Unless we reach into our students’ hearts, we have no entry into their minds.
Changing grade levels can be scary, because most likely the books and materials you used in your previous grade aren’t the best for a new grade level. I found this to be true five years ago when I left third grade to teach kindergarten. The books I had used to launch reading workshop required higher-level thinking skills, were longer in length, and required a longer attention span. I felt paralyzed for a short amount of time because I wasn’t sure where to start.
Then I realized I needed to think about my great collection of books for launching reading workshop and what I was trying to convey or create with these books in my classroom. I created a list to use as I move again this year—this time from teaching kindergarten to teaching second graders.
Reasons for a Launching Cycle in Reading Workshop
- Create a purpose for reading
- Learn how to make independent book choices
- Discuss a variety of reading materials
- Honor and respect the feelings of a reader
- Get to know yourself as a reader
- Empower students to read
- All students can be readers
- Readers have preferences in what they read and where they read
- Readers need to be responsible for the books they borrow
- Discover and share your reading life
When I made this list, I discovered that launching reading workshop is about more than learning procedures and routines. It’s about creating a community of readers and bonding with our students. Regie Routman reminds us in Reading Essentials how important it is to bond with our students: “Bonding with our students is the ‘human essential,’ the intimately personal connection that is the core of responsive, excellent teaching. We simply cannot teach our students well until we show them we know them, care about them, and connect with them.”
Knowing my reasons for a launching cycle in reading workshop will guide and provide opportunities to bond with my students. I have found that using children’s literature as an anchor for a discussion provides a safety net for sharing ideas. The conversations might start with reactions and responses to the text and then open doors for students to share their own ideas and thinking. This is important to consider when creating a community of learners. As I thought about connecting with my students, I realized I needed to share my own thinking about being a reader and my own reading life. Once I had my reasons for launching reading workshop, I could begin to gather books as springboards for our discussions.
Read Anything Good Lately? by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman
Each letter of the alphabet highlights different types of reading material and places to read.
Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
Henrietta chicken loves to read and doesn’t like to lay eggs. Her reading ability saves the day when the farmer sends her aunties on “vacation” to the beach.
The Best Book to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom
The reader follows a class on a field trip to the library, where the librarian shows the students different kinds of books they could check out that would be the best for each student.
The Best Place to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom
A little boy returns to a favorite spot to read, only to discover he’s grown too big for that chair. The reader follows this little boy’s journey to discover a new just-right reading spot.
Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! by John Gile
A little boy shares his dream in which he can’t read signs. These signs tell him very important things to do and keep him safe. He can’t follow the signs and often does the opposite of the sign directions. Luckily, his dream is not reality.
The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore
Various animals in the forest discover a book and use it for different things—anything but reading. A little boy comes along and shows them the real purpose for the book.
Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris
A little creature loses his book and in a panic brainstorms what could have happened to it. The pictures provide more insight and understanding behind the character’s brainstorming.
Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr
A great collection for talking about all the emotional reasons why we read.
Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr
A collection of things not to do with a book you have borrowed. Easily a springboard for discussing what could be done instead to take care of books.
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra
Molly McGrew the librarian drove her bookmobile into a zoo. The animals wanted to learn about reading and discovered just-right books for each of them.