What would Summer do?

The We Read, You Read Podcast – Episode 3

Well, I’m a pretty terrible blogger. I just always would rather read than blog. But here I am again, and I’ll try to post this every week. Maybe it will bring me back into the blogging fold.

My son and I started a podcast. We got the idea from the book Maker Dad, by Mark Frauenfelder. It was pretty simple, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Here is a link for episode 3. The embed doesn’t seem to work on WordPress. You can find the first two episodes at wereadyouread.podomatic.com.

#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild–Ch. 3-4

I’m sneaking this out Sunday night, before I head out for camping and backpacking this week, and scheduling it for a Wednesday post. It will tweet, and when I get back, I will comment/post a link on Ruminate and Invigorate, host of this week’s discussion (Thanks, Laura!). If you happen to find it before then, good on you!

After reading through a handful of posts last week, I found myself thinking more about mini-lesson topics as I read this week’s chapters. It’s interesting to see how others’ responses to a shared reading experience can influence future thinking. Oh, wait–reader influence is part of Chapter 3! Whoa. Meta.

In Ch. 3, I was indeed particularly struck by the section on reader influence. I plan to add a mini-lesson on this to my queue. I also took careful note of “What schools should do if they want kids reading more” on p. 95-96. I feel that the reading culture at my school is too locked down and restrictive (not in my class, but overall). The more fodder for pushing a shift, the better.

And the conferring section. Ack! My life! Last year was particularly difficult, since my students were terrible independent workers/readers–independent reading time was just one big management battle. Things will be better this year, but I still anticipate a struggle to confer with every student in a reasonably acceptable time frame. I took to heart Donalyn’s thoughts about my purpose and goals for conferring. I’m hoping to focus things a bit to increase the value of that one-on-one time.

really liked the section in Ch. 4 about challenge and commitment goals. I am pretty bad at revisiting goals, so this type of thing has always sort of sputtered in my classroom. However, I started thinking about using goals and plans as a way of almost turning over the “assigning” of reading to the students. They can assign themselves their reading. I can check in via conferences and reading responses. It’s an intriguing idea, and one I want to explore further.

Here’s a little bit of my personal canon to finish things off:

  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
  • Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling
  • Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
  • Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola
  • Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • The River Why, by David James Duncan

Talk to you next week!

#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild–Ch. 1-2

I’ve been gone from the blog for a long, long time. Sorry. It was an excruciating year (see my “View from Saturday” reflections), and I just couldn’t do it. Plus, I always have this blogging-when-I-could-be-reading thing going.

I was excited to see Reading in the Wild as the #cyberPD selection for the summer. I had planned to read it anyway, so I’m glad to have a little community to read it with.

Most of these reflections, I think, will be in the context of adapting and adjusting our new reading curriculum, Wonders, into a workable workshop model, and how to shift the purpose from “pass the Smarter Balanced test” (the clear purpose of the curriculum) to “creating lifelong, wild readers” (my clear purpose). I haven’t started really digging into Wonders yet, so maybe the later reflections will refer to that more.

This first reflection is hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine. Head over there and take a look at all the other initial reflections.

Chapter One, about dedicating time to read, gave me a whole slew of ideas that I’ll be incorporating this year. Some were as small as a tip I’ll give students: “When I ask you to read 30 minutes a night, it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes straight. It can be 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, like that.” It’s a simple thing, and has always been true, but I’ve never explicitly explained that to students before.

I’m also looking forward to adding the “Status of the Class” feature to our reading days.

And always, some of the ideas get me revising and refining my practice. I’ve done Reading Response letters for several years, but it is often a drag to get everyone to do them, and a drag to hand write my responses. This year, I’ll have seven Chromebooks that I got on DonorsChoose, and I’m hoping to make these responses all electronic. Hopefully more students will do them without my prodding, and I can write a much faster response. Connected to this, I’m looking forward to shifting the Readers Notebook to a personal work space, and not lugging them home each week.

The rule of thirds idea is the one that’s giving me the most pause. I’m really nervous about how I’ll be able to adapt Wonders to work in this type of schedule. I also worry a lot about getting enough writing in. I feel the pressure of CCSS and Smarter Balanced, and I know my students are not nearly the writers they need to be. How do I fit this all together? Last year, I tried to do a full reading workshop and a full writing workshop every day. I had a tough group of students, but it would have been a challenge regardless. Shifting to more reading or writing focused units could be a stress reliever and a time saver, but I worry that my students won’t make the significant growth that they need to, in order to contend with CCSS.

Chapter Two, about self-selecting texts, will always be important in my classroom. My school uses AR, and the librarians make requirements about check outs and reading at ZPD levels. However, I pretty much ignore this and let students read what they want and check out what they want. I do look at AR levels and the levels of books students are reading, but I make no requirements about it.

The main piece that I took away from Ch. 2 was that I want to insert more variety of shorter and longer texts into my read aloud. I usually read one nonfiction read aloud each year. I’d like to increase that (as well as the total number of read alouds–time and my talkative students severely impacted our read aloud time). I plan to try to feature Wonderopolis and other short texts on a more regular basis. But, of course, time. How does this fit into the rule of thirds? Can I get five-thirds for literacy this year?

I’m glad you’re with me.

It’s Monday, December 16! What are you reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (2008 days) and The Iza (1253 days). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Got this one in at the wire. At the expense of tree-side reading, unfortunately. I’m gonna bust this out quick!

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during the last week:

Middle Grade:

I finished two middle grade novels.

  • Each Little Bird that Sings, by Deborah Wiles. A nice story about funerals and death. The holiday season helped me notice the carol connection to the names: “O tidings of comfort and joy.” I listened to the audiobook.

Picture Books:

I  read nine new picture books. Here are my favorite three:

  • Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet. So fun. A little tricky for large group read aloud.
  • Mr. Wuffles, by David Wiesner. The Corbchops and I had fun guessing what the aliens were saying.
  • The Bear’s Song, by Benjamin Chaud. It’s French.


I don’t read enough poetry, but I read one short collection last week.


I read three informational books.

  • The Tree Lady, by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry. Nonfiction picture books are the perfect way to learn about something you had no knowledge of.
  • Frog Song, by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Gennady Spirin. The craziest frogs were the one that had froglets break through its back skin and the one who stored the tadpoles in its throat sac for seven weeks and then just let them hop out of its mouth. What.
  • The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees, by Sandra Markle. Another good scientific mystery by the author of The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs.


Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

Wake Up Missing, by Kate Messner


What are you reading?

The View from Two Days Ago, Which Was Saturday #14

Well, that one slipped away from me. Just some quick reflections here.

Though many in my class are still infuriatingly inattentive and jabbery, I saw signs that students are learning and growing. In Writing Workshop, we’ve started our unit on opinion. I kicked things off with a little pep talk about work. That workshop depends on them listening, thinking, sharing, and trying things out. When I give them a strategy and say, “Today, try this in your writing,” then I mean actually try it in your writing. Some of them are starting to get it.

I really liked the prediction work we did in Reading Workshop last week. One, it allowed me to expand our paltry 10 minute read aloud slot into our Reading minilesson. And two, students seemed pretty engaged with envisioning and jotting predictions at different points. Most students, at least. There are a few I need to talk to…

This week is disrupted and disjointed, with a tour of our new school, a holiday concert, and assorted other distractions. I’m looking forward to a longer reflection time during my sixteen days away from fourth graders.

I’m glad you’re with me.

It’s Monday, December 9! What are you reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (2001 days) and The Iza (1246 days). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Sorry, I missed you last week. You know how it is. But I did get to read.

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during the last two weeks:

Middle Grade:

I finished two middle grade novels.

  • P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia. A great sequel to One Crazy Summer. I enjoyed the strong connections to time and place.
  • Finally, by Wendy Mass. The Willow Falls books always start really slow for me, but the end up good by the end. I listened to the audiobook.

Picture Books:

I  read five new picture books. Here are my favorite three:

  • I’m a Frog, by Mo Willems. I got this for a Christmas present, but I had to read it early. Because Mo Willems is the king of everything.
  • Rosie’s Magic Horse, by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake. Just weird fun.
  • Little Santa, by Jon Agee. Such a clever idea.

Graphic Novels:

I read three graphic novels and one comic strip collection. I love graphic novels!

  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, by Ryan North, Brandon Lamb, and Shelli Paroline. I’ve never seen Adventure Time, but my students like it. The comic was OK.
  • Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, by George O’Connor. I love this series. Olympians dress a little skimpy, though. I don’t mind, but 4th grade boys are…well…you know.
  • Dogs of War, by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox. A good companion for Kirby Larson’s Duke and Dorothy Hinshaw Patent’s Dogs on Duty.
  • Darth Vader and Son, by Jeffrey Brown. More a comic strip collection. But pretty funny.


I read one informational book.

  • Ben Franklin’s Almanac, by Candace Fleming. I reread this for my Guys Read book club. But then no one showed up. So. Sigh.


Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees, by Sandra Markle.

And I have 26 books to pick up from the library tonight.


What are you reading?

The View from Saturday #13

Warning: Just a bunch of sad mope-iness today.

Maybe thirteen is unlucky.

It was  a hard week. One of the hardest. Shouldn’t the hardest be in September/October, and not December? I don’t even really want to write about it. I just want to pretend it didn’t happen.

Not because of Reading and Writing Workshop. Just because of…students. Or, really, because of me, and my inability to motivate/tolerate/manage/help those…students. How do we get to December with these same problems? What am I doing wrong, and how can I make it right? How can I help students see the impact of their choices, and want to change to make them more positive?





I know why new teachers leave.

But I’m not a new teacher.

Next week is a new week.

I’m so, so glad you’re with me. I couldn’t make it through this without you.

Also, if it’s going to be this cold, can’t we have some snow?

The View from Saturday #12

We managed pajama readathon.

We finished our narrative unit and will start opinon/argument on Monday.

We will resume our character unit in Reading Workshop on Monday.

A four-day weekend is a great, great thing.

‘Nuff said.

I’m glad you’re with me.

Leaving your mark

A little story for you, for this happy Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago, I was forced to send the following email:

I think I might have left my bookmark in The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, when I returned it to Barkley on Friday. A bookmark is a bookmark, but I’ve had this one for about 23 years! Any chance it could be tracked down or folks could keep an eye out for it? It is made of three Antigua stamps featuring Mickey Mouse, Granny Duck, and Huey, Duey, and Louie. I would love to get it back! Also, hello Bethany if you are reading this.

Sure. A bookmark. Big deal.

But it was.

I remember buying that bookmark. I have a frustratingly poor memory when it comes my childhood, but I remember this moment clearly. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade. We were in my childhood independent bookstore, Eagle Harbor Books. I don’t remember what books we bought that day, but I do remember the small basket of homemade bookmarks on the checkout counter. I flipped through them as my mom was paying for books. I discovered the triple-stamp, Disney-themed Antigua postage. Whoever made it had the clever idea to take the stamps and laminate them. Simple, but such a nice idea for a bookmark. I’ve since used that idea to make several bookmarks of my own out of expired membership cards, European paper money, and more.

Anyway. I instantly wanted this bookmark. I begged my mom for it. I don’t know how much it cost, but I came home with it.

The bookmark’s journey for the next many years is fuzzy. It seems likely that I used it for many books, but I do not specifically remember placing it between any middle grade pages during those middle grade years.

So, fast-forward. It may have been college. It may have been shortly after. In any case, I rediscovered this bookmark, probably in a box at my parents’ house. I instantly recognized it, snatched it up, and I came home with it.

For the first nine years of my teaching career, I read some. Not a lot. But I had my Guys Read Club, and I would go through little phases of reading a lot. Back then, I read grown-up books, sometimes. I remember using a variety of bookmarks, including Antigua-Disney.

Then, three years ago, I discovered Twitter, then walked into the clubhouse when #nerdybookclub started, and started reading like a crazy person. I abandoned the pretension and word count of grown-up books and dug deeply into my true love, children’s literature.

With me through every book was that bookmark. Think about it. That’s hundreds of books. Thousands of pages. Millions of words. Not to mention the emotions and thoughts and worries and cares of me, the reader.

So it was a big deal. I got choked up thinking about losing this bookmark. Over three stamps and a plastic coating! Real tears! Real heartache! It had been with me for more than twenty years. It faithfully held my place in hundreds of books. Many of us have books that have touched us, that stay with us, that we hold in our hearts. We feel like those books are a part of us–and they are. They helped shape us. Does a small, flat, rectangular object have powers of its own?

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that the relationship between a reader and his twenty year-old bookmark is something more intimate, deeper than it might seem. That bookmark sat between the pages–pages that I turned with my own fingers, held with my own hands–of nearly every book I’ve read in the last five years, and probably a few hundred in the more than fifteen years before that. There is little so stable and steadfast in one’s life.

I got this email:


Haven’t seen your bookmark here at Barkley, but will let you know if it turns up. It’s a drag to lose something you’ve cherished a long time!


So, I was sad. How many things do you have and have used constantly, continuously, for more than twenty years? How many people do you interact with, every day, for more than twenty years straight?

I was sad. Because I figured my bookmark was gone. I figured whatever kid–I hoped it would be a kid–decided to give Kathi Applet’s newest a try would find it, claim it, and keep it. I hoped she would use it well. Maybe it would be his reading companion for the next twenty years. Maybe it would leave a mark on her reading life–her whole life!–like it did on mine.

And then I received one more email:

Hello Adam,

That bookmark has been located! You may pick it up at the adult circulation desk at the Central Library. It is in our lost and found filebox under your name. I’ll pass your greeting on to Bethany!




And so I went to the Central Branch, to recover what was lost. To pick up my old friend, who knows me more than many, knows what I like and what I despise, who I admire and who I envy, my secret crushes and hated nemeses, who has heard me laugh and seen me cry, and who always, always, waited so patiently for me to return, who saved my spot for me, in my reading life. In my life.

And I came home with it.


It’s Monday, November 25! What are you reading?

“It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (1987 days) and The Iza (1232 days). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

On Friday, the Corbchops brought home a reading challenge. Some sort of prize for students when they have read 50, 100, and 150 days. Which, of course, means that he will be getting a prize 50 days from now. It reminded me of summer reading programs that “challenge” kids to read 15 hours, or two books, or whatever. Active readers do that in less than a week.

And the sad part is, of course, that the kids who don’t read will either (a) not bother, or (b) just fill in the log anyway (do you think they’d try to turn it in before 50 days have passed?). Some might be motivated, but 50 days of reading is a daunting number for students who hardly read at all.

To build readers, you have to build readers. Handing them a challenge without support doesn’t do much.

Anyway, we read every day at my house. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during the last week:

Middle Grade:

I finished one middle grade novel last week.

  • The Truth of Me, by Patricia MacLachlan. Nobody writes short and sweet like Patricia M.

Picture Books:

I  read three new picture books last week.

  • Alphabet Birds, by Philip Terzian. The author gave out this book to trick-or-treaters. :^)
  • This Is the Rope, by Jacqueline Woodson and James Ransome. Nice story of a simple, but valuable, family heirloom.
  • Dot., by Randi Zuckerberg and Joe Berger. Funny that a former Facebook executive wrote this. Must have inspired her.

Graphic Novels:

I read one graphic novel last week. I love graphic novels!


Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia


What are you reading?