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Getting to Know Each Other Through the Work

Mark Levine explains why he dives right into work in his middle school classroom, rather than getting-to-know-you activities. And through the work, a community is born.

Seeking Personal Relevance

Christy Rush-Levine has to figure out how to engage a class of students that is compliant and dutiful, but shows little passion for reading and writing.

Invitations vs. Accountability

It’s not an invitation if students are required to accept it. Franki Sibberson explains how engagement depends upon true choice and lots of options in her fifth-grade classroom.

The Year’s First Read Aloud

From length to heart, Tara Smith provides seven criteria for selecting the first read aloud of the year that can engage students right from the start.

Compass Points and Empathy

Andrea Smith uses the “compass points” strategy to provoke better whole-class discussions and reflection during read alouds.

My World Maps

Creating “world” maps is a great way to explore the territories beyond school that matter most to everyone in your classroom. Suzy Kaback explains how to create them with students early in the year as a way to get to know them as learners and community members.

Spreading Love with Compliments

Tara Barnett and Kate Mills close out the year in their eighth-grade classroom with a compliments activity.

Looking Forward with Students

Melanie Meehan uses reflective questions and video to build a library of materials at the end of the year to use with next year's class.

Literacy and Global Competence

“China is going to kill us all!” This quote from a student causes Matt Renwick to stop and consider how schools can use literacy to promote global understanding.

A Variety of Share Sessions

Ruth Ayres catalogs her favorite types of share sessions (from old favorites to creative innovations) in writing workshops.

A Community Reads “Wonder”

Katherine Sokolowski had a dream — her whole community reading and celebrating the same book. She explains how she helped coordinate, organize, and purchase hundreds of books for a community-wide reading of Wonder.

Questioning Within Read Alouds

Melanie Meehan looks at the issue of engagement through the lens of student questions during read alouds, and shares a strategy to provoke more thoughtful student participation.

End-of-Year Read Alouds

Bitsy Parks explains how the ending weeks of read alouds in her first-grade classroom are designed to celebrate learning and shared experiences from the entire year.

Students Watching Teachers

Students are always watching us, whether we realize it or not. Jennifer Schwanke explains how we can capitalize on that interest to build independent reading and writing habits.

Stop and Inquire

Mark Levine capitalizes on what captures his middle school students’ attention with his Stop and Inquire routine.

Flash Forward with New Students

The dark days of winter may be the best time to plan for spring step-up events to introduce students to next year's teachers. Christy Rush-Levine has a new goal of using the day to promote summer reading.

First-Grade Reflections: Looking Back to Move Forward

Bitsy Parks discovers the best way to relaunch literacy workshops in January after holiday break is to have her first graders reflect upon and celebrate what they learned in the fall with personal anchor charts.

Fresh Starts Through Community Building

Early January is a great time for relationship resets in classroom communities. Dana Murphy finds community building activities may be more helpful than just a review of classroom rules and norms.

Parent Book Clubs

Tara Barnett and Kate Mills lead virtual parent book clubs to foster more home/school connections and build a love of reading outside the school walls.

Teaching Fifth Graders to Make Peer Recommendations

Katherine Sokolowski confers with her son Liam and his friend Caden, helping them learn how to make peer book recommendations.

Getting to Know English Language Learners All Year Long

We spend a lot of time early in the year getting to know students and their families, and often celebrate the diversity of these families late in the year with multicultural festivals. Stella Villalba worries that this is a missed opportunity (especially with English language learners). She shares how teachers can integrate getting-to-know-you activities into regular classroom routines all year long.

Girls’ Book Share in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski demonstrates how she helps a group of girls in her fifth-grade classroom learn to help each other select books based on previous experiences and tastes.

Daily Reflection Rubric

Mark Levine always has a few students each year in his middle school classroom who are stunned by their poor grades, even when they clearly aren't meeting expectations. He develops a rubric to enable students to monitor and reflect on their learning behaviors daily.

Visual Expectations in the Classroom

Heather Fisher finds the key to independence for many first graders is lots of visual reminders in classrooms.

Building a Reflective Community

Andrea Smith builds reflection into whole-class discussions in her fourth-grade classroom by beginning an anchor chart with four different illustrations from the covers of a read-aloud.

Lunchtime Author Discussion Groups

Gigl McAllister explains why she hosts optional lunchtime author studies, with practical tips on getting started.

Fourth-Grade Lunch Fan Club

Gigi facilitates one of her lunch author fan clubs, where everyone gets organized and brainstorms what they might explore in the group during this first meeting.

Sharing and Celebrating Summer Reading

Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share how they use the first days and weeks of school to celebrate summer reading and build a classroom community.

Building Community with a Shared Text

Christy Rush-Levine finds a community of new teachers bonds over a text highlighting addiction struggles. The experience leads her to think through what elements are essential for whole-class texts in her middle school classroom.

#bookaday in Middle School: Nuts and Bolts

Jillian Heise shares advice for teachers who want to try a #bookaday challenge of sharing at least one picture book each day with older students. She gives criteria for book selection, as well as examples of books to read at the start of the school year.

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