Finding Joy in Everything We Read!

In the final chapter of Reading Wellness, we learn that joy must be a part of the reading experience for it to be meaningful to our students.

As a mother of two children, I know the struggle of helping my children as they learn to read. When my son was in kindergarten and first grade, he would bring home the most mundane and boring books that were meant to be easy to read. Sure he could read them, but there was little to no excitement in those milestones. It was the reading we did each night before bed. We would read together some of his favorite books, and the joy on his face as he read the words brought joy to my heart as well. In the final chapter of Reading Wellness, the authors remind us that progress is not always a result of hard work, but that sometimes if we "work less", we all enjoy reading more!


Strength: Productive Effort and Building Reading Muscle

Reading Wellness Book Study:  Read about how Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris explain the 4 different “weights of texts” and how these texts grow us as readers.

At the beginning of the chapter, a story is shared about a mom who pushes her son.  She left him home alone for the first time feeling that he was ready while she attended a workshop and her husband was teaching.  At one point he contacts her upset and says there is an emergency.  After her initial panic, she finds that the “emergency” is that he spilled the gallon of milk and now has a mess and no breakfast.  She tells him where the towels are and pushes him to clean up his mess and find himself breakfast.  He protests but she tells him she’s going to have to do it and says goodbye.  He is proud of himself 30 minutes later when he texts her that he did it!

Life with our students can be much like this; if we don’t push them to try it on their own, they will rely on our support more than necessary.


Practicing Mindfulness while Reading

Do your students practice mindfulness while reading?  Chapter 4 of Reading Wellness provides a fun, concrete lesson to teach your students how to slow down and think deeply about their reading.  Great for making inferences.
This is Jessica from Literacy Spark here today to share with you Chapter 4: Mindfulness from Reading Wellness by Jan Miller and Kim Yaris.  Be sure to check out all the posts from this week if you are just joining us (I posted about each chapter on my blog as well) and don't forget you can access the book online (currently for free!) from Stenhouse Publishers.
Do your students practice mindfulness while reading?  Chapter 4 of Reading Wellness provides a fun, concrete lesson to teach your students how to slow down and think deeply about their reading.  Great for making inferences.

Reading Wellness: Alignment

Reading Wellness...Wow!!  Sarah from Simply Literacy and Em from Curious Firsties here today to discuss Chapter 3: Alignment.  We hope that you are enjoying this book as much as we are.  It has led us to some great conversations about our own students and what we can do a bit differently this year.  Below you will see a conversation that Sarah and Em had about the alignment chapter.

What does this mean to us?  Well in our own lives it means aligning our values with our day to day constraints.

I feel like alignment in my life is coinciding my school life and my home life.  My day starts and ends with my home life, all while my school life is intertwined. Aligning those two lives is an ongoing learning process and essentially a balancing act that I am still trying to figure out.

I know for me, alignment in my life is integrating and balancing my love for reading, blogging, teaching, and parenting.  It is easy for one to overpower another but I am always working to find that balance.

The authors, Burkins and Yaris, explain that the same alignment must occur for readers but through print and meaning.  Both must be attended to and in alignment.

I teach third grade and I tend to focus my teaching on meaning.  Of course with some students, I need to focus on both print and meaning.  When a student struggles with print, I tend to focus mostly on certain skills and leave meaning on the back burner.  I love how this chapter reminded me the importance of aligning print to meaning and meaning to print.  They go hand-in-hand, not separate.

Since I teach first grade, I find that I do tend to focus my teaching on the print.  Meaning is talked about and I always ask "does it make sense?" but I would not say that my teaching of print and meaning is in perfect alignment and harmony.  I could use some work on that.

The importance of print and meaning is comparable to a puzzle: the pieces versus the puzzle.  Which one is more important.  Both.  They are essential and important to the activity of putting a puzzle together.

I love this analogy.  You can't have one without the other.  And it makes me wonder if this would be a good analogy to help the kids understand the essential connection between print and meaning.

Whenever I read, I tend to comprehend better when I make connections to the text.  I love the puzzle and learning to dance example (pg71). These analogies immediately made me think of when I teach young girls how to fastpitch.  For years, I have taught several girls how to pitch and every time, girls immediately want to jump into full motion pitching before learning the basic drills.  This reminds me of aligning print with meaning.  Girls are not going to be able to throw strikes or throw with speed and accuracy if they don't align it with the proper techniques.  

The authors go on to explain that even the best readers make errors or misunderstand text but they have the alignment of print and meaning to resolve and cross check these errors.

True...I cross check constantly as I'm reading professional and personal books.  But this doesn't happen naturally and the kids cannot see exactly what is going on in my head.  It would be helpful if I did more think aloud modeling to help them see the connection and alignment.

I agree 100%, Emily.  I feel like with most things in life, modeling is an essential.  Integrating the language and ideas from this chapter during think-alouds will help readers to align print with meaning.

Burkins and Yaris say that by offering explicit strategies such as "get your mouth ready" or "look for a small word inside the big word," we are not allowing students to be decision makers or problem solvers.  They state that we are "...telling them how to solve a problem rather than supporting them in solving the problem themselves." (p71)

Typically I use specific prompts to help them use strategies:

Yikes!  I have been doing it all wrong!!!! When print and meaning aren't aligned, my teacher instinct has always been to prompt and help the reader to solve the problem.  My prompts, such as "look back at that word carefully", basically tells the student how to solve the problem rather than supporting them in solving the problem themselves. This part of the chapter was so informative and eye opening.  

Also, while reading this part of the chapter, a past student popped into my head.  I wish I would have read this chapter three years ago.  This past student's reading process was out of alignment.  He was constantly inserting a or the in front of words in a text, and other print cues. The miscues made sense on a sentence level, but his insertions were changing the meaning.  I was always saying "does that make sense?" which led  me to telling him how to solve the problem rather than supporting him in solving the problem himself.  

Oh geez!  This is totally me!  Being a first grade teacher I prompt a lot during guided reading.  But I noticed that later in the chapter the authors do say that some students still need this specific strategy prompts.  I want to reread and explore this.

In the lesson "Does It Match," the authors offer a lesson and extensions to support the alignment of print and meaning.

I love the way the lesson does really help the students to have more independence in their reading.

I particularly like the vocabulary and prompts that are suggested for guided reading, shared guided, and independent reading.

Agree completely!!  But it is stated that some traditional prompting may still be key for some students.  I can see this for a new reader--but overall I want to foster more independence.

Yes, my students spend a lot of time reading independently.  The chapter gave an easy example of what to say to your students during that crucial reading time.  As the students settle to read, simply say, "Raise your hand when you solve a problem.  I want to hear about how you solved it!" (pg. 85)  So easy and so powerful!

When checking for meaning, I like to use "S-T-P" with my students.  This is from Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading.  My students hear "S-T-P" (which means Stop-Think-Paraphrase) a lot throughout the year.  While students are either reading during guided reading groups, with a partner, or independently reading, students will read a page, Stop and cover the text with their hand, Think about what was read, and Paraphrase by softly telling themselves what was read.  If students cannot retell the page that was read, then a reread must be done. I think when using S-T-P, students are practicing the constant back and forth of checking and cross checking which will hopefully help readers move along the continuum of proficiency in reading.

I can't wait to try out the lesson and discover the impact that it has on my students.  When reading this chapter, what stands out to you and your readers?


Motivating Students to Embrace Hard Work

How do we motivate students to embrace hard work?  This question pops up frequently in conversations among teachers. With the recent push to raise rigor in reading, teachers are wondering how to encourage students to persevere through complex text. 

Today we'll take a look at Chapter 2, "Posture", from Reading Wellness to find some possible answers.   

Ignite passion and instill confidence in your readers with Reading Wellness, a summer book study. Today's topic: mindset and hard work.
Reading Wellness by Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris

Developing Posture 

Posture is the way in which students demonstrate a sense of empowerment about a task, according to Burkins and Yaris. 

How students do their work depends largely on how they feel about doing the work. 

Many times, students believe that they can't do something, and therefore they are unwilling to try. However, we can teach students to think differently about their work.  

Chapter 2 provides lessons to develop posture.

Leaning In/Leaning Out Lessons

Leaning In and Leaning Out is the metaphor used in this chapter to teach students that even when a task seems difficult, they can still tackle it. Students can Lean In, or embrace a task rather than Lean Out, or resist it.  

We can teach students that they have power over their learning.  We can teach them that their words, thoughts, and feelings impact their learning.  

We can use picture books to model and teach the Leaning In/ Leaning Out language.  Students can examine how characters lean into or away from a learning experience.  

We can model Leaning In through our own words and actions in the classroom.

Reading Wellness Intentions

Here's a look at the connection between Posture and the four Reading Wellness Intentions.

 Ignite passion and instill confidence in your readers with Reading Wellness, a summer book study. Today's topic: mindset and hard work.

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Ignite passion and instill confidence in your readers with Reading Wellness, a summer book study.

The book is available for purchase or to read online for free through Stenhouse.

How do you encourage students to embrace difficult tasks? We would love hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!


Love - Real Reasons to Read Informational Texts

Finding a love for reading informational texts can be a challenge, but this lesson helps children find their passion and love it!

As the shift in reading has moved toward informational texts, we all seem to have to find a way to entice students to want and love to read those informational texts. Buy why would they want to read them if they have no interest in them, especially if someone tells them they have to read them! But with a special lesson called "Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet" students will want to read informational texts and learn from them!


Is Your Classroom Your Happy Place?

Hello everyone!
 This is Laura from  Where the Magic Happens Teaching Blog.  Can you believe that I started school this week? Second grade is surely very different from 1st grade.
I spent the summer reading and learning the new set of standards, creating new materials, and visualizing what my new classroom was going to look like. I love the feeling of an empty classroom, the idea of a new beginning, and the potential and possibilities. More than anything, I kept on thinking (it was more like day dreaming), about a productive, brain friendly, and homey classroom.

It really starts with my classroom library. I have spent years (and tons of money and time) collecting the right books to reach ALL of my readers year after year. I truly believe that the concepts of classroom community and individuality begin with literature.  It is my  first goal, to show and provide my students with the opportunity to explore their own reading interests free from any constraints. 

Or like my little G would say: "for the fun of it!"

I try to build momentum by not opening the complete library to my students on the first week of school.  Instead, I open it gradually:
First the themes
Then the series
After this the nonfiction section
and so on...
 Since we have such a large classroom library, our books are displayed all over the room in colorful tubs that I got from the Target dollar spot!

Having an organized and quality classroom library makes me think that if nothing else, I am attempting  to create the right conditions for reading by my students.

Think about it! A strong classroom library:

  • Supports your literacy instruction in and out of your classroom.
  • Helps your students to learn about books and author's craft.
  • It also provides a central location for classroom resources... hello shared research!!
  • Serves as a place for students to talk about and interact with books
And you might think...
But how does she come up with the money to buy the books?
Well, let me just tell you: Scholastic points, yard sales, and The Goodwill are my friends! Last weekend for example, my local Goodwill had really great books for .50 a piece! It takes creativity and energy!!

Because my classroom is also really small this year, I had to become really creative too on finding a comfortable reading spot:

Two beach chairs, a lamp from the Goodwill, a cute rug from Walmart, some wooden letters and Voila! There you go!

Now, this is something to be really jelly about:
My school librarian is so fabulous and awesome. As this is my first year in 2nd grade, she has given me tons of suggestions about transitioning my students from easier picture books to  a bit-more-challenging chapter books.
One of the greatest suggestions that she gave me is to  do a classroom library scavenger hunt. This, in order to teach my students to identify different series, authors, themes, and topics.
Oh! And also to help my students keep books and display materials orderly!

So I do different types of  scavenger hunts:

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Click HERE to download!

Or all of them!

I give the students one bookmark and they explore the classroom library, once they find a book that matches one item on their bookmark, they bring me the book and they get a punch! These bookmarks match my classroom library book bin labels.

What is my goal with this?
I, more than anything, want to get my students motivated to read... and to read for fun. Throughout the year, I want to introduce them to authors, great series, themes, etc. Instead of giving them or leading them to a leveled book, I want them to be able to freely express about their  reading choices and pursue them.

They each will have their own book box. With the book boxes there are a couple of whole group lessons that need to be addressed:

  • Differences between picture books and chapter books
  • Choosing "just right" books (blog post and anchor chart on this coming up next week)
  • Keeping a balance in your book box
  • How to return books
  • Giving book recommendations

I would love to hear and learn from all of you! How do you organize your classroom library? What routines and mini-lessons do you teach to help your students be successful? What things do you do to foster reading motivation??

I can honestly say that there are many happy places for me: my mom's house, my boys' arms, the beach, the mountains, my own classroom!

Until next time!


Fine Motor 101

Fine motor is a skill that is very important but also very much overlooked.  In the younger grades, children need fine motor skills in order to write, cut, glue, and much more.

As a primary teacher, I am seeing more and more children coming in lacking in fine motor skills.  They have difficulty holding and manipulating a pencil or crayons.  They don't have the hand strength for something as simple as playing with playdoh.  We may have advanced our children more with technology, but at what price?  They can operate an Ipad or a smart phone, but they can't roll playdoh into a snake.  Really?

So often, when I child has poor fine motor the first suggestion is "just give them a pencil grip."  Pencil grips are great, don't get me wrong.  They are especially helpful for teaching kids the right grip.  But they do not help kids with muscle control. They don't help with small strokes.  They don't make kids use their wrist.  So how can you fix this?  Let me tell you.

Some of the first things that I do in the classroom is work to build my students' hand muscles.  You will have to blame my mom (the OT with Hand Therapy Certification) for this but it is so important!  Without strengthening their hands, they will not be able to use a pencil or even a crayon well.  You often see these kids are the ones that can't make the small strokes with a crayon, that they need in order to stay inside the lines.  These children will move their entire arm while coloring and writing.  They need to be retrained to only move their wrist. So how do you do that?  I am going to give you some ideas today that you can incorporate into the things that you already do so that it is not ONE MORE THING!  We want to blend it into our everyday lessons and hopefully just make you, as the teacher, more aware of developing these skills in your primary classroom.

 Welcome to Fine Motor 101!

Switch to golf pencils!  Little hands need little pencils.  Can you imagine writing with one of these bad boys?

No? That's because it is too big for your hand!  Your pencils should match the size of your hand.  Do you ever wonder why it is easier for a kid to color with a crayon than to write with a pencil?  Or why kids will try to sneak around and write in crayon rather than a pencil?  It is because it is more comfortable for them.  Crayons fit into their hands easier and they are able to control it by moving their wrist.  With fat pencils, kids are more likely to move their entire arm to write because it takes all of their hand muscles just to hold the thing.  To me, it just makes logical sense, but if you need research to back it up, check out Handwriting Without Tears.  They have so much great research on this subject.  They also sell little pencils if you want ones with erasers but I have found that golf pencils work just as well and are cheaper!

Don't always force them to sit, back straight, elbows up, feet on the floor.  When you write, do you sit like that?  Sometimes, I am not even sitting!  Not every kid is the same and not every writer is the same.  Some kids need to be standing to be good writers.  It gives them the ability to lean into the table and plant their elbow down so that they can manipulate just their wrist.  I teach these kids to slide their paper up as they write or to slide their elbow down.... whichever works for them.

Some kids do better as belly writers!  Babies do not get nearly enough belly time these days and when they come to Kindergarten it is evident!  Some kids do better with writing when they can support their core by laying on the floor.  It also forces them to keep their elbow still while manipulating their wrist.  This is perfect for a kid that likes to move their whole arm while writing.  Laying on their belly makes it impossible for them to move their whole arm.  They need to be able to support themselves up with that arm, while using their wrist to write!  Some of my kids with the best handwriting are belly writers!

Incorporate find motor skills into your learning centers.

I have some great centers that you can add to your literacy (or even math!) that will build fine motor while also building their early literacy skills!

These are some free resources that I found that I love! Click on the image to go to the link and pick up your copy.

 (scroll down)

I have these laminated on card stock. I have the students place pom poms on the circles.  The trick is, they have to use clothespins!  Each student gets a clothespin.  They use their forefinger and their thumb to squeeze the clothespin for picking up the pom pom and placing it on the circle.  This is great for building hand muscle and it reviews letters at the same time! 

Kids that do not have a lot of muscle strength or coordination will complain about this activity at first.  But they will get better at it!

Again, this is another great freebie!

Students can use a q-tip for dotting the letters with paint.  Make sure that they don't try to draw lines, because they like to cheat!!  haha

I have also used a dotted font to spell out the student's names and sight words for this activity.  I use the Hello Zipper font from Hello Literacy.  If you make it very large, it works perfectly!  You can get it for free too!

Pokey pinning is a great exercise in fine motor.  My kids each get a push pin and use it to poke through each dot on the page.  We attach our paper to a piece of construction paper. Have students lay on their belly on a carpeted area to do this activity.  When it is finished, we hang our construction paper in the window so we can see the sunlight shine through.

You can find a bunch of these on TPT!

Playdoh is great for building hand muscles!  So many kids don't know how to play with Playdoh these days!  Use playdoh mats to have  students create letters, numbers, sight words, and more!  Just rolling out the playdogh builds muscle and coordination. 

Having students string letter beads onto pipe cleaners builds motor coordination.  You can have them create their name, CVC words, sight words, and more!

Combine Letter Beads and Playdoh!

Mix some letter beads into your playdoh tub.  Have students work through the playdoh to pick out all of the letter beads. You can have them place the beads on a mat.  You can get some free mats that I made by clicking on the pages below.

I hope you have found some great ideas and resources for incorporating fine motor in your classroom!

By the way, I am now at The Primary Treehouse instead of Hanging Out in First!