Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Subjects Matter Book Walk November 14, 2008

Our middle school staff is beginning a book study of Subjects Matter by Daniels and Zemelman. I created this powerpoint to walk them through some of the highlights of the book. Feel free to use it would be helpful to you.

Subjects Matter Book Walk

Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

Kelly Gallagher October 14, 2008

This is not Kelly Gallagher’s finest photo but I had to include it. Once again the Literacy Connection of Columbus has offered a wonderful opportunity to teachers in Central Ohio. For $50 I was able to attend a presentation by Kelly Gallagher on Saturday from 8:30-2:30. He really touched on all of us books, but started with a keynote on Teaching Adolescent Writers. I took copious notes and was once again impressed with him-as a teacher, a presenter, and someone who is passionate and dedicated to literacy. He is a practicing teacher in Anaheim, California. I am planning on adding to this post with highlights from the notes I took as time allows this week.


Spelling Strategies and Patterns September 28, 2008

I picked up this book at the Lakota Literacy VIEW conference this summer, but 
have just recently had the opportunity to read through it. I have to say this is one spelling book that I really like and does not overwhelm me. I think it would be a nice complement to the Lucy Calkins’ writing Units of Study our intermediate teachers are using. 

Two years ago our district had a year-long Literacy Committee that teachers from each building were able to apply to be a part. We started with research reading, developed district literacy belief statements and went through to materials review and adoption. Our kindergarten through third grades are using the Reading Streets series, including the spelling component. Fourth and Fifth grade received components including Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for writing and Comprehension Toolkit for grades 3-6. Last year was the first year of use of the new materials.

Spelling was an area that we decided to evaluate separately and now I guess it is time to take a look. Kindergarten through third have put enough work into using Reading Streets that they are not willing to look at a different program and I don’t blame them. Middle and High School are trucking along, since it is a smaller issue for them.  It is the fourth through sixth grade where we need to take a look at options and find something the building can agree on. A teacher from each grade went to the new Rebecca Sitton’s spelling training last year, and while there are really good parts, all felt it was too overwhelming and that they would rather put the energy and time into developing a solid writing program.

If anyone uses a program for spelling that the LOVE, please leave a comment. Actual teacher thoughts on materials are so much more helpful than what the publisher wil tell you!

I think I’ll enlist a few teachers to see what they think about working this new spelling program into what we already do at the intermediate level.  While spelling is important for this age group, it can’t be at the expense of precious reading and writing minutes!


Carl Anderson and Kelly Gallagher September 18, 2008

I just caught up with a friend who reminded me of the newsletter that came out last week for a group known as Literacy Connection. This is a great Central Ohio group that has been around a number of years and brings in two nationally known speakers a year. The cost of membership is only $10 to get their newsletters-what a bargain.

This year there are two presenters. First is Kelly Gallagher (smart and good looking!) from California whose focus is Adolescents. He has several great books out including Reading Reasons, Deeper Reading, and Teaching Adolesent Writers. I have had the opporunity to see him do a short presentation and it as not only fantastic, but also motivating and had ideas I could take back to my classroom.  The other speaker is Carl Anderson (Conferring Guy) from Columbia Teacher’s College. His speciality is conferencing with young writers. He has several books out including: How’s it Going and his newest one, Assessing Writers. I’ve also had the opportunity to see him present at Lakota Literacy Conference for the past two years. He is a Steve Carell look-alike (happens to be my favorite comedian, but that’s just a coincidence). Carl Anderson’s newer book (Assessing Writers) will be the focus of a year long book study with two sessions-one fall and one winter. Then in early spring you get to see him in action over live-circuit television conferring with first primary students and then intermediate aged students. The following day you come back and get to meet with/debrief what you saw in action.

Last year’s book study was Lester Laminack and if you ever get the opportunity to attend a workshop with Lester or see him in action, you should defintely do so! I have been fortunate enough to see him through Literacy Connection and also at Lakota Literacy View. More on Lester some other post.

If you live in the greater central Ohio region, you should check out the Literacy Connection for more information. It is very reasonably priced professional development that you can take for Ashland University credit (if you want).


Writing Inservice continued September 4, 2008

 Early Release Meeting 

The goal of this early release meeting is to determine the *** Classroom teachers’ definition of writing at the elementary level and to identify strengths and weaknesses within the Reading Streets program. My role as Curriculum Coordinator will help to provide support for staff in this area over the Early Release meetings this year. Specifically, I focused our discussion on writing-our own and the students.   


1.     pick up snack and water

2.    select journal, folder, and pen (pretty new things along with snacks are good for starting teachers off feeling happy!)

3.    staff divided in cross-grade level tables (check chart for table assignment)

4.    small group definition of writing (large group share)

5.    strengths and weaknesses of current writing program (large group share)

6.    My Life in Seven Stories-If you could choose only 7 stories that define/reflect who you are and your life, what would a list of those stories be?

7.    Write one of your stories

8.    Discuss 6 + 1 Traits and how we will revisit our own stories to focus on one of the traits or a revision strategy each session

9.    Voluntary interest groups sign-ups for different book studies (Daily Five and Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Primary Writing)

10.                       Door Prizes


Book Study groups:

Units of Study for Primary Writing by Lucy Calkins

Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades

by “the Sisters”  

great resource and very readable-like having a conversation with a friend. They also have a free and subscription website.


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.