Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Learning Community=Learning Together December 5, 2008

I had the opportunity to meet with a great group of teachers from my district as part of an ongoing book study based on Sibberson’s and Smuziak’s Day to Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop and Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All by Debbie Diller. We are also working with Jennifer Allen’s video Literature Study Groups All Year Long

I will admit I am a little biased, as I used to work with this specific group of teachers for years before entering my current position as Curriculum Coordinator.  It is so interesting getting to work with different groups of teachers. Not that I should be surprised by this, but just like your class from year to year, each grade level of teachers has their own unique group personality. Today’s group has invested a great deal of time building their community (or personality), and even though each is an individual, and may disagree on instructional delivery, all agree that while teaching is a very hard job, it is easier done in conjunction with supportive and collegial teammates.  

Every Friday you will find that one of the extended team (8 classroom teachers, 2 intervention specialist, an aide, guidance counselor, etc.) has prepared a delicious lunch for the rest of the team. holiday decorations, cute paper plates, and a table covering of some sort are often in evidence.  Of course it’s a lot of work to cook for a group, but to be able to just come and enjoy the other 11 Fridays is a great trade-off.

Most other days you’ll find the parts of the grade level, eating, grading, talking in a quiet little room named “The Dirty Dish” (I’m sure I don’t need to explain the double entendre to you).  Only rule-no nastiness. It’s okay to cry, take your outer layer off because it is too darn hot, eat more M & M’s than is good for you, but not okay to be “nasty”.

I know there are some who believe it’s better to maintain a professional distance, but after hours of teaching in your own little box, it feels good to come out and be in the warmth of adult companionship. 

This same sense of community that the teachers have built for each other is also carried over into the community built with the students of this grade level. But that needs to be the next story, or I won’t ever finish the post.


Who Is Jenna Fox? November 30, 2008

jenna-fox3I started reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox on the way home from NCTE after getting a copy autographed by Mary Pearson.


I had read several great reviews of the book including: Jen Robinson’s, Semicolon, The Ya,Ya, Yas,  The Well-Read Child, and The Reading Zone.  

Pam, Dana and I had plotted to have our own GMS “Finer Things” Club at lunch (a reference to the show The Office) and Th Adoration of Jenna Fox was to be our first topic. Their books are in UPS boxes on the way from Texas. My copy was in my possession and they didn’t want me to read it early and spoil the club. (Just like teachers-now don’t read ahead!)

I’m betting they haven’t had a chance to check my blog this holiday week, but now that I am done with Breaking Dawn, I’m back to reading Jenna Fox again.  Don’t tell them. I don’t think it will diminish the fun of talking about the book. It is fabulous, mysterious, and thought-provoking. 

A discussion guide for the book was being handed out at NCTE as well and referenced the following:  Who is Jenna Fox? website. It has a book trailer, an e-mail time capsule, down-loadable extras.

Here is the book trailer.


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.


Authentic Learning-Book Bistro-book talk at its best! October 26, 2008

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Several years ago I found this idea in a Booklinks magazine and modified it to use in my classroom. Imagine my pleasure to have my fourth grade daughter bring home an invitation to participate with her class in a very similar Book Bistro. I’ve added pictures from the event, but they don’t really do it justice.

Imagine an adult book club-ususally a small group of people, chatting (and eating or drinking) about a book they have read or are reading. It might be the same book, or it might be different books. Usually it is a relaxed time and the participants leave feeling energized and maybe with a new title or two jotted down for future reading.

That’s what the Book Bistro is for us. Instead of a contrived oral book report, students gather in small groups with a volunteer adult and talk about their independent reading book. The adult brings a book to share as well-maybe it’s one they are reading, or an all-time favorite. Students see that reading and talking about their reading is a life-long skill.

The students have had lots of modeled book talks by teachers, librarian, and parents so it is comfortable for them to follow that same format. The parents have a little rubric the teacher has talked them through ahead of time-it really just helps keep the conversation flowing as some parents are more comfortable asking authentic questions or helping dialogue flow than others.
We finish with snacks and usually kids walk around to other groups to see what else they might want to know more about.

A great activity that I can’t recommend enough. Thank you Laura and Susan!!


If you are a teacher of comprehension (and aren’t we all), it is worth your time to join a book group of your own! October 20, 2008

Filed under: books,literature groups,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:57 pm
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A couple Mondays ago my monthly Book Club met and even though I haven’t finished (or honestly done more than start), I went to hear the conversation about the book, The Painted Drum by Lousie Erdich. Today as I look back, I’m actually really glad I hadn’t read the book because it really allowed me to watch and listen to the members in an adult version of what we ask students to do in Literature Discussion groups. It was fascinating to get to watch the conversation flow and to see that one reader had even made a chart for herself to help keep track of the characters and their relationships to each other! Just like in class, there is usually one who prefers to listen rather than share. Interestingly enough though, the members of the group never assume she hasn’t read the book, is incapable, or unintelligent (quite the opposite!) as we would with some students who we would push to participate, or perhaps take effort points away.  

I often take away some new understanding about the book, a character, or problem than when I had come to the conversation. There was even a book that I had read the first quarter of, abandoned in annoyance, only to participate in the discussion, decided I was looking at the book from the wrong point of view, finished it and actually enjoyed it. Without the discussion, it would have just sat as dust collector on the shelf.  

If you belong to a Book Club, feel free to comment on any benefits you feel you get as a teacher of comprehension.