Books are a uniquely portable magic. Stephen King
It was the last meeting of the year of our teacher study group with the theme “What’s New in Children’s Literature.” All year, I struggled to find books to share for the earliest grades. Kindergarten was my ultimate challenge.
The problem was that I often think about how books can be used in the classroom for multiple purposes. I wasn’t approaching the challenge of finding great new books through the eyes of a kid, but rather through the eyes of a teacher looking to use a book for instruction. The teachers seemed to love the new books I introduced. Yet I found that when I tried the same books out in classrooms, many of the students listened but didn’t respond with any enthusiasm.
On the last meeting day I introduced the book We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. Teachers smiled widely as I read the book aloud. This fun book has an action-filled plot about a lovable child-eating dinosaur.
Cheryl (a kindergarten teacher) came up to me at the end of our group and asked if I would come in later that morning and read the book to her class. She said, “I loved how you just read the book to the group. This is exactly what my kids need.”
I went into her room the next morning. Cheryl had her students gathered on the rug. I read the book. All 18 kindergartners laughed and gasped in disbelief. I closed the book after reading the last page. The class erupted into spontaneous applause. One of the girls, Destiny, ran up to me in the rocking chair and gave me a huge bear hug. Cheryl glanced my way and said, “You read them a great book, and you make friends forever.”
That advice from Cheryl to just read the book has lingered with me. I was so consumed with finding “just-right books” this year that could serve as mentor texts in multiple settings. I missed the importance of finding books that could hook our youngest learners on reading and bring them a lifetime of joy. Sometimes a book is just meant to be read.
This week we look at ways to use notebooks and journals. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has created an ongoing web series, Keeping a Notebook, for home-bound students, teachers, and parents. Amy provides inspiration and insight through these daily talks.
Gretchen Schroeder analyzes the use of writing notebooks in her classroom, focusing on what’s confusing or frustrating for students. She makes some small changes that yield big results.
So many needs for groups, and so little time. Dana Murphy finds that a strategy notebook is invaluable as a teaching aid in her fifth-grade small groups.
Colby Sharp shares five things he learned about his students by reading their readers’ notebooks.
Are you coaching teachers remotely? We are developing a series of low-cost courses to help in this work, all led by Ruth Ayres. The first course, Coaching Groups of Teachers Remotely, is available now for a cost of $39. The course fee includes two months of access to the entire Choice Literacy library of 4000 articles and videos. If you have a current paid subscription to Choice Literacy, there is no charge for the course. Click here for details.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Journals? Writers’ notebooks? Shari Frost shares tips and strategies for explaining the difference between the two for teachers.
Bitsy Parks finds inspiration for her teaching journal in the work of Debbie Miller. She explains how she uses her journal daily, and how it has evolved over time.
In this week’s video, Andrea Smith meets with a group of fourth-grade girls who are completing designs in their notebooks as part of an owl habitat project.
In an encore video, Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Spencer brainstorm topics for his writing notebook.
After initial skepticism, David Pittman discovers coaching logs are an essential tool in planning, organizing, and documenting his work with teachers.
Kathy Provost coaches two third-grade teachers as they consider what students are jotting in their notebooks, and how they could make changes before beginning a new unit.
Deb Frazier shares four mentor texts on the power of writing notebooks that would be great to discuss with students in classrooms or teachers in a professional development session.
Finally, we’ve added three videos featuring notebooks and journals to our new Remote Coaching Videos page for members to use in virtual instruction settings.
To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.
That’s all for this week!