Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reading Challenges Throughout the School Year

It's no secret that I ❤️ LOVE ❤️  reading...I taught 6th grade Reading and Language for 4 years before moving to 5th grade.  I also have my K-12 Reading certification, although I don't know if I ever want to be out of the classroom!

That being said, I enjoy seeing my students grow as readers.  There is SO MUCH we can learn from books; when students lose themselves in a book OR they find themselves in a story, my heart gets a little hug.

There are a variety of ways I challenge my students through the school year to read, read, read.


My team read Donalyn Miller's Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild {affliate links} a few years ago.

I have also seen her speak numerous times and love all that she stands for!  Although our system is not perfect, we have tried to incorporate a 30 book challenge into the school year.  This has evolved and grown each year as we learn and adapt to our students' needs.  This year, I redid our book review response book to include more graphic organizers that get to the heart of the reading and skills students need (vs. having to write summaries all the time!)  We are also only introducing a few genres each trimester and having those as a focus for picture and chapter book read alouds; thus making sure students really grasp the traits each genre brings to the table.


I thoroughly enjoy "teaching the month" to my students; although they are big kids, they still love doing month activities, learning about the holidays, etc.  I play into this by offering a few reading challenges throughout the school year:

Winter and Spring Break

I created these to push my students to read just a bit more during extended breaks, as well as practice their writing.  My students this past year loved the spring break challenge I created, so I went ahead and made a winter break one as well!  The best part is that these are {editable} to meet the needs of your students!


Olympic Reading-Aiming for a Gold

I just love the Olympics and everything involved with them.  Being from Minnesota, I am inclined to watch the Winter Ones, as I just "get" sports done in the cold! ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

4 years ago my team, on a whim, decided to do a reading challenge in conjunction with the winter games.  This year, I compiled all that we did into an easy to use resource for you!  Included are some fun ideas to introduce and build excitement for your students including:

  • Running in to the Olympic Theme with a torch (made of butcher/tissue paper, of course)
  • Creating a stage for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place readers or books
  • Making medals from washers and ribbon
  • "Training" for the event by having reading parties!
  • Etc.

I am excited to introduce this challenge to them come February (the games are Feb 9-25,) and not only push students to read more, but also sharing their favorite "Gold Medal Reads" with each other and really build up our reading community!

How do you encourage reading in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your ideas and add to my list of great reading resources!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Global Read Aloud

The Global Read Aloud is fairly new to me, this was my second year participating.  I love that I stumbled across this a few years ago and took the plunge last year, as the tagline says it all: One Book to Connect the World.  Any time we can get our students thinking outside of their personal bubble (5th graders are pretty self-centered....) is a win in my book!

Over 1 million kids participated in GRA this year; it has grown each year from its first year in 2010.  This project is the brainchild of Pernille Ripp, a teacher in Wisconsin, who had the simple idea of choosing a book (or now an author to study, or book based upon age level) that can connect kids and students across the world.  Connections are made by teachers through various platforms, whatever technology they have available to them!

As I mentioned, this year was only my second year participating in the GRS, reading the middle grades book The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.

My students LOVED this story.  They begged me to read each day, and loved seeing the simple grey scale drawings that went with the story (I displayed them on my SmartBoard.)

To introduce the book, our class had a Google Hangout Session with a school in New York.  Each teacher put a few things into a paper bag, and we shared them one by one to get students thinking about the story.

My bag contained foliage (leaves/grass,) a feather, a solar powered robot my son had (from 5Below) and the book wrapped in aluminum foil and plain brown paper. <--Get it?  Wild (brown paper) and Robot (Tinfoil)

The other teacher's bag contained a stuffed bear, a fire starter, and a piece of camouflage fabric.

I love introducing books to students in a fun way like this, as it builds anticipation and gets them thinking about the items included.  As we read, I often hear students saying "Oh, that's why she included....."

Throughout the 6 weeks the GRA occured, we met with our friends in NY a few times.  We asked each other questions about the story, responded to prompts through Padlet, and one time the other teacher and I took turns reading chapters aloud!  This meeting was particularly interesting, as we weren't sure the "voice" each was using for the main character and others in the story, but we were pretty close in each of our interpretations!

My students already convinced me to order the sequel, not out until March 2018....I am not sure yet if I am going to do a read aloud or book raffle for this once it arrives. {affiliate links}


A few of the takeaways I have from doing the GRA this year:

  • Set-up a "regular" time with your connection(s) to meet.  Of course, things always come up, but in the 6 weeks I think we met 4 times.  It would've been nice to try to meet once a week.
  • We used GoogleHangouts which was super easy to navigate and use...I have used Skype before too, but this seemed a little more user friendly.
  • Checkout platforms before having students connect and respond to each other.  My students have 1:1 iPads and this didn't work as well to post on Padlet as it did for the students in NY who had Chromebooks.
  • Amp it up and make it a BIG DEAL. The teacher's enthusiasm when reading or getting ready to read the story is contagious!
  • Look at the resources....this is meant to be a FREE and FUN way for students to connect.  Many teachers created activities to correlate with the books/author studies picked for the year. and posted them through the Edmodo site teachers get added to.  I didn't have time to sift through them all, but found some fun ways to incorporate the story into other curricular areas besides reading (think STEAM and code breaking.)
  • Your students may like the book more than you do; don't be quick to dismiss it....I almost didn't read this story because I "read" it this summer as an audio book.  I don't know if I wasn't focused enough or just thinking abut too much while listening, but I didn't LOVE the story.  My students, however, and their excitement of the story changed my attitude about the book....it may be a staple read aloud now in my classroom, for years to come.

To learn more about participation in the GRA or sign-up for updates and such, head to https://theglobalreadaloud.com/

Have you ever participated in The Global Read Aloud?  If not, go check it out!  If you have, do you have any tips for teachers who are just trying this amazing experience?

**This same post can be found at Conversations From the Classroom, a collaborative blog I am a part of.  Check it out for other great ideas for all grade levels and disciplines!**