There's No Place Like HOME for Holiday Reading!

Greetings of the season my friends!

It's Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second, stopping in during this busy holiday time to share good cheer and a unique type of reading celebration with you!  This post was written last December as the sun rose over Bonita Beach in southwest Florida.....a place that my own family has called "home" for the holidays for sixteen years.

Many of my siblings are wake up slowly each morning when we gather here, warming their hands around a mug of coffee or cocoa, with books open on their laps.  We were fortunate to be "raised as readers" by our Mom and Dad, and I am here today to share a creative way to help other teachers and parents encourage children to make time to honor and enjoy reading magic at home!

Today's idea was inspired by a very special Nordic picture book and an Icelandic tradition that I recently learned about!  I hope that you'll find that it is an easy one to adapt for use at home during the winter break, and then implement in your classroom afterwards!

Start a simple yet worthy holiday tradition in your home or classroom this December! Host an Iceland-inspired Book Flood and share the gift of reading with your students and family members!


Engaging Our Students At Home

My winter break has officially started.  Woot, woot!  How about you?  It is a magical couple of weeks off that are filled with family, friends, food, and fun.  It is exciting, somewhat relaxing, and eagerly awaited; however, there is also be a hint of anxiety.

Why, you may ask?

It is two weeks off for me...but also my students.  We have worked hard over the past few months and sometimes two weeks off can impact the upward swing or momentum of our learning.  This ties right back in to the posts that we wrote about Summer Reading by Richard Allington and the need to have reading routines in the homes of our students.  These routines can help to prevent any sliding backwards.

And really this is (one) of our ultimate goals: Encouraging lifetime learners and lifetime (anytime) readers!
We want to light the fire in our students so that they WANT to read at anytime or anywhere.
In August, I had mentioned one way that I was going to try to light that fire in my students: through a Readbox.  Basically the idea was to roll out a cart everyday filled with books for families to check out with his/her student.  They read the book, return the book, and check out another book.  The hope is that families begin to establish more routines for reading when the books are high interest and readily available to them each day.  (If you want to read the full description of how we do it, just click on the image below).

It is now December and here is what we have found:
  • Our students ask for the box to be rolled out daily
  • Over 1,500 books have been checked out (in a school of about 200 students)
  • Most families are returning "customers" that come each day
  • Students are eager to talk about the books they check out
  • Students request books and book titles
  • There is excitement each time new books are added
 To us...this has been a success.

But two weeks without this routine, made me a little worried.  I still wanted those books in their hands.  I didn't want the routines to end!  So the Readbox is now in phase two.  And we call it...."Readbox at Home."  It is our way of engaging our students at home with high interest books and they get to listen to all their favorite teachers!

Here's what we decided to do:

1. We set up a YouTube channel and called it "Readbox at Home."

2. The teachers at my school have decided to videotape themselves reading a book either in their classroom, next to their Christmas tree, or maybe sitting by a fire.  Then the videos are uploaded onto our YouTube channel.

3. We passed out "business cards" and recording sheets to all the families in our school so that they would know how to access the videos at home.

KG fonts
I am nervous, excited, and eager to see if the families utilize the videos at home.  If we find it to be successful, it may become a new routine for the teachers and families!

Be sure to check back because Jennifer will have some more tips to get our students reading over the holiday break!


A-Mazing Fun!

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars with a fun and easy trick for getting students to focus on reading letters and words.  I love using mazes to help them read various different things and focus on it.

A few years ago, I found this wonderful video from Teacher Tipster.  Have you seen him?  He has AMAZING and simple ideas that anyone can use!!  This one was so easy I used it that very day!  You simply take any maze, add words, letters, math problems, etc. to it.  Then the kids have to follow the path to the end.  If they get to a "dead end", they have to go back and read all of the words they went over {or whatever you have for them to do}.

Here is a video because he explains it soooo much better than I ever could!

Here are some examples I have used in the past.

 I put the letters in order in the correct places in the maze.  There are other letters in the maze at dead ends.  To get through the maze, the students must go in the correct order.

A finished maze!
 This maze has CVC words in it.  To get through the maze correctly, they need to follow the short a words.  Other CVC words are placed throughout the maze.
And we're there!
  The students LOVE these, and they are so easy to make.  Here are some sites with some good FREE mazes!  Or you could always use coloring books pages with them in it.

Krazy Dad ~ "books of mazes"
Mazes Online
Print ~ Has letter mazes to print
All Kids Network ~ LOTS of FREE mazes!

Or just "Google" free mazes and see what you get ~ LOTS of free mazes!

Hope this is something fun your kids will enjoy too!  Any grade level would love this because you can get some really intricate mazes and put in vocabulary or math problems for the older crowd.  My third graders love when I make these for them too!  I love watching and listening to them work them out!


State Christmas Books

It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy here today to share some state specific Christmas books. I'm featuring the Virginia books, but if you change the title to your state you can find most of the other states on Amazon. I've used these books in my classroom and they are always a hit. Students love recognizing local places they have been. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett

This book is part of "The Twelve Days of Christmas in America" series. Each state book mirrors the 12 Days of Christmas...with a little state flair. In addition to being super books, most are written by local authors. Search Amazon for "The Twelve Days of Christmas in America" or insert your state in the title.

Santa is Coming to Virginia by Steve Smallman

Join Santa and his reindeer as they fly over famous state sites.  You can find some regional versions of this book too. There is even a Santa is Coming to Washington DC to cover those patriotic symbols and monuments. Santa truly is everywhere! Search Amazon for your state.

Wishing all book lovers across the country loads of holiday cheer!


Using the Think Aloud Process in Five Easy Steps

If you have struggling readers who seem to be word callers, than this post is for you. Check out how the Think Aloud Process can help you scaffold instruction for your students in this post.

Do you get blank looks sometimes when you ask a question? Maybe you get through a full explanation for activities and have that one student raise his/her hand to ask, "So what are we going to do?"  Well, you do not need to look far for a meme of what the teacher's look would be, do you?  I think we'd all agree that we want our students to be...
  • Active listeners
  • Engaged with deep thinking
  • Working with purpose
  • Attentive to detail, and...
  • Strategic with their reading
In other words, students need to think while they are reading or listening to reading. This isn't an automatic process for some of our little people (hence the blank stare image above), BUT, it can become automatic with scaffolding through the process.

Why is the Think Aloud Process Important?

The Think Aloud Process is a teaching strategy used to model how readers think as they read. In order to appropriately demonstrate Think Aloud, teachers need to use it with every text they share with students. This is a must because thinking as we read is critical to comprehension, and when the focus of reading a text is solely on reading accurately and decoding, then what we create are students who become word callers. That said, we know that there are multiple skills required for successful reading and that readers work through a channel of reading skills to reach the instructional reader stage. Here is a visual model to show that process.
Beginning readers learn the alphabet and sounds, learn to track print accurately, develop a sight vocabulary, and work through text to read the words on their own. Once they are able to do this, they become transitional readers. Transitional readers focus on developing fluency as they build vocabulary, comprehension skills, and continue working on decoding larger words. Once they are able to read on their own silently, the focus shifts to deeper comprehension and vocabulary development. Throughout this process, Think Aloud is a tool that scaffolds our readers to be able to independently think as readers as skills are achieved.

How Does the Think Aloud Process Work?

To model thinking aloud for your students, the first step is to choose a text with points that can be discussed. Prior to reading the book to your students, go through the text with a post it pad and pen. Mark the places where you want to pause and share your observations and thinking. Note-it is very, very important for the students to also see and work with the text. You can project the book with an Elmo or take photos prior to sharing. There are many books shared on Youtube also, so you may check to see if a title you are planning to use is available there. 

Once your talking points are identified and you've secured a way for your students to access the text, it is time to demonstrate. For my students, I will often use a column notes organizer like the image to the left. This organizer is for the book, Snowflake Bentley. As you share the book with your students, you want them to use all text features including illustrations, captions, sidebars, and the context of the text as the evidence of their thinking, so be sure to ask key questions directed to those features. 

Some students work well with a visual cue of what they are to think as they're reading. This bookmark helps students trigger that thinking and reminds them of the language we as teachers have used.

Once you have modeled with Snowflake Bentley or a book of your choice, you have to provide an opportunity for practice. Choose another book on a similar theme or one that will extend your lesson, and pair students for the reading experience. "Elbow Partners" are great for talking out our thinking. During this part, provide the bookmark or sticky notes that students can use in their discussion. 

The final tip I have is to make sure that you repeat this activity often with new texts. If students have trouble, you may need to stop and model thinking aloud again for students, but you can also direct the thinking with deep questions.

I hope this walk through of the process shows how it can be used with any text. It is so so valuable for our struggling readers. 

You can access this freebie using the image below. 

Although this is the process, it does not stop there. The final step is to have your students reflect on what they've taken away from the reading. This helps our students recognize the importance of using all aspects of the reading process and to understand what good readers do to be good readers. In my teaching, I always seize an opportunity to write, and having students reflect on this as they write may provide the teacher with a window into the students' thinking. 

Until next month, happy reading AND thinking!

If you have struggling readers who seem to be word callers, than this post is for you. Check out how the Think Aloud Process can help you scaffold instruction for your students in this post. Freebie included.
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