PLEASE Read Aloud…Everyday!

51xst57S-NL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Today I am writing to thank author Steven Layne for speaking at the VSRA (Virginia State Reading Association) 2017 Conference.  Dr. Layne gave the general session address on Friday, March 17th.  His presentation focused around his book “In Defense of Read-Aloud.”

Read Alouds need to be a non-negotiable in classrooms.  Unfortunately, too many teachers say they do not have the time to fit a daily read aloud into their schedule.  I argue you make time for what you value.

Why should you make time?  Why should read alouds be valued?

Reading aloud fosters:

  • positive attitudes about reading
  • language development
  • comprehension (reaction to text)
  • fluency (through modeling)
  • community and empathy
  • listening skills
  • interest and exposure to different genres

In Layne’s book he cites 127 research studies and found NO RESEARCH AGAINST reading aloud!

Convinced yet?  If not, you can get a preview of the first 16 pages on Amazon to read.

Once you decide to make time for a read aloud, your next objective will be work on deciding what book(s) to read.  Dr. Layne asked us to think carefully about launching our read alouds.  Spend time building students’ background knowledge on the setting and look at the author’s website with students.  Layne says you will know the launch phase of the read aloud is over when students beg you to keep reading.

As you continue to read aloud to your students check to make sure you are reading a variety of genres.

A final thing teachers need to think about it when reading aloud is…performance.  Layne talked about 5 qualities of fluent reading:

  1. Dictation
  2. Volume
  3. Pace
  4. Tone – Quality of voice
  5. Pitch – High and low of voice

HOW you read text impacts comprehension and students need to see that demonstrated.

I know testing season is coming upon us…which makes me plead even louder to find time to read aloud.  Students need to see reading as a fun and enjoyable activity not another passage with questions.

So, make time to read aloud.  You can do it and you won’t regret it!





Fluency by Rasinski


Today was the last day of the 2017 VSRA (Virginia State Reading Association) Conference.  I am so glad I made the early trip up to Roanoke on a Saturday and spent four hours learning more about fluency from researcher Timothy Rasinski.

What did I learn about improving fluency?  It is about having FUN!

  • SING – He started both presentations with a song.  Singing is fun, cultural, aesthetic, and reading.
  • PLAY with WORDS
    • Word Ladders
    • Making Word Activities (Cunningham)
    • Practice reading the same word different ways and notice how the meaning changes.  We said “dude” as a greeting, question, like we were mad, and like we won the lottery.  This activity made me think of the story: YO! YES!
  • MODEL fluent reading
    • Stop during read alouds and say “Did you notice how I…used speed, tone, voice?”
  • Used Assisted Reading
    • Choral reading
    • Paired Reading
    • Captioned TV
    • Technology read alouds
  • Practice Reading

Why is fluency instruction important?

  • It is the bridge between word study and comprehension
  • Studies cited showed amazing results just by including songs or poetry to instruction

How often should we work on fluency?

  • 15-20 minutes a day

How could this look in the classroom:


Here is my favorite slide from the presentation:


Fluency is not about reading FAST it is about COMPREHENSION…speed will happen on its own.

He ended his presentation with this poem his mom sent him during his first year of teaching:


Here’s to great success working on FLUENCY!

I am a WINNER!


Have you heard of ARC books?  ARC stands for Advance Reader’s Copy.  I have always wanted to be one of the lucky ones to receive ARC books but finding out how to get your name on the right list can be difficult.  Before today I only had one ARC book on my shelf…this copy of Saving Mr. Terupt (that I got at the local YMCA).

Today my luck has changed!

Today I got an ARC of Christmas Puzzles Minkie Monster Saves Christmas.


The author graciously sent me an ecopy of this text (the 4th in her series) along with links to two other Minkie Monster texts: Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise and Under the Sea Puzzles:  Minkie the Monster and the Lost Treasure.

Now, ARC’s do come with strings attached.  You must promise to read the text and provide an honest review on Amazon and any other social media outlet you may belong.  Here is my review for Christmas Puzzles:

When Minkie Monster goes to the North Pole to meet Santa he finds a note that says, “Sometimes we all need some time alone I might even…turn off my phone!!!”  

With the help of a young reader Minkie fills in for Santa and saves Christmas for everyone!  Puzzles in this book become increasingly harder and include tracing, coloring, and dot-to-dot.

The author cleverly provides a link in the book so the text may be downloaded and the puzzles may be completed again and again by your favorite little reader.

Want a sneak peek of the Minkie?  Visit the author’s website to get a free children’s e-book.  Disclosure:  I received a free ecopy of this text from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Want to get your own ARC?  Here’s how I did it:


Go to:

To request books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in reviewing. At the end of the giveaway period, you will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules

Each month a new batch of books is available for you to volunteer to review.

Here is another way to get FREE books:


Go to:

To get books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in. At the end of the indicated giveaway period, winners will be randomly selected. You will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not. The flag icons indicate which countries the book can be shipped to. Authors may request that you review the book, so look for “Recipient is asked to provide a review in exchange for this book.” at the top of the book description.

To give away books: Instructions on how to give away your books are here.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules.

Good luck in getting your requests fulfilled!

If you know of another way to get ARC books let me know!

Defining Nonfiction


The beginning of the school year often begins with a discussion of the broad genres of fiction and nonfiction.  In hopes to be a better nonfiction teacher I have finally started reading this text.

Did you know…

  • that all writing was nonfiction at the beginning of time?
  • the genre of fiction was not found in print until the 1400s and was defined as “an invention of the mind.”
  • it wasn’t until 1909 that the genre nonfiction was created to classify any book as being “not fiction.”
  • teachers in grades 1-12 were asked how they define the word nonfiction and most said “informational texts.”
  • nonfiction often requires MORE background knowledge than reading fiction does.

Here is the best quote from the beginning of this text:

  • We wouldn’t argue with telling students that nonfiction texts offer information.  But when we tell students that nonfiction means true, then we have created a potential conflict for them because there is a great deal that is classified as nonfiction that happens to be inaccurate, untrue, and occasionally even deceitful. p. 16

Here are some warnings about telling students nonfiction means TRUE:

  • we excuse them from the task of deciding if the text is accurate, free of biases, or contradicts their thinking.
  • we imply that their job is simply to learn and absorb the information in the text.
  • The author is not offering the TRUTH, but one vision of the truth.

So, reading nonfiction is about challenge and change!  Readers must:

  • question the text
  • question the author
  • question their understanding
  • possibly change their views

The authors recommend this definition of nonfiction:

Nonfiction is the body of work in which the author purports to tell us about the real world, a real experience, a real person, an idea, or a belief. p. 21

What is your definition of nonfiction?  Are you willing to change it?


Having a GREAT 1st Day

first-day-of-school-frugal-coupon-living-1024x682Today was the first day of school…YAY!  It is so great to have students back in our building.

Here are some tips for a great 1st day:

Morning Meeting: Have you heard of morning meetings?  It is a great routine that helps grow a classroom community.  A complete morning meeting lasts about 20 minutes and contains 4 parts: (1) Greeting, (2) Sharing, (3) Activity, and (4) News and Announcements.

Establishing the Routine:  Great questions to ask after you have gathered students to your meeting area on the first day are:

  • Have any of you been to a meeting?
  • What kinds of meetings do you know about?
  • What happens at a meeting?
  • What do you think might happen in our meetings?
  • In order to make our meeting run well what might we have to do?

Great 1st day greeting:

  • SAY YOUR NAME – This greeting is great because everyone gets a chance to say everyone’s name and it does not include body contact which might make some students feel uncomfortable on the first day…All you do is chant:  “Say your name and when you do we will say it back to you!”
  • Great 1st Day Sharing
    • Display the following poster:IMG_1076
    • Walk around the circle and give each student a few M&Ms.  Students choose a color they would like to answer and eat any extras.  Then go around the circle and have students share their color and answer.
  • Great 1st Day Activity
    • Pass the Mask as found in the book Energizers!
    • IMG_1078Start with a discussion:
      • Who has wore a mask before?
      • What was the mask?  When did you wear it?
      • On the first day of school we can have a lot of emotions.  Some students could be scared, happy, sad…(have students show faces for each feeling)
    • Pick a face to show to the person next you and then they turn to their neighbor show them the expression you modeled…this expression then travels around the circle.  When it as returned to you then ask the students to report what emotion the face expressed?

Read Aloud:   What is a good book to read aloud on the first day?  YOUR FAVORITE!  Show that you are a reader and that reading is important by reading your favorite book to the class.  Take time to explain what makes the book special to you.  Then for homework ask students to write down the title or bring in a copy of their favorite book to share on day 2.

Turn and Talk:  Talking is such an important component to understanding.  Teaching the procedure of turn and talk is a great first day activity!  Here is a quick video I found online in case you haven’t seen this method:

Classroom Library:  In 3rd grade teachers were eager to get books in the hands of their readers.  They introduced the class library, how to choose books, how to return them, and gave students 10 minutes of independent reading.  As teachers we carefully observed student behaviors and stamina during this time and took notes (Who was reading aloud?  Who was pointing?  Who was looking around and how long were they engaged before this happened?  Who kept reading after time was called?)

Reader’s Notebooks:  Today in 5th grade we introduce our Reader’s Notebooks and idea that Reading is Thinking as modeled here.  We modeled this by randomly pulling a book out of the class library and reading the first page (our reading voice).  When the page was finished a student just automatically made a comment about the text (his thinking voice).  We wrote his and several others thoughts down on the board to demonstrate the variety of thoughts that can be had.  We also talked about the distracting voice.  Students then glued this completed Reading is Thinking graphic in the front of their notebooks:




Levels are for Teachers NOT Students


Yesterday I saw two former students excited to share with me their middle school lives and all their improvements they have notice they are making as learners.  When it came to talking about reading  I was surprised that they did not talk to me about genres, book titles, or favorite characters…they told me their Lexile levels.  When I asked them about a favorite text they had read recently the conversation stopped.  Then one of the students said “I read a chapter book.”

Now, when any student tells me “I like to read chapter books” or “I read a chapter book” a red alarm goes off telling me this reader is either not reading and trying to impress me or is putting their focus on the wrong things (volume and pride over story and knowledge).

I strongly believe levels are for teachers, not students.  Here are some of my favorite articles recently published on sharing levels with students:

A Kid is Not an “H” by Kylene Beers

Text Levels Tools or Trouble by Irene Fountas

More on Text Levels: Confronting the Issuse by Irene Fountas

Guess My Lexile by Donalyn Miller

Rejecting Instructional Level Theory by Timothy Shanahan

Further Explanation of Teach Students with Challenging Text by Timothy Shanahan

The Slow Path Forward: We Can–An Do–Learn from Reading Research by Timothy Shanahan

Reading and Lexile levels are flawed assessments.  They provide a snapshot into behaviors a reader both demonstrates and neglects.  This school year let’s talk to our readers and their parents about reading BEHAVIORS and not levels and numbers.  This will help everyone focus on what really matters.

Day with Donalyn


The focus of the second day of the Longwood University Summer Institute was teacher, author, and now Scholastic representative Donalyn Miller.  In the morning she held a three-hour workshop for all participants and in the afternoon she offered a shorter presentation on conferring.

Donalyn’s morning presentation was titled: Voice and Choice: Fostering Reading Ownership.  Her goal was to communicate the importance of providing students with choice independent reading time in classrooms.  She sprinkled her presentation with photos and stories from her classroom along with research.  Here are some highlights:

  • There is over 60 years of research on the effectiveness of Independent Reading.  She even wrote a piece titled I Got Research Yes I Do for teachers to read and use to support this practice in their classroom.
  • She talked about the importance of creating INDEPENDENT readers (who find joy and are engaged in reading) and not dependent readers (who wait to be assigned a book by a teacher).
  • Giving students CHOICE in what they read is important.  People who lose their choice become disempowered.  In self-selecting books students increase their decision-making ability.
  • Classroom libraries are important.  Classroom libraries should contain between 300 and 2,000 books.  Teachers should get rid of books that are MUSTIE — Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, Irrelevant, and Elsewhere.  When we discard books remember to give them to kids…not the garbage
  • Test prep does not increase test performance or reading achievement.
  • We punish children when we give rewards for reading…”Reading is so awful you need a prize to do it.” 😦
  • #1 way to determine what to read next…ask Reading Friends.  Allowing students time to talk about their books empowers them.
  • When a child struggles with finding a book give them a Preview Stack = 4 or 5 books you think they might like for them to CHOOSE from.
  • Read alouds are important to have in every classroom.  Keep track of the books read aloud by posting the titles in the room under “Texts We’ve Shared.”
  • Motivation, Background Knowledge, and Reading Level all play roles in students finding success with reading a text.  Background knowledge makes up 70% of success.

Much of Donalyn’s presentation revisited her ideas in Reading in the Wild.  After lunch Donalyn spoke about conferring.  Her Powerpoint for this presentation (and many of her other presentations) can be viewed on SlideShare.  This one has the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on it.  Here are some big ideas about conferring:

  • Conferences are about the reader not the book.
  • Great way to start a conference is by asking, “How’s It Going?”  Then the child can guide us to where to go next.
  • There are 3 types of conferences:
    1. Content/Standards Based
    2. Comprehension
    3. Reading Habits
  • To begin the year she completes a reading essentials survey on with each student (see slideshare)
  • Everyone leaves a conference with a goal to work on (teacher and student)
  • Evernote is a great free app to help record data.

After Donalyn spoke I had her sign my #bookaday text since I only own her two books in audio form.

It was wonderful to hear Donalyn speak in person.  We hold the same philosophy on reading instruction.  I thank her for trekking to Virginia for this conference.  She had many travel problems as she describes in this Blog post.  If you are not already a subscriber to The Nerdy Book Club click on that link and subscribe now!

Want to learn more about conferring?  Check out Three Teachers Talk repost from yesterday…it is so good!