Katherine Sokolowski

Katherine Sokolowski has taught for over 20 years in elementary schools, and currently teaches seventh grade in the same small town in central Illinois where she grew up. Her work has been featured at the Nerdy Book Club and on NPR, and she often presents for Scholastic.  She regularly writes about teaching on her blog Read Write Reflect.

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Exploring Dystopian Literature: Fifth-Grade Reading Conference

Katherine Sokolowski confers with Ian about The Giver, broadening his understanding of the text to consider other dystopian literature.

Bringing Multiple Texts and Perspectives into Teaching Point of View

Katherine Sokolowski finds her students are struggling to understand point of view. She takes a detour over a week with mentor texts, quick assists from favorite writers on Twitter, and practice sessions retelling Little Red Riding Hood to teach the concept.

Practical Advice for Dealing with Messy Handwriting

Do struggles with handwriting matter? They do when a student can’t even decipher his own words. Katherine Sokolowski confers with fifth grader Sauvi to help him find solutions to the problem.

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.

Fifth-Grade Book Talk: Wish Girl

Katherine Sokolowski builds interest in a new book in the classroom library through a book talk on Wish Girl.

Group Meeting: Sharing Resources for Animal Study

Katherine Sokolowski helps her fifth-grade students expand their territory for their animal research projects by sharing information sources and peer connections.

Book Talk: “The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary”

Katherine Sokolowski demonstrates her book talk skills when she presents The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary to her students late in the school year.

Building a Next-Read Nonfiction Stack

Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Jack build a next-read stack of nonfiction, highlighting a variety of text features and historical references.

A Community Reads “Wonder”

Katherine Sokolowski had a dream — her whole community reading and celebrating the same book. She explains how she helped coordinate, organize, and purchase hundreds of books for a community-wide reading of Wonder.

Big Question Minilesson

Katherine Sokolowski models how readers make choices as questions arise while reading independently. She also demonstrates how she moves between a novel and web resources.

Quick-Write with a Video Prompt

Katherine Sokolowski refreshes the quick-write routine in her fifth-grade classroom by using a video as a prompt.

Teaching Fifth Graders to Make Peer Recommendations

Katherine Sokolowski confers with her son Liam and his friend Caden, helping them learn how to make peer book recommendations.

“If You Like” Reading Recommendations Conference

Building "next-read" stacks with students before holidays is a great way to ensure they have books in hand that they will be excited to read over break. Katherine Sokolowski helps Taryn finds books that are similar to those written by Rick Riordan (Taryn's favorite author).

Teaching Summary with Book Blurbs

Katherine Sokolowski finds her fifth graders can give detailed retellings during conferences, but struggle to come up with succinct summaries. Writing book blurbs is her creative solution for building summarizing skills.

Girls’ Book Share in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski demonstrates how she helps a group of girls in her fifth-grade classroom learn to help each other select books based on previous experiences and tastes.

Conferring with Spencer: Writing Notebook Topics

Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Spencer brainstorm topics for his writing notebook.

Environment Small Group: Habitat

Katherine Sokolowski leads a small group of fifth graders who have chosen similar topics for their projects in an environmental unit.

Building a Next-Read Stack

Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Abby build her next-read stack of books.

Brainstorming Writing Topics with Drew

Katherine Sokolowski confers with Drew about writing at home, brainstorming possible topics. In the process she shows how much she knows about Drew's life outside of school.

The Ocean Research Project: From Launch to Celebration in 10 Days

Ten days from the launch of student research projects to a celebration with families? Katherine Sokolowski shares how a tight time frame that concludes with an evening event can bring energy and high student interest to the research process.

Research Through Picture Books

Katherine Sokolowski explains how picture books can be a potent tool for teaching intermediate students research skills.

Supporting Introverts in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski was that shy child hiding behind a tall classmate in the back of the room when she was a student. As a teacher, she makes sure there are many ways she helps bring out the voices of introverts in her fifth-grade classroom.

Environmental Group Notes

Katherine Sokolowski meets briefly with a group of fifth-grade girls to go through the notes they are taking for their environmental studies project and talk through next steps.

Minilesson on Facts and Sources

Katherine Sokolowski presents a minilesson on ferreting out facts while completing independent research projects.

The Power of Group Conferences in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski explains why group conferences can be a powerful tool for building a reading community. The article includes a video of a group conference in her fifth-grade classroom.
 

Guidelines for Posting Online

Katherine Sokolowski describes a wall display with guidelines to ensure students are respectful and aware of the pitfalls of posting online.

Padlet Possibilities

Katherine Sokolowski finds that electronic charting of learning with Padlet has almost endless possibilities for use in her fifth-grade classroom.

Adding “Girly” Books to a Next-Read Stack

Katherine Sokolowski helps a fifth grader add more "girly" books to her next-read stack.

Who Owns the Room?

Katherine Sokolowski considers how classroom design says a lot about the relationship between students and teachers.

Student Interest Board

Katherine Sokolowski shares a wall display from her fifth graders that students build to celebrate who they are and people they love from home.
 

Conferring with Ben: Brainstorming Writing Topics and Genres

Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Ben brainstorm ideas for writing, and in the process encourages him to try a new genre.

Nonfiction Research Group in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski meets with a group of fifth graders who are all researching the use of nets in fishing and the environmental effects of the process. She works to build connections among classmates as well as research skills.

Tweeting a Favorite Author

Katherine Sokolowski helps one of her fifth-grade students compose a tweet to a favorite author.

Writing for Reflection at the End of the Year

Katherine Sokolowski reflects on ways to extend the learning from an end-of-year activity all the way to the fall.

Revising Weekly Reflections

Katherine Sokolowski revises the weekly reflection form her fifth graders use to ensure everyone is tracking goals, progress, and expectations.
 

Teaching Inference Through Picture Books

Katherine Sokolowski explains why picture books are useful for teaching inference to intermediate students, and shares some of her favorites.

Tech Anchor Charts

A daunting task for teachers is to help students learn to use new tech tools, as well as understand community standards for each one. Katherine Sokolowski finds Tech Anchor Charts are a great way to provide ongoing support to students as they navigate new software and apps.

Ways into Personal Narratives

Katherine Sokolowski describes some Ways into Personal Narratives that use visual tools to build the home/school connection and stronger prewriting skills.

Resources for Quick-Writes

Katherine Sokolowski shares some of her favorite resources to jumpstart student interest in writing.

Using Webcomics in Classrooms

Katherine Sokolowski explains why she uses webcomics in her literacy workshops, and shares an extensive list of her favorite online sources.

Close Reading for Comparison in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski uses a fascinating picture book to build close reading skills with her fifth graders. The key is selecting a text that holds up well through multiple readings.

NaNoWriMo with Students

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for sustained writing and linking students with writers across the web. Katherine Sokolowski shares how it works, as well as tips for getting started.

A Fiction Writing Field Trip

Katherine Sokolowski’s students love writing fiction, but their skills don’t match their enthusiasm. A field trip helps bridge that gap.

Read Alouds as “Third Things”

Katherine Sokolowski uses read alouds early in the year to help students reflect on how to be kind and thoughtful members of a classroom community.

Curating a Classroom Library

Katherine Sokolowski explains why it is important to sort and weed out books carefully before the new year begins.

Note Taking for Research

Katherine Sokolowski helps her fifth graders build notetaking skills for research.

Using Padlet with Students

Katherine Sokolowski finds Padlet is a great tool for compiling learning and building community.

Weekly Check-In Sheets

Are you finding effort from students is flagging? Katherine Sokolowski develops check-in sheets as a way to lift student energy and reflection.

Integrating Student Teachers into Literacy Workshops

Katherine Sokolowski gives advice for integrating student teachers into literacy workshop instruction.

Twitter in the Classroom

Katherine Sokolowski and her students find Twitter is an essential element in their fifth-grade reading workshop.

Classroom Management and Student Responsibility

Katherine Sokolowski is discouraged when she observes that some students are off-task during literacy workshops. She decides a reflection sheet will be a useful weekly scaffold to support independent monitoring of behavior.

Integrating Short Videos into Minilessons

Katherine Sokolowski gives advice on how to add video to your literacy minilessons.

Grading in Literacy Workshops

Katherine Sokolowski finds grading student work in her fifth-grade classroom becomes far more interesting when students take responsibility for choosing what will be graded.

Shorter Research Projects: Rethinking Note-Taking Strategies

Katherine Sokolowski is assigning shorter research projects in her fifth-grade classroom as a way to help students acquire notetaking skills and understand the boundaries of plagiarism.

Rethinking Technology: The Power of Student Experts

It’s impossible to master all the new technology resources available in classrooms, and fortunately we don’t have to. Katherine Sokolowski enlists peers as tech experts in her fifth-grade classroom.

Using Writing Notebooks Authentically with My Fifth-Grade Students

Katherine Sokolowski reflects on a key component of her writing workshop, and finds ways for using writing notebooks more authentically.

Writing Homework

If your students are already comfortable with an unstructured requirement of 20-30 minutes of reading each night, you may find adding 10 minutes of writing at home works wonders in fostering writing skills. Katherine Sokolowski explains how the assignment works in her classroom.

Top 10 Intermediate Books for Boys

Katherine Sokolowski finds many of the boys in her classroom love to read about violence, weapons, and crude humor. She challenges teachers to appreciate boys’ interests and set some of our own criticism aside.

Rethinking Writing Notebooks

What makes writing notebooks authentic? Katherine Sokolowski ponders the question.

Reorganizing the Classroom Library

Katherine Sokolowski looks at challenges from the previous year for ideas on reorganizing the classroom library.

The Case Against Management Systems

Katherine Sokolowski advises teachers to ditch the search for the perfect management system, and instead focus on building relationships early in the school year.

The First Days of Reading and Writing Workshops

Katherine Sokolowski explains how she spends her time during the first days of literacy workshops in her fifth-grade classroom.
 

Character Through Literature Early in the Year

Katherine Sokolowski finds that the beginning of the year is the best time to build community with a unit on character and morals through literature.

Many Possibilities for Student Podcasting

Katherine Sokolowski shares how she has integrated podcasting into her 5th grade classroom.

Student Work Ethic: Overcoming Spring Fever

Katherine Sokolowski finds the work ethic of her fifth-grade students is flagging by spring, so she helps them reflect upon and improve their performance.

Getting Started with Blogging in Fifth Grade

Katherine Sokolowski presents some strategies from her fifth-grade classroom for launching student blogs.

Mock Newbery Club

Katherine Sokolowski has suggestions for organizing and hosting a Mock Newbery Club in the weeks before the award is given in late January.

Better Reading Conferences

Katherine Sokolowski describes how she worked over the past few years to initiate better reading conferences.

Choice, Content, and Format: Understanding How Boys Write

Katherine Sokolowski is dismayed when many of the boys in her fifth-grade class admit they don’t like to write. She explains how she changed her writing program to meet their needs.

On the Same Team: Better Parent-Teacher Conferences

Katherine Sokolowski has tips for improving parent conferences by using technology for flexible scheduling and easy follow-up.

The Art of the Book Talk

If you want to match students to books, you’ll need to master the art of the book talk. Katherine Sokolowski has practical tips for honing your skills.

Reimagining Reading Notebooks

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.

A Summer Reading Camp for Middle School Students

Katherine Sokolowski has tips for a "book club" summer reading camp for middle school students.

Reflecting All Year Long

Katherine Sokolowski finds the impulse for reflection is strong at the start of summer, but reflection works best when it’s built into routines all year long.

Launching a Fiction Writing Unit with Fifth Graders

Katherine Sokolowski finds late in the year is the perfect time for launching a fiction writing unit with her fifth graders.

Football Field Writing

Katherine Sokolowski adapts an idea from Jim Burke to get her fifth graders outdoors and envisioning their growth over the summer.

Slice of Life: Challenging Student Writers

Katherine Sokolowski brings the popular web “slice of life” challenge to her fifth-grade classroom.

Audioboo, QR Codes, and Authentic Reading Response

Katherine Sokolowski uses audio recordings and other tech resources to build her fifth-grade reading community.

Getting Rid of My Teacher’s Desk

Katherine Sokolowski discovers getting rid of her teacher's desk opens her mind to many new possibilities in her fifth-grade classroom.

Building a Reading Community with Edmodo

Katherine Sokolowski discovers Edmodo is a wonderful tech tool for helping her fifth graders become more independent and supportive of everyone’s reading choices.

A Graphic Novels Unit in 5th Grade

Katherine Sokolowski designs a graphic novels unit for her fifth graders, and is surprised by how much the genre delights them.

Fun in January: A Mock Caldecott Unit

Katherine Sokolowski discovers a seven-day Mock Caldecott unit is a fun way to build a reading community by predicting the winners, and Skyping with another class to share results.

 

Choice and Reading Response

As more intermediate classrooms become departmentalized, grades 4-6 teachers find they are dealing with 80 or more reading response logs instead of 25-30 each week. Katherine Sokolowski tackles the issue of providing personal response to readers and still having time for everything else.

Creating Anchor Charts with Multiple Classes

It’s a dilemma many middle school teachers face. How do you construct anchor charts with multiple groups of students, when only one chart will be hung in the room?  Katherine Sokolowski explains how she ensures all classes have input and a “clean slate” in constructing charts.

What Anchor Charts Are Essential?

Katherine Sokolowski considers what anchor charts are essential in her fifth-grade classroom, and where they work best for posting.

The Joys and Challenges of Coteaching

Katherine Sokolowski explores the challenges and joys of coteaching with special education colleagues.

One Book, One School: Building Community with Shared Text

"When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." These words from the book Wonder set Katherine Sokolowski on the path of designing a shared reading experience at her school that will build community and empathy across the grades.

Summer Planning: Goals and the Finish Line

Teachers always have big plans at the start of summer for reading, reflection, and changing classroom practice. Katherine Sokolowski explains how she translates those plans into action as the summer winds down.

Finding a Place for Graphic Novels in My Classroom

Katherine Sokolowski listens to her husband’s sage advice and develops a new relationship with graphic novels that disappear off her classroom shelves.

Making the Switch from Desks to Tables

Moving from desks to tables when redesigning a classroom is about a whole lot more than just furniture. Katherine Sokolowski explains what the change has meant to her classroom.

An At-Home Summer Reading Camp

Katherine Sokolowski comes up with a novel way to boost kids' reading and her summer income – hosting a reading camp in her home.

Using Skype in the Classroom

Katherine Sokolowski has suggestions for Skype use in classrooms, covering everything from student etiquette to special events.

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