The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 15

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!

Missed previous issues? Find them below:

Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4 Issue 5 Issue 6 Issue 7 Issue 8 Issue 9 Issue 10 Issue 11

Issue 12 Issue 13 Issue14

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Week Fifteen: Strategies that Work

The Thanksgiving Holiday is always a welcome break for educators and their families. The food, the sales, the decorating...and then Sunday hits and you realize that the craziest stretch of the school year is about to begin. As such, I wanted to be sure that this week's Book Fort would provide more practical strategies than food-for-thought.

Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis have published several versions of Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding starting in 2000 and each edition has brought useful information that spans the content areas. This week, the strategies featured come to you from the first edition (2000) and I hope they help you scaffold literacy skills in smart ways.

Harvey, Stephanie, and Anne Goudvis. Strategies that work: teaching comprehension to enhance understanding. Stenhouse Publishers, 2000.

Follow Stephanie Harvey @Stephharvey49 and Anne Goudvis @annegoudvis They are often in excellent Twitter chats.

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Practical Applications

Reading Strategy: Building a Literate Community

Those who know me personally, have attended my workshops, or have read The Book Fort regularly know that I advocate for building a classroom community with the "just right" conditions for learning. If we don't do that, we can expect little growth from our students or ourselves. Once this safe, challenging environment is established in your classroom, the next step is taking steps to scaffold literacy skills development. In Chapter 3, Harvey and Goudvis suggest the following six steps for building a literate community (29 - 30):

  • Immersion of print in every genre: call on your Library Media Center and your colleagues if needed to provide a print-rich environment for learners and diversify the topics, styles, forms, and genre of the texts as much as possible.
  • Large block of time for extended reading and writing: protecting and providing this time regularly will pay off; we only get better by practicing!
  • Explicit instruction in reading strategies: make the mental processes your go through when you read visible and explicit for students; demonstrate various types of strategies so each student has the opportunity to find the ones that work best for them when they are on their own.
  • Opportunities for readers to read and practice strategies in self-selected text that they are able to read (#AMEN): if practice makes perfect, students must have time to practice! Students will rarely employ the reading strategies that you teach them when they are on their own if they haven't had time to practice with engaging text of their choice.
  • Continuing opportunities for teacher and peer response: conferences help clarify understanding and give teachers and students alike the chance to recognize areas for improvement. This is individualized instruction at its finest!
  • Accessible resources: digital and print text are not the only resources we need to provide students to build a literate community; sticky notes, highlighters, chart paper, bookmarks, storage space dedicated to books...all of these things and more can help students find what works for them and minimize excuses. Check out Donors Choose and Half-Price Books for some grant and donation opportunities!

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Writing Strategy: Reading like a Writer

Originally intended for elementary grades, the three-column strategy to read like a writer is transferable to every grade level, content area, and text type. Students think like writers by considering the content of the text they are reading, the writing processes used to write the text, and the writer's craft. Students could easily transform this note-taking into a longer response or essay to demonstrate understanding and analysis of text. An example from 4th grade is shown below from Chapter 10 (163-164).
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Grammar Resource: Caught Ya!

If you haven't checked out Caught Ya! Grammar with a Giggle, you are missing out! This text is an excellent resource to amp up the sentence-a-day approach to teaching grammar, mechanics, and usage in a fun (and funny) way that appeals to all students, grades 3 - 12. There are multiple versions of the text for various grade levels and an endless supply of laughter. Bonus: using this approach has proven quite effective at assisting students with improvement on the mechanics portions of standardized assessments! #WINNING

Because I love this text so much, I am giving one away this week. Enter to win Giggles in the Middle, pictured below, by filling out this form:

Enter to win by Friday, December 1, 2017 @ 9 am EST. The winner will be chosen randomly and notified by day's end via email on 12/1/17.

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Classroom Tool of the Week


The educational tool I use most often is Smore, the interactive, digital flyer creator. There are free and paid options (I use the paid for The Book Fort) and many choices for design and sharing. Students can also use this to publish newsletters, projects, blogs, and anything they can dream up. The possibilities are endless! Follow them @smorepages for new ideas.
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Because I worked for and with amazing people in Louisville, KY at the school and district level, I had the opportunity to spend one whole day learning about mindfulness and how it can positively impact schools when implemented as a regular practice. One day was not nearly enough; I need a full retreat and so do all educators! Check out the basics at this link and get all kinds of ideas about implementation on Twitter #mindfulness.

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#NCTE17 Recommended Reads

Since visiting the exhibit hall at #NCTE17, I have had the week 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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