In the most successful spaces, you don’t see everything at once. The more time you spend in them, the more you discover. They open up like flowers.
Today was one of those days that I look forward to every year. It may seem silly, but today was the first day the literacy room (the space I organize for teachers) had been cleaned by the custodian. I could finally get in and organize it for the year. I actually felt my anticipation building as I walked down the staircase. I opened the door and smiled as I looked at the freshly waxed floor. There is nothing like the shine of a freshly waxed floor in a school.
I spent the afternoon slowly putting things away. I started with the furniture. I found myself thinking of possibilities for upcoming study groups. I put each chair around the table, thinking of the conversations that would be shared among teachers over the course of the year. I imagined the artifacts of student learning that would be brought to the table to pore over together.
How do we slow down when everything is moving so fast? I brought in a new chair, and I purposefully placed the comfy seat by the baskets of mentor texts, hoping that it would invite teachers to take a moment out of their day to sift through and read new books that caught their eye.
I found myself thumbing through my favorite professional books, pausing at random lines of text. The books were comforting — so many of the words have built the foundation for what I believe as an educator. As I picked up the book A Note Slipped Under the Door by Nick Flynn and Shirley McPhillips, I opened to the page that offers the following line: “What greater gift that our mentors, in turning on all the lights, allow us to see something of ourselves.” The line jumped off the page at me. I couldn’t help but think that it somehow reflected the essence of coaching.
Slowly the room came together with furniture all in the right places, professional books shelved, and bulletin boards with articles updated. One of the last things I did was display picture books on top of the bookshelves. As I touched the cover of each book, I wondered which would offer possibilities and inspiration for the new school year. I thought about the plot of each book, how each book made me feel, and the message that each might convey as we start a new year. In the end, I highlighted books of friendship (Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich), kindness (Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson), risk taking (Learning to Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser), adventure (Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richards Jacobson), and mentorship (Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares). These are all books that offer hope and possibility.
Finally, I filled the chocolate dish on the table, a quiet thank you to the custodians who took the time to clean the room, and a thank you in advance for the teachers who will no doubt put in endless hours looking for just-right books for their students. As I worked I slowed down, savoring the quiet, solitude, and possibilities for the new year. I hope you have a moment this week to pause and anticipate all the good things ahead with your students and colleagues.
This week we’re highlighting suggestions for appealing wall and book displays. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
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Here are two articles from the Choice Literacy archives to help you think through book and wall displays early in the year.
Tony Keefer rethinks how the placement and organization of books can attract readers in Appealing Nonfiction Book Displays for Boys:
Franki Sibberson keeps it simple and inviting with her wall and book displays at the start of the year:
As students return to school, many teachers start the year with discussions about rules and responsibilities. If you could have one classroom rule, and only one, what principle would you want your students to live by this year? Be Brave: The Only Rule in My Kindergarten Class by Matt Gomez, explores the power of simplifying community beliefs and goals:
Lois Bridges challenges one of the most sacred tenets in reading instruction, the five-finger rule. This is an important essay for any teachers who are pondering text complexity and nonfiction reading in their classrooms:
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Suzy Kaback writes about the pleasures of slowing down and being inefficient sometimes in teaching and relationships in her essay Laundry Line Luxuries:
When premade reading notebooks no longer fit into her reading budget, Katherine Sokolowski comes up with a unique design starting with generic notebooks, and in the process figures out what’s most important to include:
Max Brand develops a “Swiss army knife” booklist of texts that he can’t live without when teaching young learners in The Minimalist: Essential Kindergarten Books:
In this week’s video, Sean Moore confers with second grader Mia, gently encouraging her to work from her strengths by writing about what she knows well:
New PD2Go: Heather Rader teaches fourth graders some of the basic elements of good summaries:
This lesson can be adapted for use throughout the elementary grades. It fulfills Common Core Reading Standards for Informational Text K-5 Key Ideas and Details: “Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.”
That’s all for this week!