The Book Fort
Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation
Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 3
Missed Vol. 1 Issue 2? Find it here.
Week Three: Building a Culture of Literacy
While searching for research, I came across many blogs and article written by practicing teachers, literacy specialists, and/or writers that support the use of book talks to foster a love for reading and to build a positive classroom culture in general. Even if there is no quantitative research (at least that I have uncovered so far) to support this practice, qualitative accounts, both formal and informal, support book talks as essential to the continuing success of literacy instruction at all grade levels.
The instructional activities that follow are from practicing teachers that are constantly conducting action research to improve literacy instruction and achievement in their schools.
Norris, Lauren. "Using Booktalks to Create a Community of Readers." The Educators Room. 17 Sept. 2013. Web.
Reading Strategy: Book Talks
- What: a short, engaging "ad" for a book that may include a short passage or overview of the main characters, main idea, and/or plot elements (think movie trailer for a book)
- Why: promotes independent reading and cultivates interest in literacy
- When: regularly; once a month minimum is suggested
- Who: students, teachers, administrators, support staff, community members...EVERYONE!
- How: check out these book talks at Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, KY, gathered by English teacher and Writing Project Fellow, Maegan Woodlee, on her blog.
Book talks can be done digitally, also. Check out the video below from Teacher Tube.
Writing Strategy: Big Idea Journals
A successful way to incorporate writing about theme into regular independent reading practice is The Big Idea Journal. Originally suggested to me as a young teacher at a Louisville Writing Project Mini-Conference by a middle school teacher, this simple practice pushes students to make connections between their chosen independent reading texts and universal thematic ideas or motifs. Aretha Whaley, Writing Project Fellow at Louisville Male High School uses these and is seeing positive results in student writing and discussion. Here is the gist:
What: composition notebooks labeled with a wide variety of thematic ideas and/or motifs such as love, greed, justice, poverty, etc.; generally kept in a central location in the classroom in crates.
Who: students and teachers
When: regularly; once per two weeks minimum is recommended by Ms. Whaley, who operates on a block schedule (90 minute A/B blocks)
Why: to assist students in making deeper connections between reading and bigger ideas
Grammar Strategy: Sentence of the Week
Here is a suggested one week progression, after choosing the sentence:
- Monday: students record the sentence in a specific place set aside for this purpose, such as a literacy notebook and parse it into the parts of speech.
- Tuesday: students make an inference/prediction about characters, setting, topic, theme, etc. about the larger text from which the sentence came.
- Wednesday: students closely examine any punctuation involved and experiment with changing the punctuation; the focus can be on the effect the changes have on the sentence for meaning, style, readability, etc.
- Thursday: students consider the word choice in the sentence and experiment with substituting words in place of those existing; the focus can be on the effect the changes have on the sentence for meaning, style, readability, etc.
- Friday: students imitate the sentence to reflect the content in their own independent reading books as a quick formative assessment.
This idea comes originally from Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing through Modeling and Mentor Texts (2011).
One such use is to feature a Reader of the Week on Twitter. Maegan Woodlee did this at Marion C. Moore School last year and plans to do it this year to continually celebrate the hard work students are putting in to become more proficient readers. This small thing has drawn positive attention to students that may never be recognized otherwise and for an academic purpose. Another great way to extend this is to tag the authors of student books in the posts. They will often respond! #winning
What Kids are Reading
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Steelheart series is flying off the middle school library shelves. Ramsey Middle School's 8th grader Dallas H. loved the supernatural powers that characters received after a major calamity hit. This series is perfect for readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic stories.
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Ms. Woodlee's student Kenneth (Marion C. Moore School) just finished Crescendo and is already halfway through the next book, Silence! This series, Hush, Hush, is complete with guardian angels, arch-enemies, and complicated relationships.