Celebrating Young Authors

We would like to welcome a guest blogger to our Literacy Land today: Maria from Curious Firsties. She is a first grade writing teacher.  That's right!  She teaches four 70 minute blocks of WRITING each day!  Needless to say, she has a passion for our young writers!

Thanks for joining us today, Maria!

Writing is a beautiful thing.  Can we get an amen to that?!  We are so blessed to be able to watch this process unfold in our young firstie writers.  After weeks, I mean WEEEEEKS, of sketching, writing, conferencing, sharing, conferencing some more and then finally choosing a piece to take to publication, our firsties are in need of some type of reward for their efforts. 

So we reward them with a PARTY!  And, who doesn't love a party?  Our firsties LOVE being able to share their work with families, friends, other students, teachers, and even our principal!  We love the look in their eyes when they are reading a piece THEY wrote and illustrated.  We love how empowered they feel as authors. 

Here's the fun part of celebrating authors..... THE CELEBRATIONS!  We have celebrations for just about every author we study in our writing class.  We like to mimic authors such as the GREAT.........  MO.WILLEMS. (in my best Jimmy Fallon voice)

We love keeping our decorations simple and cheap.  :) 

Next up....  Jane O'Connor
 After reading all about Fancy Nancy, we have a celebration to read our "How-To be Fancy/Handsome" to our parents.  Our firsties get all dressed up in ruffles, pearls, and suits.  For those who "forget" because sometimes that happens, we have our own Ooh La La Beauty Spa!  Here we give out mustaches, paint fingernails, tie bows in the girls hair and give the boys bowties!  It has been a BIG hit the last two years!
 Our next big celebration is for all our nature enthusiasts!  This year we added a SAFARI WALK to our research celebration. We think this was a student favorite.  Of course inspired by Pinterest we set up our classroom like this...

 And for this coming school year we have a few more celebrations in the works, but parties will not be on the top of that list. Instead, we will focus on one goal. We will be celebrating author accomplishments daily!  We are great about using our words to tell them how they are doing, but we'd like to take this a step further!  Our newest way to celebrate authors is by giving them bracelets!
Not only will our firsties love them, but our parents will also be informed about what their child is doing well at in writing class. :)  Two birds. One stone. :)

The inspiration for this came from my own girls.  They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE bracelets.  My oldest loves them so much she never takes them off.  She told me, "Mom, it's a part of me." That's when I thought..... hmmmm.... How can we do this in our classroom?  Bracelets.For.EVERYONE! 

These bracelets to encourage your young authors can be wrapped around a wrist,

                                    Put on a backpack,                   or on a lunchbox.
The possibilities are endless.  :)

Here's to an AMAZING year of growing young authors!

Click on the picture for your bracelet FREEBIE!

Maria from Curious Firsties

Booktalking Clubs - Increasing Enthusiasm and Excitement for Reading

Hi everyone! It is Bex here from Reading and Writing Redhead, coming to you to share about Booktalking and Booktalk Clubs! I recently did some professional development and went to a session on the topic and am inspired!

So before we do anything else, you are probably wondering, "Hmmm, is that a typo? Does she mean Book Club, not Booktalk Club?" Nope! Booktalks are a bit different than book clubs. Here is the scoop. Booktalks are 2-3 minute presentations someone gives to persuade others to read a book they  recommend. You know what I thought of? Reading Rainbow! Remember those kids would come on and give you a 1 minute spiel about a book they read and loved and then you would think, "Oh my gosh I need to read that"? Similar!

Booktalk Clubs are after school clubs that students join voluntarily. At some schools Booktalk Club is held before school, during lunch or during a free period. Students often get involved for one or more of the following reasons: They love reading, love writing, are social butterflies, or enjoy performing for others.  Booktalk Clubs rely a lot of peer assistance - more so than lessons during your reading block - and kids that join end up reading more  and recommending more books to others even outside of Booktalk Club. 

In my post I am not going to go into every step of how to run a Booktalk Club - that post would be extremely lengthy -  but at the end I will post some links for places you can get more specific information.

Let's talk about some basics though. Booktalk Clubs work best in 12 week cycles. Plan for 12 meetings, which may mean they go longer than 12 weeks because f vacations and holidays. How do you get students to join? Well, start with your own class and promote it to them, and get all the teachers at your school to do the same. Make up a flyer and encourage those students who already want to join to ask their friends to join. The Booktalk Club likely needs to be a coordinated effort across your school- your principal obviously needs to be on board to allow you to meet with students outside of class time, and the more your colleagues know about it and the more they discuss it with their classes, the better it will go! By the way, Booktalk Clubs can include students in different grade levels. It is up to you what range you pick. I will post some links with suggestions but I think 2nd grade-4th grade might be a good range, 3-5, 6-8 and so on. You don't want children to be so far apart in age that they no longer are really "peers". I think you also want the youngest students in your club to be able to read independently - not struggling. That's just my take!

How do you decide what books get picked? The element of choice is so important here. Students are volunteering to do this one their own time and need to have a lot of input in what book they read.  Grab a lot of books from your classroom library, the school library and town library and have them on display. Be sure to have a wide range of types and levels of books. As students sign up and give you their permission slips work with them to pick out a book (before the first meeting of the club). They need to have  their book read or almost read for the first meeting.  The first book choice is always the hardest. Try too encourage students to be realistic about book choice- for example a third grader choosing a 350 page Harry Potter book to complete if the first BookTalk Club meeting is in 5 days is probably not going to work! Sometimes students will realize their first book was too hard, too easy, too long, or too short and the next time around will adjust for it.

A big part of Booktalk Club is the presentation. It is encouraged that all booktalks be videotaped. Some clubs have a night where everyone's family is invited and all the students do  their booktalks live. Some clubs do both. Club members will make  decisions together  about what they want the culmination to look like.

To get an idea of what Booktalks look like as a finished product, check out these videos. I found 2 younger students and one older student. They did a super job!

This is a slightly different take on a booktalk - this older girl is recommending a book for younger children.

So have you ever done a Booktalk Club at your school? Might you try it? Let us know what you think and comment!

Scholastic's Booktalk Website

Waco ISD's Book Talk Update

Scholastic Reading Summit: Booktalk Update

Nancy Keane's Children's Literature Page

Reading Online Booktalk Resources

And thanks to Erin of I'm Lovin' Lit (and Adventures in Literacy Land!) for the terrific frames used above and KG Fonts for, well, the font!


Fluency Breakthrough!


Greetings from Literacy Land! It's Emily from The Reading Tutor/OG here, and I'm here to discuss a great fluency tip today.

Do you have students that get lost when reading dialogue? Over the past few weeks, I've been working on some fluency passages with my students at the end of Orton-Gillingham sessions. The passages I chose were a little heavy in dialogue. I knew this could be tricky for my students, especially the ones who don't pay attention to punctuation as well as proficient readers do. Text that's heavily laden in dialogue also can pose a comprehension problem. After reading several lines of dialogue, have you ever asked a child the following questions:
  •  "So, who's talking in that part?"
  • "What did _____ just say?"
  •  "Who's telling the story?"
  • "How do you know?"
You may be surprised at their responses! If they can't determine who is speaking when, or who the narrator is, that's a comprehension breakdown.

Back to my kiddos- I decided to try a highlighting strategy for identifying who was speaking and WHEN to use a different tone in your voice. Here's a pic of the passage I used. This passage was taken from a collection of Bonnie Kline phonetic stories that I use to match the skill I'm working on in OG. We were working on r-controlled vowels that day.

  1. First read: I had the student read it out loud to me as a cold read. Then, we discussed how many characters were speaking and what their tone of voice should be when we read their dialogue. After that, I let the student choose 2 different colored highlighters and reread it to out loud.
  2. Second read: THIS TIME, she had to highlight JoAnn's words in orange and Mrs. Martin's in pink. It was slow going during this read. She really had to pay attention, reread, and choose which words to highlight carefully.
  3. Third read: The student had to read the story using different voices for Joann and Mrs. Martin.
Boy, what a difference on the third read compared to the first! She knew who was speaking, their tone of voice so she could apply the right cadence to her voice while reading and the super bonus, she could retell the passage beautifully. By highlighting during the second read, this student was able to clarify who was speaking, what the problem was and what events were taking place.

This was a fluency breakthrough for me! I won't use the highlighting strategy every time I read with a student, but, it's definitely been a huge help for this child when reading dialogue in text. She is much more equipped to answer the questions I mentioned earlier in this post when discussing a book.

Have you tried this strategy before, or perhaps something similar? I'd love to hear about it, so feel free to leave me some comments or ask questions below.

Thank you for visiting Literacy Land today. See you in August!




Host a Book Swap

My school is always looking for interesting and engaging ways to get families into the school.  We have hosted chili cook-offs, mystery events, book making parties, and lots of writing celebrations.   When I saw some book swap ideas online, I decided that this would be a great way to get families into school and books into the hands of our kids.

But I wanted to try it out first.  So I invited friends, friends of friends, and family members over to my house this past week for a book swap.  All the children that attended were Pre-K to 2nd grade, which made for a nice variety of texts.

Let me start at the beginning...I had to think about the following questions:

How many books do you want each guest to bring?

What age range did I want to target?

Where was I going to put all the books?

How long do you want the swap to last?

What other activities do I want to have at the party?

Should I have snacks and drinks?

Next up...the invitation.  I wanted it to look like an old library card.  There is a great website that generates this image for you.  After I plugged in my information, it came up like this:

Then it was time to get started on the decorations.  My girls (4 and 5 years old) helped me make banners

The day of the book swap approached and we were ready!  When each guest arrived, they received a ticket for each book that they brought.  That helped me to know how many books that they needed to pick out.

Once all the guests had arrived, the books were placed on the "red carpet" (it was just a long sheet of bulletin board paper held down with golf tees!)

The kids sat down and looked through the books as they tried to decide which ones they wanted to keep.

Once the kids were done picking out books, we had a book mark station and ice cream!

The book swap ended with a picnic.  Each family set out a picnic blanket and enjoyed a meal together.  I have to admit, it went so well and the kids walked away so excited to have new books.  This would be a great edition to the literacy events in our school.

I decided to make a pack that includes all that I will need to host the event at school.  I am going to make it free for our Literacy Land readers for the day.



Chapter Books for Reluctant Readers--July version

Hi ! This is Wendy from Ms. D's Literacy Lab and I will share a few more of my favorite books for reluctant readers today. For this post, a reluctant reader is one who has never found his/her reading style, abandoning classroom library books frequently, and wishes there were more suitable books in his/her reading range that made him/her look like an accomplished reader.

At times, these students have not grown up in a home where book literacy is important. They may have grown up in a family where storytelling, musical literacy, or common sense literacy was valued. In addition, there might be views on girls becoming accomplished readers or leaders through their home culture. As in some families, the parents may be working multiple jobs and having long work days and this is their priority. However, you can cultivate book literacy with these students by "following the student."

When I find an upper grade reluctant reader, after looking at possible phonics and fluency issues, I look at their reading habits. I use my "Back to School Inventory-Favorite Books" to help me format guided reading lessons and find great books on the student's reading level that he/she will love. Yes, it takes time and yes, some evening you may find me plopped on the floor of Barnes and Noble looking for books. Is it worth it ? An overwhelming YES ! When you reach one child, you reach his/her kids, his/her grandchildren, and so forth and so on. I bring the love of literacy to each child I meet. I consider it one of my biggest legacies in life.

 Back to School Inventory--Favorite Books (Freebie):

The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon  (updated): This favorite from my childhood is updated for a new generation. A faster-paced plot with a list of titles that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. This series is about at a Level M-N Guided Reading Level  (end of second grade/beginning of third grade benchmark).

 Nancy Drew and The Clue Crew  by Carolyn Keene (updated): This favorite from my childhood is also updated for a new group of readers. The  plots will appeal to girls who are reluctant readers...for the moment. The Make-a-Pet Mystery finds the girls stuffing a popular set of stuffed animals at a party when something goes wrong.  This series is about at a Level M-N Guided Reading Level (end of second grade/early third grade benchmark).

Ballpark Mysteries series by David A. Kelly: This new series will grab the attention of your avid sports and baseball fans. The series starts at Fenway Park in Boston and the setting for others in this series include Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and more. Written by an avid baseball fan and former baseball player in his youth, the short chapters, engaging black and white illustrations, and fun plot will catch their attention. I'm placing this at a Level N-O Guided Reading Level. Enjoyable !

My Weird School series by Dan Gutman: The lovable characters of teachers who are a little unusual, and have crazy ideas will keep your readers entertained and perhaps giggling along the way ! It is at a Level M/N Guided Reading Level.
In Miss Daisy is Crazy, we meet Miss Daisy who is a 2nd grade teacher who cannot read, add or subtract, or write. How is she going to teach her students ? Read to find out !

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West: This new series will be in bookstores on August 26, 2014. It is a little like "Train Your Dragon" meets "Dragon Slayers Academy" according to the Barnes and Noble website ( as of July 17, 2014). If this book is true to the rest of the Branches series, it will become a quick favorite of fantasy lovers---on level readers and reluctant ones as well.

I hope you have found some new books to stash in your book bag for those reluctant readers this coming year ! Please share with us some of your favorite easy chapter books that seem to work well for struggling readers in the upper grades below !