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Confusing Children

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

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.

Building Routines

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Keeping the Classroom Library Current

Franki Sibberson explains how she watches students closely and adjusts her library based on what she sees all year long.

How to Get Books Off Shelves

Christy Rush-Levine writes about the push and pull of wanting to put books into students’ hands, and needing at the same time to give them room to explore the classroom library.

And This Makes Me Think

Dana Murphy considers how teachers can make writing workshop routines more cozy and like writing at home.

When One Door Closes

Gretchen Schroeder finds new routines in her high school workshop means letting go of old expectations.

Wounded Warriors: Trauma and Literacy Routines

Ruth Ayres explains which workshop routines are essential for children who come to school bearing trauma.

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.

Flipping Negative Teacher Emotions

Gretchen Schroeder struggles to understand the meaning and value of her teaching when two former students overdose and die in separate incidents, and another is indicted on murder charges. These events lead to deep reflection on how teachers can move beyond feelings of sadness, apathy, and envy.

 

Three-Word Meditation

Mark Levine depends upon a simple meditation strategy during the required moment of silence in his classroom to begin each day with a calm sense of purpose.

Recharging with My Tribe

Stella Villalba uses the inquiry and reflection skills she has developed as a teacher to pore through her planner and journal for clues to why her energy flagged in the winter and spring, and what she can do differently next year.

Getting to the Heart of Theme

Tara Smith shares many strategies for helping her sixth graders get to the heart of understanding themes in literature.

Splashing Around to Find Themes

Christy Rush-Levine moves from emphasizing theme to teaching strategies for understanding text, and finds it’s a much better way to get her eighth graders to grapple with theme in natural, organic ways.

Writing Routines: Drafting Autonomy

Justin Stygles questions his conferring routine during writing workshops, and the value of interrupting students early in the drafting process.

Refugees: A Children’s Booklist

There is probably no population more misunderstood or vilified than refugees. Stella Villalba shares a booklist to help young students understand the refugee's plight and experiences.

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