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The Big Fresh September 8, 2018 Mothers of the Brides

We consider the connections between personal history and literacy in this week’s Big Fresh.

A Poem About Lost Friendship: Conferring with Estelle

Estelle shares a poem she has written about lost friendship with her teacher, Katherine Sokolowski. She captures the fickle nature of fifth-grade relationships among girls. Katherine connects the cadence of the writing to the style of The Crossover, and helps Estelle find possibilities for more writing.

Does the Pencil Still Have Power?

Ruth Ayres wonders if the pencil still has power, taking readers through a whirlwind history of the writing tool in her life, schools, and the world.

Ohana Means “Family”

Suzy Kaback is startled to see a picture of her deceased father on the wall when she visits her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom. It’s the start of learning about the power of ohana in schools.

The Big Fresh September 1, 2018 Listening to Children

We consider literacy foundations in this week’s Big Fresh.

Message from the Moon

Shirl McPhillips crafts a message from the moon about tone in poetry and school in her latest poem and companion essay.

Building Routines

Bitsy Parks teaches the foundations of first-grade classroom life through minilessons early in the year.

Confusing Children

Ruth Ayres explains why we can’t assume children who have experienced trauma understand the foundations and routines of how school works

Reading Partners: Process Discussion

Gigi McAllister helps fourth-grade reading partners evaluate their success and areas to work on in their partnership.

Avoiding Flat Tires

Jen Schwanke gets berated by a tire shop repair guy for ignoring routine maintenance needs on her bike. That gets her thinking about what needs routine maintenance in elementary classrooms.

The Big Fresh August 25, 2018 Gym Workshop

We explore reading response in this week’s Big Fresh.

Reader Response as an Entry to Conferring

Christy Rush-Levine integrates reading responses into her preparation for reading conferences, and then uses the responses as a tool to build goals and insights within the conference.

Annotating While Reading

Franki Sibberson finds teaching students to annotate while reading is one of the best ways to promote ongoing reflective response in her fifth-grade classroom. She shares how she starts teaching annotation skills early in the year.

What Does It Mean to Read?

“I read 35 pages!” An elated student deflates Bitsy Parks in her first-grade classroom. By mid-fall she is alarmed at the responses of students to their reading in the whole-group share — they are all about quantity, with no thinking or reflection. She uses modeling and careful questioning to foster more thoughtful reader response.

Reading Conference: Keeping Track of Characters

Christy Ruth-Levine confers with Edith, who is tracking character changes in the novel Room.

The Big Fresh August 18, 2018 Lily Pads

We consider levels and limits in this week’s Big Fresh.

Levels and What’s Appropriate

“How do you know what level they have selected?” a visitor asks Bitsy Parks as she observes during a first-grade independent reading period. “I don’t,” Bitsy responds, and explains why it is a beautiful thing.

Three Challenges for the 40 Book Challenge

Matt Renwick encourages you to ask a few critical questions before you adopt the 40-Book Challenge or any other activity with a number for a goal you’re going to be tied to all year long in your classroom.

Guided Reading Run Amok

Shari Frost helps a teacher who has guided reading groups that have run amok, and discovers the real culprit is a lack of time for reading and writing in the literacy block.

Making Meaning with Simple Text: Conferring in First Grade

Katrina Edwards confers with a first grader, looking beyond the level of the book early in the year to ensure the child is engaging with the story. She helps the child notice changes in the simple text and illustrations.

The Big Fresh August 11, 2018 Stubborn Gladness

We look at first lessons and introductions to students in this week’s Big Fresh.

Organizing for Middle School

Tara Smith covers all the basics of how to get organized in middle school for the first days of literacy workshops.

First-Grade Reading Share: Focus on Conferring and Strategies

Bitsy Parks uses reading share time early in the year to describe and summarize the work in two conferences to help students learn how conferring, independent reading time, and strategy practice work. One of the books used in a conference is from a recent read aloud.

Read Alouds to Start the Year in First Grade

Bitsy Parks selects read alouds for the first weeks of school for many different purposes, from building community to helping her first graders navigate the classroom library.

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.

Doing the Writing in a Unit

One way to keep your instruction fresh in a required writing unit is to take on the tasks and topics yourself. Dana Murphy finds completing the assignments herself is well worth her time, and gives her a treasure trove of notebook entries to use in her conferring.

The Big Fresh August 4, 2018 Surprise

We look at creative ways to teach required units in this week's Big Fresh.

Fall Fluster

Bitsy Parks is stressed from trying to "cover" all the lessons in the first required reading unit of the year with her first graders. She takes a deep breath, and decides to integrate more of her own lessons into her instruction.

Writing on Someone Else’s Topic

Shari Frost finds she has to do required, on-demand writing for a new job, and in the process develops a new appreciation for how teachers struggle with rigid reading and writing programs.

Fourth-Grade Minilesson: Character Traits

Gigi McAllister helps her fourth graders develop the characters in their writing with a minilesson. She uses three mentor texts, one of which is her own writing.

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