Friday, September 6, 2013

Getting our year of reading started!

For those of you who have followed me for a while, you know that helping students develop a passion and love for reading is a huge part of what I love most about my job.  Whether I am doing book talks about new books, or trying to help them learn all the strategies they need to be successful, students hear me talk about books and reading all day long.

This year, I have quite a few students who are reading substantially below grade level or are right on the edge of where they need to be. It is so important for me to get a handle on their reading behaviors immediately so we don't waste any time.  On the first day of school, I gave small groups of students tours of my classroom library. I showed them how the library is organized and how to take care of it.

On the second day of school students had the opportunity to go back into my library and find a book that looked interesting to them. I do let students take home my books… I do not have any checkout system. It is purely the honor system. I do lose 10 to 20 books each year, but it is worth it to me to not have a fancy system that takes management time.  We do start to make a list of "Books I Can't Wait to Read" that we then add to all year long!  I tell the students they should always know what book or books they want to read next so they don't waste time looking!

On this day, I also talked to the students about how important it is for me that they learn how to pick books that they love and can't wait to read every day.  I talked to them about the concept of being "in the zone" and what that means for them. All of them have been "in the zone" playing video games where they couldn't even hear their name being called for dinner!  We talked about how if you are picking books that really and truly are a good match for you, you can get into the reading zone--just like that!  To do that, we learned the best way to "preview" a book--and I modeled it with our first read aloud, "Shredderman".

On the third day of school, we started getting into more detail about what a just right book is. We brainstormed together a list of what it means to have a just right book and will make an anchor chart with our findings.  We also completed a reading survey where we spent some time talking about reading behaviors.

We worked on reading stamina as well… and worked on having each student start to make good choices about not just want to read, but where to read and who to read next to as well!  One day at a time . . . the good news is that my students are EAGER to read--but we still need some work on those reading behaviors!  I've started sitting down with each child to listen to them read a little bit, so we are well on our way to a great year of reading.  Watch for more posts about independent reading and our progress over the next weeks!


  1. Hello! Love your Books I can't Wait to Read sheet. It looks so much more attractive than the one I have. What are the categories?
    Ursula :)

  2. Thanks, Ursula! It's one of the forms in my "Getting Ready for a Year of Reading" resource! It just has them write the title, the author, where they found it (bin number, shelf, etc), and a place for them to check off when they actually read it!

  3. Hi,
    Like you, I have many students who are substantially below grade level in fourth grade this year. I really like the way you focus on the perfect match between a reader and a book. I try to do it too, but I didn't go as far as you did. Note to self! How do you help the students who are adamant about reading "for show", in a desperate effort to fit in?

    1. Hi Amelie! Thanks for stopping by! Reading for "show" is really hard...and I think it's important to let kids struggle a little. Over the first weeks I kind of set the expectations for what a good fit book I confer with students in the first weeks, we use those "benchmarks" to talk. I try to really stress how readers can only get better at reading by reading "just right" books, so when I confer with them (and I try to meet with those readers often to start), we go through that checklist. So when I ask is this a "just right" book, they have to answer no and we write the title down for "later". Sometimes I will help them make their own bin of "just right" books to pull from if they have a hard time picking without guidance. Hope this helps!