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The Big Fresh September 22, 2018 Sometimes We Should Just Clap

We look at student-led minilessons in this week’s Big Fresh.

Planning a Student-Led Minilesson

Franki Sibberson helps Lucas plan his minilesson for his fifth-grade classmates on how to connect words and facts from two different sources.

Student-Led Minilessons in Fifth Grade

Franki Sibberson initiates student-led minilessons, and finds the process takes her literacy workshops to a new level of independence and energy.

Student-Led Minilesson: Connecting Facts from Different Sources

Lucas leads a minilesson in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class on connecting facts from different sources.

Student-Led Minilessons in Middle School

One student’s request to lead a minilesson is a catalyst for Mark Levine to see the value of student-led minilessons as an assignment for all in his middle school classroom.

The Big Fresh September 15, 2018 Inviting the Stranger In

We have some fresh takes on teaching history and biography in this week’s Big Fresh.

Expanding Black History Month Reading

A heavy sigh from a student is a cue to Shari Frost that he has heard the same Martin Luther King picture book biography one too many times in February. She shares her top picture book picks for expanding children’s awareness of black history all year long.

Russell Freedman Book Clubs

Mark Levine finds Russell Freedman book clubs are a great way for his middle school students to deepen understanding of history and empathize with young people who lived through previous eras.

History Through a Child’s Eyes: Conferring with Omar

Christy Rush-Levine confers with Omar, who is reading The Rock and the River.  The book is a fictional account of a tumultuous time in civil rights history, considering protests through a child’s eyes.

Picture Book Biographies

Stella Villalba shares some of her favorite new picture book bIographies for bringing history to life for young learners, with a focus on perseverance.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Reading Partners: Process Discussion

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

The Big Fresh August 25, 2018 Gym Workshop

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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