Posts Tagged ‘teacher resource’

Alphabet Recognition Game for Preschool

Posted on July 12th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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A Great Alphabet Learning Activity for Small Groups from StorytimeStandouts.com

Diecuts With A View Alphabet Scrapbook Paper, Canning Seal – an easy to make Alphabet Recognition game from StorytimeStandouts.com


Sharing an easy to make, durable alphabet recognition game for preschool or kindergarten


This is a very simple-to-make yet effective alphabet recognition game. I use this activity with small groups (of up to twelve children). Each child receives one canning ring and one page of laminated scrapbook paper. The scrapbook paper has a fairly large alphabet motif on it. In the pictured game, I used DCWV scrapbook paper. I am guessing that it has since been discontinued because I can’t find an example of it on their website. This one would work.

My Scotch® Laminating Dispenser is 8.5″ wide so I cut the paper to fit the laminator and I put Y and Z on the back of the game.

The children sit in a circle and the preschool or kindergarten teacher shows the children a letter or calls out a letter (or letter sound). The children put their rings around the correct letter. It is very easy for a teacher to quickly survey the rings and correct any that are in the wrong place.

This game could be adapted to show the children an uppercase letter and have them locate the corresponding lowercase letter. Alternatively, the teacher could make the letter sound and the children could locate the corresponding letter.

I like the fact that it is easy to scan all of the children’s rings and quickly identify children who have chosen the wrong letter.

Viceroy Rubber & Plastics 12Pk Red Jar Rubber at Amazon.com




Hover over the photo for a description of the activity. Click on the photo to read the full post

Storytime Standouts Free Printable Alphabets and Games for Learning Letters










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Top Ten Literacy Highlights of My Year

Posted on June 12th, 2013 by Jody

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Image of cover art for SlobWe all have our strengths in the classroom. Mine, as you may have guessed it, is Literacy. It’s because we are good at what we know and love. This is my area of passion so it translates well to most of the kids. That doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing all the time or effortless; but when you love something so much, even the struggles can seem engaging. So, to recap another year that has gone by incredibly fast, I’m sharing my top ten literacy moments from this school year.

10. Almost every student in my class of 30 improved their reading level.

9. Several students recommended books they thought I should read and told me why.this

8. Forgetting the first book I read this year and having a student bring it up while making a connection the other day. Ellen Potter’s Slob left a lasting impression on them.

7. Starting a blog site where the students talked about their favourite books, questions, predictions, and started writing a group story.

6. Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper.

5. Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

4. Writing Every Day. Especially on the days where I say I’ll give them a break and they say “NO! We want to write.”

3. Listening to the creative ways students express themselves. One of my students made a list called: Ten Reasons I hate to write. Another wrote a Wanted Ad for a perfect teacher.

2. Our class did a write and pass. So each student wrote one sentence then passed their sheet. The next person read that sentence, added a new sentence that made sense and continued the story. We did this in two groups of fifteen.

1. One of my two main reluctant readers (the boy) asked me if he could skip the free time they’d earned so that he could read (**insert teacher doing cartwheels here**). My other reluctant reader (the girl) came to me and said I need a book. I said, ‘Okay. How about this?” She’d read it. “This?” She’d read it. This? Read. This? Read. This went on for several books. She’s read over a dozen books since September.

There is absolutely no better feeling as a teacher than knowing you helped a child connect to books. Books open doors, minds, hearts, and worlds in a way nothing else can. These journeys are powerful and I feel so grateful for the ones my students took me on this year.

Anti bullying; different approaches for different ages

Posted on February 25th, 2013 by Jody

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image of album cover for Mean by Taylor SwiftAs an avid lover of picture books, and a writer of them as well, I have to remind myself that this isn’t the only way to connect with kids, especially as they approach that pre-teen stage. I tend to lean toward using picture books as a way to teach reading skills, such as inferring, predicting, connecting, and visualizing because I find them very powerful. Also, when you pull out picture books in grade five, the students think the lesson isn’t going to be as difficult. They love listening to stories and books that they would no longer pick out on their own in the library.

So while it may be a go-to strategy for me, I know that I have to reach out in other ways too. Especially when the message we need to convey becomes more and more important with every day. We talk about bullying frequently in the classroom because it’s an always present subject. The discussions take many forms: ignoring, taunting, teasing, standing up, bystanding, taking action, cyber bullying, verbal vs physical, and how to deal with the different types.

This week, we made a group poster that we hoped would appeal to the victims of bullying. All of the slogans and catch phrases offered encouragement and support: “stand up”, “believe”, “brave”, “don’t give up”, “strong”, and many more. The kids did a great job coming up with things they could say to other students that would help them feel better about themselves and the situation they might find themselves in. Sadly, many of them have likely been in that situation and they need to know that how they feel is important.

Another very powerful resource that we don’t turn to as often, is music. Lyrics are an incredibly powerful way to connect with students and help them explore issues that are current and real. Just like they enjoyed the nursery rhymes and songs when they were little, contemporary music can also leave a lasting impression. There are a wide range of artists that deal with issues like isolation, being different, standing up for yourself, not being alone, and believing in yourself. Of course, there are many with inappropriate lyrics that can’t be shared at school, but there are also others that can help you connect your students to the issues at hand. Think: Mean by Taylor Swift, Firework by Katy Perry, Who Says by Saleena Gomez, and even Loser Like Me by the Glee Cast. It is yet another avenue to explore that offers us the opportunity to connect with kids at their level, with something they already feel strongly about; music. In addition to the lyrics, the students appreciate the artists that sing them. These artists write about being different and unaccepted, making the kids realize that even people they admire may have felt this way too.

The truth is, bullying happens in every walk of life, at every age. Teaching compassion, acceptance, empathy, and understanding at every age is essential. It needs to be something that continues to be emphasized throughout all stages, both at home and at school. Kids, and many adults, need to know that the choices they make, whether in words or actions, affect the people around them. This never stops being true. Sometimes I worry that we get lost in all of the details without remembering what’s most important: people. We are teaching more than Math or Language Arts. We are teaching students how to engage and intereact and resolve conflict, how to accept differences and celebrate being unique.

The connection between home and school is an important one because these types of things cannot be taught in a 45 minute Personal Planning lesson. It has to be part of us so we can encourage it to be part of them. So next time you are listening to your favourite artist, think about the message that they’re sending. Better yet, put on Taylor Swift and sing along with them; ask your kids why they think she would write a song like Mean. Ask them what they think it means, do they see bullying at school, how do they deal with it? We need to talk to our kids and communicate with them. We use resources like books and lyrics, but in the end, it is us sending them the message of what is important by what we choose to share with them, by how we act and interact.

Wear pink on Wednesday, read some of the great books out there on bullying (Enemy Pie, Juice Box Bully, Eight Keys, Slob, The Recess Queen- I could go on and on), or listen to music that empowers your kids to find their voice. Talk to your kids about why you’re doing it and what it all means. Even if they know the reason behind why we wear pink on February 27th, talk to them, read with them, sing with them. Just find a way to let them know that we are all in this together.

Mean at Amazon.com

Mean at Amazon.ca

A new year to set an example in my classroom

Posted on January 7th, 2013 by Jody

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I always feel some apprehension when returning to the classroom after a break. I wonder how I’ll go back to planning lessons, implementing them, assessing student growth, understanding, and engagement. I think about what I haven’t taught yet (a lot) and what I have. I ask myself what it is I really want the students to know. Then, because thinking about all of this causes apprehension, I distract myself by reading online, playing on my iPad, or writing. Over the break, I have read a variety of truly awesome articles and blogs. Fantastic words by a selection of online and print authors, by psychologists, teachers, and parents.

image of  cover art for Don't Give Me That AttitudeI have spent most of my life writing in some form or another. It’s my outlet, solace, hobby, one of my very favourite things to do. Yet, reading some of these articles, I was truly enlightened. I read about writing and publishing, about motivation, engagement, and other topics that I feel like I should be somewhat of an “expert” in. After all, I teach with the intention of motivation and engagement. Also, I write constantly and have published numerous online articles so one would think, that I have some prior knowledge and understanding. And I do. However, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The common thread in the articles I read was that you can always be better. You can edit more, add more, do more, learn more; always. This morning, while on Twitter, scanning more blogs and articles, I came across a quote from Jim Henson, tweeted by Dr. Michele Borba. For those of you that don’t know her, she is a psychologist, an author, an educator and an expert. Of all of the experts I’ve explored since I picked up my first What to Expect When You’re Expecting, she has been my go to in the classroom and my home. Her books, and now her blogs and posts, make me feel like not only am I normal, but for all those things that feel overwhelming, there’s solutions. My admiration of her is making me digress but I strongly recommend her to any parent, educator, or person who has social interactions.

The quote was this: [Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are. (Jim Henson). She then adds that ‘how you live [your] life is the best kid lesson.

This is how I will ease my apprehension about returning to the classroom tomorrow. I will remember that kids learn best from the examples they see. This means the good and the bad. By being my best, I encourage them to be their best. That means I have to be ready to learn, grow, and adapt, just as I expect them to. I need to show them that just because we feel like we are really good at something, we always have room for improvement. Likewise, I have to model feeling good about the successes that I have but show them that even so called experts are always growing and learning and that is what makes them stronger in their fields. As well, I have to show them how I am accountable for the mistakes I make if I want them to step up when they make mistakes. I have to show them it’s okay to make mistakes (I show them this quite often). I have to remember that five years from now, those same kids are unlikely to recall which novels I read them but hopefully, they will remember how we worked together as a class to make our school and the world a better place. I think what we often forget is that we are teaching people, not curriculum. The content of what we teach our kids is not as important as our delivery. Are we teaching them strategies to apply to reading problems in later grades? Are we teaching them how to deal with the first bully they meet in the work place? Have we taught them how to put others first but know when to step up for ourselves? Have we taught them to not only accept others as they are, but themselves as well? There’s so much more to teaching our children and our students than just making sure we’ve loaded them with specific knowledge. As parents and educators, we teach them to greet the world, face challenges, and be a positive member of society.

As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ve increased or decreased my apprehension. It seems a tall order to fill and there’s the risk of mistakes. But, as I will tell them, we’ll all do the very best we can, for ourselves and for others. We’ll try to remember that people will remember US, not the books we read. They will remember how we, as people, impacted their lives. Hopefully, that impact will have been genuine and positive.

Happy New Year everyone!

Learning Games for Beginning Readers

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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Today we look at two popular learning games for beginning readers

I have used both spelling/reading games very successfully with four, five and six year olds. Neither is appropriate for younger children due to choking hazard caused by small parts.

image of learning games for beginning readers


We invite you to visit our page about beginning to read.


image of Melissa and Doug See and SpellMelissa and Doug See and Spell

I recently purchased a Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set for my Let’s Read Together program. The set consists of 60 plus colorful wooden letters and eight, two-sided template bases. As shown in my photo (right), the sixteen words include long and short vowels as well as digraphs.

I selected the Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set because it is self correcting and it lends itself well to a group setting. When not being used in the template bases, the letters could be used to spell other words, they could be sorted by attributes or they could be put into alphabetical order.

When one or more children play with See and Spell it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, matching, fine motor skills and/or spelling.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at Amazon.com

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at Amazon.ca

Image of Boggle JuniorBoggle Junior

I have used a Boggle Junior game in my Beginning to Read program for more than ten years. It is a great learning game for children who are learning to read and spell. The game consists of a series of illustrated three and four letter words. The words and illustrations are printed on durable cardstock. To play, a child selects a card and spells the word it illustrates using three or four letter cubes. The cubes fit into a sturdy base. The child has the option of seeing how the word is spelled (and simply matching the letters) or attempting to spell the word correctly and then checking to see if he is correct.

Boggle Junior can be enjoyed by one or more children. When one child plays with Boggle Junior it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, fine motor skills, matching and/or spelling. When more than one child plays with Boggle Junior, playing the game becomes an opportunity to share and take turns. If two children are at different levels with respect to spelling and reading, one child could match the letters to correctly spell a word, another child could try to spell each word (without matching) and then flip a lever on the base to check the spelling.

The Boggle Junior word cards include short vowels, some long vowels and a few digraphs (i.e. fish).

Boggle Junior Game at Amazon.com

Boggle Junior Game at Amazon.ca

Another new start…

Posted on October 9th, 2012 by Jody

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Still searching for “my” reluctant reader this year…but I have a plan

Unbelievably, we are already six weeks into another school year. I enjoyed writing Journey of a Reluctant Reader last year, but like to switch things up. I am still looking for “my” reluctant reader this year, but so far, seem to have a very enthusiastic class when it comes to reading (even if I happen to be teaching at the time).

After a great workshop by Cindy Strickland last summer, I used Reading and Writing Bingo in my classroom last year. I used it term by term and the students had a goal to work toward. This year, I am focusing on the Reading Bingo as a preemptive strike against anyone showing signs of becoming a reluctant reader. Each of the Bingo squares has a specific reading goal that, when met, will introduce the students to different types of writing, different authors, and different genres. For example, some of the goals include reading a novel by Andrew Clements (that you have not read before), or reading a book of poetry by Shel Silverstein. The goal is to expose the kids to new styles and authors that they may not have tried otherwise.

And yes, my preemptive strike involves bribes. We all work a little harder with incentives and I see nothing wrong with showing appreciation for hard work in different ways. So for one Bingo line (which is necessary for their reading marks for each term) they receive a small prize from the prize bin. For an X, they receive a “get out of one assignment free” card. For a 7, they get a Scholastic book. What surprised me, and pleased me, was that when I asked the kids what they thought would be an awesome reward if anyone got a Blackout, they didn’t say Slurpees or movie days. Instead, they suggested that if they get a Blackout, they get three more of the prizes they already received. So if a student does get a Blackout, they basically get 2 prize bin items, 2 get out of one assignment cards, and 2 books from Scholastic.

I’ll see how this works this year and maybe do it again, or maybe not. What I love is that the kids (and I know there’s at least one reluctant reader there, even if they’re quiet about it) are already excited about reading. They know they have to read, most of them love to read, but those that need a little nudge will be more inclined to do so, even if it’s just to achieve the line. Those that are enthusiastic about reading by default, have the added opportunity and challenge of working toward a harder goal, like the Blackout.

My focus this year is getting the kids to understand themselves and their own learning. This will be a great opportunity for me and the students to see what motivates them. We are all motivated by something. Intrinsic motivation is essential and I am in no way suggesting reward for meeting expectations, but I think that extrinsic motivation has its place as well. I’m going to make them read. They know this. I’m going to make them do Math and Science, tests, reports, and research. They will do this because they undersand their jobs as students. But if providing a bit of fun, entertainment, or challenge gets them reading even more, perhaps their journey will be one with less reluctance and more enjoyment.

Story People by Brian Andreas

Posted on September 22nd, 2012 by Jody

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On a trip through an airport, Jody discovers the work of Brian Andreas and his Story People

While passing time at the Sea-Tac airport, I wandered into one of those everything-and-then-some stores. In between the hand-crafted cards, joke gifts, and eclectic jewelry, an interesting and colorful print caught my eye. Really, it seemed more like a scrawled version of a stick person. But it was the words that accompanied the image that grabbed me. It said:

I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.

Just like that, I was fascinated. Along with dozens of prints, all showing oddly shaped figures and sketches and sharing beautiful words, there were books. I had never heard of the author, Brian Andreas before. Flipping through his books, I was amazed at the power of his words and the fact that he could be so moving without truly defining characters. Somehow, without even giving them names and using, what seem like, pieces of conversation, he pulls you in and makes you feel like someone understands. I used all of my “mommy-needs-a-few-minutes-to-look-around-by-herself” time standing at that small shelf reading everything I could and trying to decide which print was my favourite. It’s not often you can read a few paragraphs that have the power to make your heart skip or your eyes tear; well, for most people, anyway.

As I read these little snippets of conversation between unidentified characters, I felt completely drawn in and captured by them. Some of the conversations had an almost “Time Traveller’s Wife” feel to them. Then there are sketches that accompany the words; sketches that should be amusing, but with the words, just seem beautiful. There’s so many times in life, as kids and adults, that we feel alone, that people don’t ‘get it’. It’s part of what makes a good book so important~connecting to characters makes us feel validated, understood, accepted, and “normal”. Reading through Mr. Andreas’ book Trusting Souls, I felt that way. It was so compelling that I bought it for my husband, who I’m sure would have rather had something else, from another store entirely. However, sometimes someone else has already written the words we feel we can’t express properly. When that happens, as adults and as children, it matters. It stays with us.

On his website, Mr. Andreas says “we are all story people”. I like that. Because we are. We’re all just trying to do our best, make connections, and make sense of what we see and think and feel.

His books and prints show the power words can have and I think that, in the classroom, that’s a strong message. Words matter. How we say them or write them or think them. The words we hear or see can leave a lasting impression on us. This is why it’s important to choose wisely what we say and what we read.

Here are a few pieces that will stay with me; that matter:

“Is there a lot of things you don’t understand? she said and I said pretty much the whole thing and she nodded and said that’s what she thought but it was nice to hear it anyway and we sat there in the porch swing, listening to the wind and growing up together”

With this phrase, he draws an interesting picture and scribbles that it is a “doorway that only lets some stuff through, but you never know what it’s going to choose so it’s hard to plan for the future”.
“Remember to use positive affirmations. I am not a dork is not one of them.”

This one is called “Anxiety Break”:

“things have been going so well that she’s taking an anxiety break to keep centered”

One more, from “Mostly True” :

“We lay there and looked up at the night sky and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls and I told her I’d never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it on your own.”

Story People at Amazon.com

Story People at Amazon.ca

Trusting Soul at Amazon.com

Trusting Soul at Amazon.ca

Mostly True at Amazon.com

Mostly True at Amazon.ca

Thank you for being a Member of the Storytime Standouts Community

Posted on April 20th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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We hope you will enjoy Storytime Standouts’ free early childhood learning printables and that you will check out our articles about terrific new children’s books and how children learn to read.image of Carolyn Hart, teacher and Storytime Standouts website owner
 
We regularly add new content to Storytime Standouts and we are proud to say that we offer more than two hundred childhood learning printables for teachers and parents. A well, we have written hundreds of posts about special children’s books. We are especially interested in anti bullying picture books, picture books about caring for our environment , wordless picture books and picture books that celebrate diversity.

Once you become a member of Storytime Standouts, if you are having a problem signing in or downloading our early learning materials, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly, by email. Please use the email link on the website.
 
We hope you will enjoy StorytimeStandouts.com and we are especially grateful for referrals. Please let your friends and family know about the website.
 
Thank you and Happy Reading!
 
Carolyn Hart
 
Storytime Standouts
Raising Children Who Love to Read
Twitter @StoryStandouts

image of a printable alphabet

Free Printable Alphabets

Storytime Standouts offers a variety of free alphabets in PDF format for children in preschool, kindergarten and the early primary grades. We have grouped the alphabets together and you will find all of the free alphabets here. We suggest using the alphabets to make matching games, help a child to learn alphabetical order and/or letter sounds or decorate a bulletin board.


image of printable writing paper for kids

Writing Paper for Kids

Storytime Standouts offers free writing paper for children who are learning to print and write, visit our Writing Paper for Kids page to see the entire collection. We hope you will use the interlined paper to inspire young writers.

We have tried to match seasonal themes and the sort of topics a kindergarten or grade one child might write about. We regularly add writing paper to the website.



image of a printable nursery rhyme

Preschool and Kindergarten Songs, Rhymes, Chants and Fingerplays

Use these songs, rhymes, chants and fingerplays with children in preschool, kindergarten and early primary grades. We have grouped them together on our Songs, Rhymes, Chants and Fingerplays page. We regularly add new songs, rhymes and chants to the website. We try to anticipate your interests and early childhood classroom themes.

If you would like to suggest a song, rhyme or fingerplay, please contact us using the email link.


image of a printable word family

Word Family Printables

These word family printables are great for young children who are learning to read. We have grouped them together on our Word Family page.

For a beginning reader, discovering that cot, dot, hot, pot and rot are related is exciting. Children who are just learning to sound out words will be thrilled to learn that they can substitute the beginning sound and read three, four or more related words. We view word families as a great springboard for beginning readers.


image of printable picture dictionary

Picture Dictionaries

Helpful for beginning readers and writers, these picture dictionaries are all together on our Picture Dictionaries page. We know young children get a great sense of satisfaction from using pictures to help them decode words. With these picture dictionaries, they can read a series of related words or they use the words to write a story.


 

Reading for Reward – Are Extrinsic Rewards Good or Bad?

Posted on March 21st, 2012 by Jody

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Reading for Reward - Are Extrinsic Rewards Good or Bad?Whether it’s reading, math, science, or socials, there is conflict over rewarding children for meeting goals and expectations in the classroom. If we reward them with tangible “prizes”, do we diminish their intrinsic motivation? An argument can be made either way. We need, and kids need, to understand intrinsic motivation. Not every accomplishment deserves a prize, just like not every misstep deserves a consequence.





I think that we can create a balance in the classroom that reinforces intrinsic motivation but allows for concrete rewards as well. Let’s be honest: we all like rewards; take out on Fridays, a trip to Starbucks, a special purchase. So while we need kids to know and understand that reading in and of itself is a reward, I’m okay with giving a little more every now and then. At my school, we do Accelerated Reading which allows kids to read books at their level then take a test to check their comprehension. Each book is worth a certain amount of points (harder book = higher points) and your points are based on how well you do answering questions about the book. The teachers at our school take various approaches when deciding how to utilize those points as motivation. I have seen (and borrowed) some incredibly creative ideas. Depending on the grade level, the teacher, and the goal, kids have earned computer time, tours of the office and staff room, buddy time, time with the principal, lunch with the teacher, and a host of other special rewards.

So does this add to or diminish the academic and personal reasons for reading? In my experience, it adds to both. Students who are academically motivated already, will enjoy the extra rewards and bonuses that come from doing something they were going to do anyway. For the at risk, unmotivated, or uninterested readers, the reward might provide a hook to get them started. The key, for me, is knowing your learners and knowing what would be a reward for the individual student. It might not be a prize from the ‘prize bin’ or an extra ten minutes on the computer, but if you can know your students, you can find what their motivation is and use it to help them move forward.Reading for Reward by Jody Holford

I’ve noticed that once you start a ‘system’ with students, they become attached to the routine as much as anything else. In my class, every AR point goes up on a chart. From there, every 5 points gets a sticker and every 5 stickers receives a prize, which could be a new pencil, sharpener, eraser or bookmark. Most kids are going to meet these goals anyway, so the ‘prize’ is just a little bonus for effort, time, and achievement. The students are very particular about the routine, even at the grade 4/5 level. They put their AR quizzes in the folder, remind me to tally points, let me know when they’ve reached personal and/or class goals. Recently, my class walked to the store as a reward for achieving the class goal of reaching over 500 AR points. Every student in the class contributed to that goal. It didn’t matter by how much, but it mattered that together we worked towards it and together, we celebrated it.

I can teach without giving rewards. I can implement curriculum and engage my students without giving them prizes or anything more than verbal praise. The 21st century learning goal is to motivate and engage all learners. I like to think that I can meet this goal without the bonus incentives. If my objective is to do just that, to motivate and engage without incentives, then, for me, offering the incentives only enhances the experiences and the enjoyment for my learners.

Happy New Year…here’s to starting over with middle grade readers

Posted on January 9th, 2012 by Jody

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Guest contributor Jody looks at welcoming middle grade readers back to school in January.

I ended 2011 in the middle or near the end of too many projects. It’s always a dilmena to me; do I start fresh, trying to re-engergize and engage the kids all over, or do I carry on from where we left off and show them the value and necessity in finishing what we start?

I did a little of both. When holidays started, I had only read 1/3 of a book called Lady in a Box, by Ann McGovern. It ties in so nicely to the holiday season, giving, and caring for others. It’s a great way to connect the kids to the outside world and to learn a number of powerful strategies in reading and writing. I was also reading Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies, as my read aloud. As well, the students were each in 1 of 5 reading groups, which were not going well. In addition to all of this, we were reading an assortment of Christmas picture books because the kids were creating their own children’s stories.

It’s difficult to walk away from some things, but on the other hand, if the students aren’t getting enough out of it, or if the teaching is not having the effect you thought it would, sometimes it’s better to cut and run. So, I fast tracked Lady in A Box because the story is worthwhile and the message applies to life in general and not just a season. One down. I took the kids out of their reading groups because it was not going at all the way I planned and it was putting some of the kids off reading. Two down. I also gave up on Lemonade War because we have been talking about this book since September and many of the kids had read it. Three down. Then, I had to re-evaluate what it is I want and need the kids to know and decide how to help them get there. Eliminating the first two things was the first step.

The second step was to revitalize and re-energize the students. January is a new year, a fresh start, and in many ways, another September. We have to re-teach and review routines and expectations and we have to “hook” them again. I needed something that would immediately draw them in and help me re-work my book club as well. I found and started Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I’m going to have to do a whole post dedicated just to Inkheart because it’s so good. For now though, I won’t go into too much detail about the novel. Just let me say that it has given my new year a definite push in the right direction.

The kids are are hooked on the novel (some have read it but are being awesome and not giving any information away). They’re settling into routine quicker because in order to squeeze in a whole chapter each day, I have to start the read aloud right after recess. In addition to this, they’re already, in just four days, becoming more proficient at recognizing and asking lower level questions. What a great start to 2012 in the classroom!!

So, while I was sorry to put Lemonade War aside because I hate to leave things unfinished, I think it’s important to recognize when we need to do just that. Some things just don’t work the way you want them to. Part of learning and being successful, for us and for the students, is knowing when you need to step back and try another route. Sometimes giving up one thing in favor of spending your time and energy on something else is a better way to achieve your goal. For me, I gave up Lemonade War to allow for time to read Inkheart. I gave up my small book club groups to do whole group instruction, which is turning out way better.

So, whether it’s giving up on something, trading off, or trying a completely different approach, the important thing is to keep the end in mind. In the end, I want students to be engaged in what we are reading, to be thoughtful writers, and to know that when something just isn’t working, it’s okay to try a different tactic. We learn by doing. Sometimes what we learn, is that we have to start over. Happy New Year.

The Lady in the Box at Amazon.com

The Lady in the Box at Amazon.ca

Inkheart at Amazon.com

Inkheart at Amazon.ca

Journey of a Reluctant Reader…he’s not alone

Posted on November 1st, 2011 by Jody

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Journey of a Reluctant Reader He is Not Alone a Guest Post by @1prncs





I chose a different approach this year when I found an openly reluctant reader. Normally, I would try to get to know the student, figure out their interests, ask for suggestions from the librarian or do some online research about popular books. This year, instead of approaching my goal of changing Johnny’s mind about reading alone, I’ve included the entire class in the process. Establishing a strong classroom community is essential for academic, social, and behavioral success. By enlisting my class in the goal to change Johnny’s mind, we’ve become stronger as a group. Last week I mentioned that other students were now recommending books for him. While this sense of community and caring for others is exactly what I want in my classroom, I also want to be sure that the students, including Johnny, understand the importance of making that shift from being a reluctant reader to being an avid reader or at least having an open mind and a willingness to try.

Noticing the way the students laugh when Johnny makes comments about not reading, I also want to be sure that this journey doesn’t become a form of amusement. One other concern I’m beginning to have is that the other students, particularly the other less than enthusiastic readers, may use this as an opportunity to blend into the background. If I’m focused on showing the class that Johnny’s mind can be changed, then I might not make a big deal, or even notice, that others are practicing avoidance. So far, I’m hoping this isn’t the case.

Any teacher knows that all students are different and thus, require a different approach. So while it may be entertaining, powerful, and even successful to allow Johnny’s reading journey to be public, I am quietly aware of the other journeys taking place. I wonder if these students notice the subtle push I hope that I am giving when I offer or suggest books in the library or the classroom. Does the classroom awareness of our reluctant reader’s journey make these others want to read more or less or have any impact at all? Are there ingredients I’m missing to help push the others forward in their own journeys? Is knowing their reading level and interests enough? What about those students who want to read more but struggle?

I’m still working on answers to some of these questions. What I do hope, is that those students who aren’t having their journeys made public, recognize that I’m aware of their academic needs as well. I’m hoping that the students are getting the right message from my decision to talk more publicly about Johnny’s journey. That message is that every journey is different and my goal as a teacher is to help each student find the tools and confidence to make their own journey successful and hopefully, enjoyable.

Fall theme kindergarten and preschool printables – we’ve got treats for you!

Posted on October 23rd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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We hope you will enjoy our free Halloween, Thanksgiving and Fall theme printables for kindergarten and preschool

Storytime Standouts Free Fall theme kindergarten printables





We love pulling together free preschool and kindergarten printables for young children to enjoy. We have many free Halloween, Thanksgiving and Fall theme kindergarten printables and hope you will check them out. Young children love our colourful Fall theme writing paper and those who are just starting to read and write will have fun with our Fall and Halloween picture dictionaries.

For your convenience, we have grouped some of our printables according to season and holiday. Follow these links to find our early learning printables grouped by subject –
Spring, Summer, Winter
Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, Christmas

Our early childhood literacy printables, including our free Fall kindergarten printables are in PDF format, if you don’t already use Adobe Reader, you will need to use it to access the downloads.













A large selection of free Fall theme writing paper for young children

image of Thanksgiving Writing paper for kids

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Back to School

Back to school theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Fall Theme incl. Tire Swing

Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids- Scarecrow

Fall, scarecrow theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Witch Hat

Halloween, Witch theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pumpkin

Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Apple

Apple theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Remembrance Day Poppy

Remembrance Day theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Thanksgiving theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Today I am Thankful for...

"Today I am Thankful for..." interlined writing paper - great for Thanksgiving.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Squirrel with nuts

Squirrel theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Thanksgiving Day Crossword Puzzle

image of PDF icon  Thanksgiving Word Search

image of PDF icon  Thanksgiving Picture Dictionary

Free printable Thanksgiving picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.

We think you’ll enjoy our posts about Fall theme picture books

– click on the pictures to read the posts
Fall Picture Books for preschool and kindergartenPumpkin Patch Fun! Picture Books and Printables to Extend Your Child's Learning








Halloween Theme Preschool or Kindergarten Circle Time -

For teachers, we have Five Little Ghosts and Five Little Pumpkins – these Halloween rhymes are perfect for circle time. You can easily make a seasonal felt board story with spooky ghosts or bright orange pumpkins

image of PDF icon  Five Little Ghosts

Use as an action chant or a felt board story

image of PDF icon  Five Little Pumpkins

Use as a action chant or a felt board story

image of PDF icon  The Wheels on the Halloween Bus

Halloween felt board for preschool and kindergartenCheck out Squeak Went the Door – A fun flannel board story for Halloween












For children who are beginning to read and write, our free Halloween and Fall theme early childhood printables include picture dictionaries as well as pumpkin and witch writing paper.

image of a printable Halloween picture dictionary

Reading and Writing about Halloween and Fall
Autumn Poem

image of PDF icon  Autumn Leaves


Fall theme picture dictionary

image of PDF icon  Fall Picture Dictionary

Free printable Fall picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.


Halloween theme picture dictionary

image of PDF icon  Halloween Picture Dictionary

Free printable Halloween picture dictionary for readers and writers in kindergarten and grade one.

Fall leaves alphabet

image of PDF icon  A Fall Leaves Alphabet

Attractive alphabet printable features multi coloured Fall leaves

Halloween Writing Paper -

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Witch Hat

Halloween, Witch theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Pumpkin

Fall theme interlined paper for beginning writers.


Halloween theme Crossword Puzzle and a Halloween theme Wordsearch

Halloween Crossword Puzzle

image of PDF icon  Halloween Crossword Puzzle

Halloween Word Search

image of PDF icon  Halloween Word Search


image of Remembrance Day writing paper for kidsRemembrance Day Writing Paper

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Remembrance Day Poppy

Remembrance Day theme interlined paper for beginning writers.


Follow these links for lots more interlined paper, rhymes and picture dictionaries.

If you appreciate our free early childhood literacy printables,
including these free Halloween, Thanksgiving and Fall theme kindergarten printables,
please support this site by visiting and purchasing from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.






Making words powerful

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Jody

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When I was in elementary school, spelling programs were a large part of our Language Arts lessons each week. On Mondays, we would do a pretest, mark it, correct it, and write out each of the words. In the next few days, we would complete numerous activities, including writing each word in a sentence, doing the dictionary definitions, perhaps a crossword, and filling in the blanks using the correct word. On Fridays, we had our test. It was on long, skinny, full scap paper. The next week, we would begin the entire process again with new words. I’m not certain that any of us could necessarily spell these words correctly from then on, but we definitely knew them for Friday’s test.


For the past several years, I’ve avoided this traditional type of program. I believe it has valuable components, such as understanding the meaning of words, being able to use it in the right context, and improving our ability to learn how the word is created between the pre and post tests. What I worry about though, is whether there is a  connection between learning how to spell in this fashion and improving your oral, written, and reading vocabulary. Does rote memorization of word lists truly impact a child’s reading and writing? I think the answer is both yes and no.

What I do believe, is that there is a connection between a child`s understanding of how words are made up and their ability to decode, read, and comprehend. I am a big fan of the activities that come along with Word Work and think they are important to retaining vowel sounds, word chunks, understanding of syllables, and knowledge of prefixes and suffixes. I use the term Word Work, both here and at school, in place of the word Spelling. It is more than spelling a word correctly that I am after.

Powerful readers make connections and I think that students need to connect the words they are learning to what they are reading and writing. While many spelling programs offer word lists that compliment the curriculum, I think that the important feature is that the activities that students engage in must help them further understand the word. They need to be able to see and understand the letters, sounds, parts, and the whole. They need to understand it in context and out. They need to recognize small pieces of words so they can identify sound patterns. This means going beyond rote memorization of word lists.

Having said that, in the early grades, memorization of Sight Words (they may be called Dolch, Primer, No Excuse, or Red words) is a building block to reading success. These words don’t conform to the conventions that we teach. Using rote memorization in combination with “spelling” and writing activities is a great way to reinforce these unconventional words that are such a huge part of our oral and written vocabulary.

As we move up through the grades and try to move toward reading for understanding, the students need to extend and strengthen these skills. Programs such as Rewards, Words Their Way, or Making Words are great ways to get students to extend and strengthen their word recognition abilities. I have been using a new book that I recently purchased from Scholastic, called Systematic Word Study. It’s a sequential, daily word program that highlights prefixes, suffixes, meaning, parts, antonymns, and syllables. The more kids understand how to break these words apart, categorize them, put them back together, or see them in different ways, the better chance we have at them transfering this recognition to their writing and reading. The best part of this program is that it is fun. It’s got really great activities, such as building mystery words using parts of other words, that the kids get really involved in. The activities are short, specific, and powerful.

So while I don’t think that the spelling programs of my youth are what we need to boost strugging and proficient learners, I do recognize the value in Word Work. The more connections and transfer skills that we can arm our students with, the greater chance they have for success in all curricular areas.

Systematic Word Study for Grades 4-6: An Easy Weekly Routine for Teaching Hundreds of New Words to Develop Strong Readers, Writers, and Spellers at Amazon.com

Systematic Word Study For Grades 4-6 at Amazon.ca


Beyond Bedtime Stories – Early Literacy Can Include So Much More Than Just Reading Aloud

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Beyond Bedtime Stories by V. Susan Bennett-Armistead, Nell K. Duke and Annie M. Moses

Beyond Bedtime Stories is a very thorough exploration of ways parents can promote early literacy with young children. The authors address dozens of important questions like “What if a book contains words or ideas that I find offensive?” and “Should I teach my child to read before kindergarten?” Beyond Bedtime Stories also includes suggestions of ways to fill your home with books even if you are on a budget, how to improve comprehension and ways to promote literacy inside and outside your home.

This is a very worthwhile resource for young families, daycare and preschool settings.

Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5

Beyond Bedtime Stories : A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5 at Amazon.ca


Have you filled a bucket today?

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by Jody

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Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is a story that offers children a creative way to recognize the impact we all have on each other. Based on Dr. Donald Clifton’s “How Full is Your Bucket?”, McCloud’s book allows younger audiences a bright and colorful way to understand a unique metaphor. The book explains that each of us has an invisible bucket. When the bucket is full, we feel happy and good about ourselves. When our bucket is empty, we feel sad. People can be “bucket dippers” or “bucket fillers”. What I liked about this part is that she explains that when you fill someone’s bucket, by being kind or thoughtful, you also add to your own bucket. Likewise, if you dip in someone’s bucket, by being unkind or hurtful, you are dipping in your own bucket as well. I think that’s a powerful way to explain to children that being mean or unfair to others does not make you feel good about yourself but being kind to others does. The language is simple and straightforward, making it understandable for even preschool children. Though I think the illustrations are more suitable for younger students, the theme is one that is especially powerful for students of all ages.

Children need to be taught behavior and social expectations along with everything else. Sometimes we take it for granted that they might already know that their actions affect others. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a few incidents where some students have spoken quite harshly to other students. When I’ve asked, “why are you speaking to them like that?” the response has been “I don’t know”. Their first response is to react to others with whatever emotion they are feeling at that moment. Offering the suggestion, “try telling them like this…” allows students the opportunity to learn how they can express themselves without hurting someone else. And while this direct instruction is still going to be necessary, establishing a classroom language based on a book such as McCloud’s, is a simple way to weave the concept of more positive interactions into your classroom community.


How we treat others is how we are treated in return. We need this lesson to resonate with our children and with our students. We need them to understand that regardless of how well you do on a test or how high your reading level is, without the ability to interact positively with others, you are at a disadvantage. To be honest, it’s not a bad lesson to impart to adults either. It’s just as easy to offer a kind word as a negative one. The difference is, the domino effect of kindness makes us feel better about ourselves and the world around us.

McCloud also has the books Fill a Bucket and Growing up with a Bucket Full of Happiness.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? at Amazon.com

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? at Amazon.ca


Journey of a Reader…Lemonade War

Posted on September 30th, 2011 by Jody

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Last time, I introduced you to Johnny, my “I’d-rather-do-anything-other-than-read-even-though-I’m-totally-capable” student. He mentioned that he’s not opposed to reading, he just doesn’t care much for it and certainly doesn’t see it as a passtime or escape. Once I found out he was really enjoying have me read Fudge-a-Mania to the class, I knew I had a book for him. The Lemonade War is a book I read with my daughters over the summer. It’s a great read and actually, my very first post for Carolyn’s site was a review of this book. It definitely has humor and it has a great sibling rivalry that leaves you torn between which character to root for in the end.

Johnny knows all about my plans to make him like reading and he’s very receptive. I gave him a short summary and he said he’d try the book. I have to admit, I thought he was just messing with me when he said he’d read several chapters later that day. He was picking up the book when he had time and before I knew it, he told me he was finished. He loved it! He said it was funny and great and part way through he said he couldn’t wait to see what happened. So~success right? That day, when I signed his planner, I said I was so happy he liked it so much and wasn’t reading great? Sadly, he said, “It was a really good book. But I still don’t like reading”. While I did not achieve a quick victory, I do have every reason to be hopeful. My “chosen” student for this year is an above average reader with a very open mind and a good sense of humor. He won’t simply tell me he now loves reading so I’ll leave him. I think he might want to know if I can change his mind. For now though, I’ll take the small victories. He really, really liked the book. He was excited to have finished it and his Accelerated Reading test confirmed that he also understood it. It’s still early days yet, but at least we started the year off with him enjoying a book. I want more though. I want him to love a book so much he can’t put it down. I want him to read before bed by choice or take a good book on a long car ride. I want him to see what worlds he can open up by finding new authors. However, for now, I’ll accept this small gain. Coincidently, the first book I get him to enjoy? It’s sequel just came out last month! Guess I’ll be purchasing The Lemonade Crime this weekend.

Journey of a Relutant Reader…The Chosen One

Posted on September 30th, 2011 by Jody

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Journey of a Reluctant Reader - a series of posts by Storytime Standouts' Guest ContributorIn one of my summer posts, I talked about how I love the challenge of finding that “one” student who is NOT a reader. The student that can read, but would rather not; the one that doesn’t make an effort to engage with the text; the one that feels there are far better ways to spend time than reading. In the second week of September, I found my student. He laughed at the shock on my face when he muttered the words “I don’t like reading”. I decided to tell him that he was my new project and explained to him how I’d like to change his mind. His response? “Good luck” he said. I have plans and ideas, and surprisingly, I’ve already made some head way. So these posts will be a little different; these will be about his journey, and mine, as I try to change his mind about the world of reading. Some of my ideas might work and others might not. I’ll happily take suggestions if you think of something that might further engage him. I thought it would be very informative to track his progress and attitude throughout the year. Obviously, my hope is that his journey will lead him to finding the joy in reading. These posts will be slightly shorter, as I will basically “journal” about my efforts and his responses. When he told me he didn’t like to read, I thought it might be informative, if not entertaining, to see where his journey takes us.





So, the Chosen One? We’ll call him Johnny because obviously I can’t use his real name and Johnny seems to be the go-to name in nursery rhymes, references to school, and in basal readers. To give you a little bit of background, “Johnny” was tested yesterday and is currently reading at a grade level of 7.7 in grade 5. There is nothing, academically, stopping him from reading. Before I had him take the reading test on the computer, I had done my own reading assessment and knew he was at the higher end of the spectrum. He’s a good kid. He can be chatty, but since my last post was on the benefits of oral language, I can’t really complain too much there. What I really like about Johnny is that he knows I’m going to try to change his mind about reading. He won’t try to stop me, but he’ll be honest about how he feels too. He’s got a good sense of humor. When he told me he had started a Christmas List already, I asked if he had books on it. He replied in a deadpan voice, “Yes. That’s my whole list. Just a bunch of books”. Back in week two of school, when I had thought about this project, I had Johnny humor me and I interviewed him.

Me: Why don’t you like to read?

J: It’s boring

Me: But what if the book is really good? Then it’s not boring.

J: Well, then I can read it.

Me: You laugh when I’m reading. Do you like our read aloud book? (We are doing Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume)

J: Ya. It’s funny.

Me: Do you like funny books? You like humor?

J: Funny books are good. I like that one.

Me: What else do you like to do?

J: Anything

Me: Except read?

J: (laughing- I suspect AT me) Ya.

Me: What if mom said, go to your room and stay there for a while? What would you do to pass time?

J: Go to sleep.

Me: Will you let me try to change your mind about reading?

J: Okay

Me: You know I’ll change your mind right?

J: Okay. Good luck with that.

Hopefully you’ll join me and Johnny as I try to reach my goal.

Read the entire series by Jody

Oral Language Learning in a Middle Grade Classroom

Posted on September 24th, 2011 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Writes About Oral Language Learning




Having students talk to each other is a great way to keep them engaged in a lesson. They love to do anything that involves chatting with their friends and neighbors. There are a number of great oral language tools to get kids sharing information, including AB partners, walk and talk, whip around, and sentence frames. I tell my students that in order for us to process what we are learning, we need to make a connection between our brains, our mouths, and our hands. Basically, we need to think it, say it, and write it. Not all students need each of these steps to process, but they are beneficial to all learners. Though not every lesson can include talk time or partner time, oral language learning can still play a large role. During a vocabulary lesson on adjectives today, the students struggled to understand the concept and use the words in different types of sentences. Writing it down wasn’t working for them, even though there were clear examples and we had gone over the work. Asking the students to take a break from the writing, we simplified. I asked the kids to repeat the words after me. Most do this with that monotone-couldn’t-be-more-bored voice. That drives me crazy! So, I told them that when they repeated the word back to me, they had to yell. They were happy to comply. Then we whispered them, broke them into syllables, drew them out as l-o-n-g as we could, and finally, said them as quickly as we could. When it came time to use these words in three types of sentences, declarative, interrogative, and exclamatory, the kids really enjoyed repeating one sentence in the different ways. All of this only added about 5 minutes to my lesson but it changed the overall tone. No, everyone didn’t suddenly LOVE learning adjectives, but they were able to play around with the words a little more and build different sentences. I heard them saying their sentences to their neighbors in different ways.

We know oral language is an essential element in the curriculum. Sometimes though, I forget how truly powerful it can be. My husband is taking a course on Teaching English as a Second Language. To give himself a better understanding, he observed an ESL lesson today. He said that he was very impressed with the tone of the room and the way the students conversed with each other. We might feel like we have too much curriculum to get through to allow the kids so much talk time, but his observation of the ESL class further reminded me of the value of these conversations. Not just for ESL learners, but for all learners. Their ability to have strong verbal interactions with peers influences their writing, their reading, and their confidence. In the early years, we place a huge emphasis on oral language, but I think it’s important that we continue this trend in the upper grades as well. Letting the kids play around with the words, be expressive, and even be silly, lets them make stronger connections to what they are learning and increases their retention.

Learning, growth, and assessment comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to be pen and paper. Listening to your students interact with each other in both formal and informal ways can provide you with new insight into their strengths, their weaknesses, and their point of view. Knowing your students well is part of keeping them motivated and engaged. What better way to get to know them, than through the art of conversation?

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell – Discover Ways to Help Teen Readers

Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Do you share my concerns about inspiring preteen and teen readers?

Storytime Standouts looks at suggestions for inspiring preteen and teen readers from The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell The Reading Zone written by Nancie Atwell
Professional teaching/parenting resource about teen readers published by Scholastic





Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to enjoy reading Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers.

I am always interested to read and hear leading educators suggest ways to ensure that children, preteens and teens become “Skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers” because for so many teen readers this does not happen. Ms. Atwell’s approach to reading reading is practical and passionate. She reminds all parents of teens that everyone has reading homework and there is no more important homework than reading.

She identifies the key ways a teen reading ‘class’ can be transformed into a teen reading ‘zone.’ She also discusses the three categories of book difficulty: Holidays, Challenges and Just Rights. Her chapters on teen reading include Choice, Ease, Comprehension, Booktalking, Boys, Commmunicating with Parents and High School. The book’s appendix lists How to Create a National Reading Zone.

This is a book that every parent of a preteen or teen reader and most teachers should read. It is both informative and inspiring.

The Reading Zone blog

The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at Amazon.com

The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at Amazon.ca

Meet Nancie Atwell in The Reading Zone


Establishing a sense of community in my split grade classroom, I will try something different this year

Posted on September 4th, 2011 by Jody

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One of my favourite parts of the school year is the first few weeks. I love mapping things out and getting to know my students. I love choosing my first read aloud and getting them hooked. In the past I have done Tuck Everlasting (I just love this story), Zebra Wall, and Sixth Grade Secrets (one of the funniest books). This year I have decided, thanks to a great workshop I attended, to try something different.

I generally start with a novel as a way of introducing reading strategies, such as predicting, questioning, and summarizing. However, instead of a novel, I am going to start with a book called,  Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell and  illustrated by Kim LaFave. It is actually a picture book recommended for ages 4-7. I am teaching grade 4/5 this year but I think that in addition to being able to introduce reading strategies, this story will allow me to establish a stronger sense of community right from the start.

Shi-shi-etko tells about a child’s experience with residential schools. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful. It will give me the opportunity to introduce themes of community, diversity, anxiety, family, and inclusion. These are all topics that need to be present in any classroom, but more so in a split grade classroom I think. In general, split classes are viewed negatively. Parents don’t want their child working below or beyond their capabilities and kids who have waited to experience certain things offered to their grade (like field trips) resent having to share these adventures. These thoughts seem at odds with the growing awareness of the need for differentiation in the classroom. Split grade or straight, more than one level of need is being met in all classrooms. It is important for teachers to find a way to motivate all learners and to do this, a community of acceptance needs to be established as quickly as possible. A classroom that students feel accepted, trusted, and safe in will promote positive learning experiences.

When my students come to my class this year, I want them to worry less about whether or not the work is really grade four work or grade five work. I want them to focus on contributing to a positive community atmosphere. I want them to feel safe to explore what kind of learning best suits them. I want them to accept the ideas, feelings, and beliefs of others and have this reciprocated. While I have grade level curriculum to teach, my hope is that we will go beyond that. I want them to be able to achieve academic success, but more importantly, I want them to acquire the tools that will help them become lifelong learners that accept and appreciate the unique backgrounds of others. I hope that in addition to powerful reading strategies, Shi-shi-etko will pave the way to a safe, strong sense of community in our class, built on trust, tolerance, and acceptance.

Shi-shi-etko at Amazon.com

Shi-shi-etko at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts recommends picture books that celebrate diversity

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