Literally Speaking

Middle School Literacy Newsletter


Keeping a Summer Reading Journal

It is summer. We all want to be outside at the beach, kicking back in a hammock, watching a baseball game--definitely something other than doing school work--especially schoolwork that isn't due until September.

Well, all that being said, students still have a book talk due. If students choose to get their summer reading done early in the summer that is great. But how will they remember what they need to discuss come September? A great way to do so is to keep a journal--like they kept in school. But, now, students can write about what they want to write about.


The great thing about reading journals is that students can really make them their own. Suggest these ideas to students to make keeping a summer reading journal more enjoyable

1. Decorate the journal--pictures, drawings, glitter, etc

2. Students should consider keeping track of the N&N Signposts

3. Vocabulary & Figurative Language

4. Quotes & Questions

5. Graphics--T-Charts, Webs, Heart Maps, Thought Bubbles, Mind Maps, etc

6. Pictures & Drawings

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In order to establish a culture of reading in our schools, we all have to be visible readers. Everyone. From the administrative offices to the library to the classrooms to the lunch room to the locker room, we have to become one big team with one very explicit mission: to prove to students that when it comes to reading, we?re all in this together. We're totally and fully and happily in cahoots with each other. All adults in a school building need to share their reading lives with students. Here are five small-investment-big-payoff suggestions that won't take up too much time:

  • Bring what you're reading to class and quickly (in less than 5 minutes) "book talk" it before you begin the lesson. It's your genuine excitement that?s key here. Students will consider these books and slowly approach them.

  • Share excerpts from your current book with your class. Explain why this phrase or sentence or idea has captured your attention. You can potentially model several active reading behaviors: making a connection, asking a question, clarifying understanding, considering an author's purpose, and/or noticing an author?s craft.

  • Hang significant quotes from the books you've read in your room. In many respects, these quotes serve as silent book talks; they provide your students with a small preview of what they might encounter should they decide to give the book a try. These quotes, because students are encountering them day after day, also become mentor texts for your students, examples of quality writing that contain rich (possibly discipline-specific) vocabulary, varied sentence structure, and powerful punctuation.

  • Contribute to a school's "Look at what we're reading" library display or bulletin board.

  • Finally, carry your book around with you in school: in the hall, in the lunchroom, wherever a student (or a colleague) might see you and potentially ask you about it. Just seeing you with a book that isn't required for class makes students suspicious.Suspicion breeds curiosity. Curiosity breeds readers

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Setting Routines for Writer's Workshop

Your Writer's Workshop classroom will run smoothly if you take some time in the beginning of the year to train your students in your routines and expectations. Here are some aspects of Writer's Workshop to consider:

1. Think about how you want your students to organize their Writer's Notebooks, where they will be stored, etc

2. Think about how you will manage gathering your students for mini-lessons, and plan how you will train them to gather in a quiet orderly fashion

3. Plan how you will train your students to write independently, with stamina during independent practice. How will you set your expectations for their behavior/work habits where they are writing independently and you are conferring?

4. How will you keep track of student progress/running records? Plan a system that works for you

5. Set clear expectations for student behavior during large group portion of mini-lessons, and train your students

6. Train your students in your expectations for turn and talk, small group work, and accountable talk

7. Consider creating posters that remind your students of the expectations for your writers workshop, and refer to them as a gentle reminder

8. Remember, practice makes perfect! Your students may need reminders during the first few weeks of school, but soon your Writer's Workshop will be running like clockwork!

We often assume that students understand our expectations implicitly, just because they have already been in school since kindergarten.

However, it's always a good idea to make our expectations crystal clear, and to review even standard procedures. Now is a good time to reflect on what we would like to improve upon for next year.

Below is a link to more information on Writer's Workshop routines