The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

Welcome to The Book Fort! Vol. 1 Issue 12

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

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Week Twelve: Be an Inspiration

“The great teachers fill you with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life.” Pat Conroy’s line from My Losing Season opens the Introduction to Jim Burke’s 3rd Edition of The English Teacher’s Companion (2008) and it perfectly captures the reason I became a teacher myself. I was inspired by some of the best educators, no matter their tenure or content area expertise. I was lifted up instead of tolerated. I was an integral part of their classrooms, and I felt as if I was important to their lives, too.


It is because of this inspiration that I returned to an old friend for this week’s edition. Don’t be put off if you’re not an English teacher; this text transcends content area and reminds us that we are all, indeed, English teachers in a way because we are all responsible for furthering our students’ abilities to communicate effectively. I hope that you’ll find these practical applications useful and apt reminders that you, too, can be the inspiration for students by assisting them in reaching academic goals they never thought possible. Sometimes all it takes is a little care and a few new tricks.


Burke, Jim. The English teacher's companion: a complete guide to classroom, curriculum, and the profession. 3rd ed., Heinemann, 2008.

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Practical Applications

Strategies to Improve Reading Skills

Burke categorizes the reading students do into three types: reading they “have to do” because it is required for school, “get to do” because it is interesting, but still tied to school, and “need to do” because it is integral to who they are as human beings. The most important thing, he says, is to be model readers, “If students don’t see us reading, don’t hear us talking about what we are reading, then we run the risk of losing credibility” (98). To help them navigate all of this reading, Burke suggests several simple strategies and shares instructional tools to assist you with implementation. Examples are below.

The Components of an Effective Writing Program

Burke reminds us in Chapter 7 that “writing is the heart of the English class” (151), but I would argue that it should be the heart of any class (along with reading of course!). If writing became the centerpiece of every class, students would only benefit. Burke shares components of an effective writing program in this chapter which are featured below.

Vocabulary Development Strategies

While Burke is careful to add the caveat that no single approach to vocabulary development is a silver bullet and that students learn words in all manner of ways, he does give a comprehensive list of suggestions in Chapter 5. Burke reminds us that the more students read, the more words they learn (118). Some of his specific strategies ideas are listed below.

Classroom Tool of the Week

Padlet

Padlet is such a fun and easy way to collaborate for any purpose, but especially for educators and students. Think of this tool as a digital pin board to create project displays, to work with peers, and to present finished products. There are specific versions for schools that include extra security and management tools and even LMS integration options. Check it out today! @padlet
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Sevenzo

Sevenzo is a unique organization that connects educators across the globe. MeMe Ratliff, a colleague and friend from Kentucky, is deeply involved and she says, “They seem different than any eduorg I’ve worked with before. They aren't really ‘out for anything’ so to speak. I really think they just want to connect folks and their #caringclassroom campaign speaks to me. It’s so simple yet so important.” Sounds like a winner to me!
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What Kids are Reading

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