The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 16

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Week Sixteen: The Reading & Writing Connection

At the conclusion one of my doctoral electives, Reading and Writing Connection in English, I happened upon one of the professional books I treasured most in graduate school (the first time around). I realized upon reading the text and all of my margin notes once again that Nancy Stenieke truly shaped my teaching practices from the very first day I set foot in the classroom as a student teacher. She is the reason, in addition to some STELLAR professors in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, that I implemented self-selected independent reading with such passion.

This week, I have pulled three literacy strategies from Steineke’s 2002 book, Reading and Writing Together: Collaborative Literacy in Action. Each can be implemented in support of an independent reading program, for whole class reads, or for literature circles at any grade level. I hope that you find them useful and if you don’t have this book, I recommend it highly.

Steineke, N. (2002). Reading and writing together: Collaborative literacy in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Download a sample of the text here.
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Practical Applications

Reading Strategy: Appointment Clocks & Partner Grids

One of the main points Steineke makes throughout her book is that students need to hear adults and peers talking about what they read frequently. A literacy community must be built in order to foster growth in reading, writing, and communication skills. My favorite strategy for continuing communication about reading between students and potentially teachers is the Partner Grid and Appointment Clock (41), featured below. Think of an old-fashioned dance card; this strategy is along the same lines.

Readers write names of classmates on the appointment clocks and keep this handy in class. These names should be swapped out, depending upon the size of your class, every so often, and can include the teacher(s) as well. When it is time to discuss books, the students work their way through their clocks and record their discussions on the Partner Grids.

The Partner Grid serves as a record of topics discussed. This can be used for any discussions on any type of text and can also assist students in choosing new books when it is time to do so. What a fantastic way to build excitement about new topics and books in the classroom!

Writing Strategy: Processing Letter

One way to encourage students to write honestly about their learning is the Processing Letter (66-67). While Steineke suggests this as an individual reflection after long-term group work, this can also be used for self-assessment after reading any text, whether that is whole class, small group, or self-selected. The idea behind this assignment is for students to take time to process before and after they read, to actively reflect, so that metacognition has time to take root and flourish. John Hattie tells us that this is a high-impact strategy as well in more recent literacy studies.

Below there are sample questions or tasks for processing after group work that can be adapted to fit individual learning experiences as well. Students should address some questions from each category in their letters to you. In addition, a sample letter is provided. Bonus: you can teach the seemingly forgotten friendly letter format, too.

Speaking & Listening Strategy: Passage Speech

To encourage the development of speaking and listening skills, and to formally assess student progress in reading, Steineke suggests the Passage Speech (54). Essentially, students choose a passage from their reading up to a predetermined point (say, end of the six weeks) and present it to the class using the criteria below. This creates more conversation about books, emphasizes the importance of presentation and listening skills, and allows you to assess students in many ways. You will want to model this by choosing engaging passages from books that students can choose to read in class (or on their own of course), and provide very specific criteria for the presentations that ties into the standards or skills you are assessing. Students can evaluate their peers (each student must review at least two presentations) as well. Samples from Chapter 3 are shown below (44-45).
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Classroom Tool of the Week


If you haven't checked out Buncee yet, you are missing out! This tool combines the features of many other similar platforms like HaikuDeck, Google Slides, and Prezi and makes creating interactive presentations fun, safe, and easy for students and teachers. There are various versions, but you can try it today for free!

Check out my first Buncee here and follow them @Buncee for a stream of new ideas.

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Smithsonian Learning Lab

Wish you could visit the Smithsonian and explore its wonders? It's your lucky day! The Smithsonian Learning Lab has made this possible without even leaving your classroom. Check out the videos on the website for how this resource can be used to supplement inquiry-based instruction and to incorporate technology in meaningful ways. Follow them today @SmithsonianLab

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#NCTE17 Recommended Reads

Since visiting the exhibit hall at #NCTE17, I continue to go through all of the books I bought and received from generous publisher giveaways. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be promoting amazing books that students might like and I will be giving away some in exchange for student reviews. Stay tuned!
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Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!