it is coming out 4/1/2009.


Textmapping Project October 19, 2008

Filed under: comprehension,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:19 pm
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I came across the following website mentioned in the e-mail newsletter I belong to for Mosaic of Thought. It asks us to “Please share this site with your colleagues!” The Textmapping Project. Below is an example from the website I thought was pretty interesting. 

Mapping a Scroll 

Bullet point. Red arrow pointing the the right. Mapping is a specific form of marking that focuses on describing text features in spatial terms. 

Bullet point. Red arrow pointing the the right. The value of mapping is that it enables comprehension to be modeled in great detail. It makes the structure of information clear. It is the illustration of comprehension. It provides an effective way of showing students what good readers do to build good comprehension.

Bullet point. Red arrow pointing the the right. The first step in mapping a scroll is to decide what it is that you wish to accomplish. What is your instructional goal? Is there important information that you want your students to understand? Are there strategies or techniques that you wish to model for the class? Is your goal to…

  • introduce and preview new content?
  • model reading and study strategies?
  • review content previously covered?
  • test your students’ knowledge of what they read?
  • or something else?

Bullet point. Red arrow pointing the the right. Once you have completed the first step and you know what you need to accomplish, the remaining steps are very simple. In general, you will follow a three-step process:

1. Identify features that are relevant to your purpose. Think about their significance to your purpose.

Drawing of an scroll with arrows drawn pointing to each of the headings.

You  and your students  will have a much easier time recognizing and identifying features on a scroll. You will be surprised by the difference; features seem to pop out at you, and the purpose and significance of different features will become instantly obvious.

2. Mark them.

Drawing of a scroll with each heading highlighted and circled.

It is important that you actually mark the features. Simply noticing a feature is not sufficient. Students  and teachers  who are just beginning to learn about Textmapping commonly are lazy about marking; and it shows. Once you have practiced Textmapping for a while, you will understand just how direct is the connection between marking and active reading. You will find that the more you mark, the more actively-engaged you will become with the text.

3. Mark their areal extent. Stand back and look at what you have done. In the example below, notice that the sections are now more clearly distinguished. You can instantly see which sections are longer. This, in turn, provides useful information about how the illustrations relate to the flow of ideas in the text.

Drawing of a scroll with a box drawn around each section. Illustrates how drawing a box around each section makes it easier to see at a glance how the sections compare in terms of size and typographic context.

This marking step is critical. Many students have commented that as soon as they draw a box around an illustration, or a section, or the answer to a question, that chunk  in their words  “stops moving,” and “is a lot easier to find.” In essence, what they are saying is that drawing a box around chunks of information accomplishes two things. First, it says, “Everything in here goes together.” Second, it defines in spatial terms how the boxed-in chunk relates to the other chunks around it, as well as to the text as a whole. Many students find this very helpful. It defines a text in simple, graphic terms  in a way that is explicit and concrete. In effect, it says, “These are the pieces, and here’s how they fit together.”

Try applying the active reading and metacognitive strategies that you already know and teach. Use these strategies to guide and inform your marking activities.
For example, try using SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review). Notice how different SQ3R feels when practiced on a scroll! Notice how being able to see the entire text changes the process for you  how it makes thingsexplicit and concrete. Notice how standing and moving around changes the way that you interact with the text  how it contrasts with sitting still to read a book.


Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest September 17, 2008

Filed under: books,comprehension,kidlithosphere,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:08 am
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Not having power or school is excellent for reading. Sitting where there is enough light to read is a challenge, but a fun one. I’m trying to remember which blog led me to add this book to my must read stack-wow were those bloggers right! The biggest challenge as a read-aloud would be if you are okay saying ‘hell’ aloud-not as a curse , but as a translated Norweigan word for prosperity (now I don’t speak Norweigan so I will take the author’s word for it). “Welcome to Hell” (prosperity) is used in chapter three and not just once so be prepared.

I love how the book starts with a list/description of all the characters you’ll meet. If you’ve read Franki Sibberson’s read-aloud work in her Day to Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop or Still Learning to Read, this novel would be great for those type of read-aloud comprehension strategy work.

There is a touch of Roald Dahl to the story that I appreciate, as well as a few parts that reminded me of Maniac McGee. The main character and his sister are orphaned in the first chapter and sent to live with their only living relative (hmm-Series of Unfortuante Events?), an aunt that they don’t remember meeting before. Having parents, home, and home country being taken away all at once has caused Samuel’s sister to stop speaking and Saumel to be very resentful about almost everything. Not only does everyone speak a language Samuel does not understand, the aunt’s house is very remote and the children are forbidden to enter the nearby forest. An unusual black cat is the first sign that the forest is very strange, but that’s not enough to keep the children from wanting to enter. Samuel had fortunately discovered a hidden book in the attic (hmm-Spiderwick Chronicles?) that he takes into the forest as he tries to find his sister. The book doesn’t necessarily keep him safe, but it does help maneuver through meetings with different trolls and fantastical characters. 

Eventually Samuel’s love for his sister does allow them to both escape safely, but it was close too many times to count. 

Even with the similarities that I pointed out, I still think this would be a great intermediate-aged read aloud. I think that so many students are familiar with the previously mentioned books that it would be for them (or for the class) to compare and contrast Samuel Blink with some of their other favorite fantasies.

The next book Samuel Blink and the Runaway Troll was just released September 4th. I need to find a copy of it and add it to my must-read stack!

BTW-my husband will often read children books that I recommend and he loved this one. I think I should get him one Matt Haig’s novels for his birthday!


Comprehension Strategies launching lesson August 28, 2008

Today I taught my first model lesson for three other teachers in fourth grade. I thought it went pretty well. I was nervous the day before when meeting with the teachers to talk about the lesson, but once I was in the classroom with the students, it felt very natural. I did have several things going in my favor: It is a lesson that I had done successfully in my classroom last year; I know many of the students since my daughter is the same age; it was in the classroom of the woman who used to be my co-teacher until this year. I don’t think I could have gotten a more comfortable setting for a first time!

The lesson is one I had read about in book entitled Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor. The lesson is called Reading Salad. I really like the set-up she describes of telling students that you bet they are really good at pretending. You then go onto to explain that they are going to pretend to the be teachers and you are going to pretend to be a student. Remind them teachers are very serious about reading, so they should be very serious because they are going to be grading me as a reader (while pretending to be a student). I selected the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen for my role as “student”. The book it is one that I know many of the teachers read last year as we had had several ongoing conversations about it at lunch. I read aloud (with a couple choice words removed) parts of the first two pages of the prologue. I did (accidentally) stumble over a word or two and also have to go back and reread one sentence when my “editing” made the sentence unclear.

When done I asked them to give me honest feedback about me as a reader. They were very complementary, as was last year’s group, despite my couple stumbles. When asked why they thought I was a good reader, they offered things such as “you knew all the words”, “you used expression”, “it seemed like a hard book” and other similar offerings. I then revealed to them that the first time I had read that part of the book, I had been very confused about what was going on, and also shared that I went back to the prologue and reread it many more times as I was reading the book as I figured out new things that I didn’t know when I read it the first time. They were very impressed that I would reread part of a book more than once because I wanted to.

On the fly I remembered a story that my teaching partner had shared with me about her son, who is now a senior in high school. She was very excited that he had learned to read and when she went to parent teacher conferences for the first time, she told the teacher how proud she was of his reading. The teacher (as it so happens, was my mother-which makes the story even funnier to the kids) informed my teaching partner that her son wasn’t reading, but had memorized certain books. She asked her to write some of the words out of context to see if her son could read them. He could not.

This story was a perfect tie-in to the rest of McGregor’s Reading Salad lesson as you ask the students, “Since you are so good at pretending, I bet you’ve been able to pretend you are reading or that you understand something you read, when really you didn’t.” We did a turn and talk with a partner and then shared some instances of when they have “pretended” to read or understand when they really didn’t. It is AMAZING how honest they are about times they knew the words, but didn’t understand, or only looked at the pictures, or flipped pages without reading, etc. The most promising sharing was of a student who shared that sometimes she stops and daydreams about what is happening in the books when she is reading, instead of continuing reading (perfect springboard to come back to for visualizing). 

I went on to explain the Reading Salad part of the lesson. You have a bowl with green pieces of paper marked “text” and another bowl with red pieces of paper marked “thinking” (this is opposite of what is described in her book, but a modification that I found worked better for me after last year’s students).  There is a third bowl marked “salad”. I put two students up on stools/chairs on either side of me and held the salad bowl in my lap. I read aloud Splat Cat (see earlier review) as a think aloud. Each time I read text, green text “lettuce” was added to the salad and when I stopped to do the think-aloud, red thinking “tomatoes” were added until the book was over and there was a salad. 

This year I also added orange carrots to represent unknown/unfamiliar words. The lesson ends with a specialized Venn Diagram of a book (text) intersecting with a head (thinking) for Real Reading (not pretend reading!). I will post a photo of our chart later this week so you can visualize. 

As I stated at first, this is a modified lesson from the McGregor comprehension book. She has many other great, hands-on, visual, or concrete lesson for launching your strategies lessons. 

Later this week I will then like to follow up with a lesson that Franki Sibberson describes in her book Still Learning to Read: Teaching Students in Grades 3-6.