The Book Fort
Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation
Welcome to The Book Fort!
Week One: Cognitive Strategies Approach
Reading and writing tend to be taught in isolation; in many primary and middle grades classrooms they are even separate classes. Research suggests, however, that they are "essentially similar processes of meaning construction" and proficient readers and writers "share a surprising number of common characteristics" (Olson, 16). As such, we are missing an opportunity to foster better reading and writing skills if we do not teach them together, alongside one another, instead of in isolation. Good readers write often and good writers read well.
The Cognitive Strategies approach from Olson hinges on the explicit teaching of reading strategies, which includes writing about reading frequently. Proficient readers and writers have the following shared characteristics (Olson, 16):
- Actively construct meaning from and with texts
- Go back to go forward in a recursive process
- Interact and negotiate with each other
- Access a common "tool kit" of common strategies
- Use skills automatically
- Are motivated and self-confident
We want all of these things for our students; this text outlines how we can be more intentional about assisting students who may struggle significantly, to exemplify these characteristics.
Olson, C. B. (2011). The reading/writing connection: strategies for teaching and learning in the secondary classroom. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Reading Strategy: Planning and Goal-Setting
- Planning and Goal-Setting: Provide opportunities for students to set realistic and personalized goals for reading and writing, including word written, pages read, and levels of proficiency, whether that be in Lexile of text, holistic score, or some other pre-determined measure. Make these goals visible and give students time to track their progress, reflecting often on how they are working toward the goals they set for themselves.
This is the perfect time of year to work with students on goal-setting. Remember: explicitly modeling what we expect to see from students produces better results. John Hattie makes this clear in Visible Learning for Literacy Grades K - 12 (2016). If they cannot see the target, how can they hit it?
**More strategies from this list will be featured in the upcoming weeks.**
Writing Strategy: Tapping Prior Knowledge
Bonus: This is a strategy that works across the curriculum and could be shared with your colleagues in an effort to unify the literacy instruction at your schools.
Grammar Strategy: Hunting
Classroom Tool of the Week
Book Storage: The Hanging Shoe Organizer
What Kids are Reading
Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson
Great for upper elementary and middle grades boys, this bestseller does not disappoint. Readers will be giggling and turning pages as they enter the goofy world of 7th grade with these two. Check it out here.
The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
Spinelli has done it again with a middle grades book about a 13-year-old girl nicknamed Cannonball who lives with her father, who happens to be the warden at the local prison. Check it out here.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Be prepared to rage, to cry, and to understand a side you may not have considered with this one. This is a young adult book (high school) about an officer involved shooting that will turn you upside down and inside out. Check it out here.